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Speech by Prince Amyn Aga Khan for the official opening of Dushanbe Serena Hotel, 1st November 2011

01 November 2011

 

Please also see: 
Remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan (English, Russian, Tajik)
Speech by Prince Amyn Aga Khan (Russian, Tajik)
Speech by President Emomali Rahmon
Press Release (English, Russian, Tajik)
Opening Ceremony Photographs
Video
Hotel Photographs
Dushanbe Serena Hotel Website
Dushanbe Serena Hotel Fact Sheet (English, Russian, Tajik)

Your Excellency, President Rahmon,
Your Highness,
Chairman of the State Committee on Investment and Management of State
Property,
Honourable Ministers,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me the greatest pleasure to see the Dushanbe Serena officially opened today. Part of the hotel was, of course, unofficially available for clients during the recent anniversary of independence, although work was still progressing on the hotel and the building and its facilities were partly incomplete. The purpose then, as it is now, is that this hotel should offer to the country a receptive facility for investors and international visitors of all levels interested in Tajikistan and both capable and willing to support and take part in this country’s development. The Dushanbe Serena aims to strengthen Tajikistan’s infrastructure and to promote trade, tourism and investment to and within this country.

As an up-market facility, where service will be an essential element of success, it is also a purveyor of an enhanced quantity of jobs and professional opportunities to the people of this country. The Dushanbe Serena is what is known as a mixed-use building consisting of hotel rooms and the best modern hotel facilities, but also of apartments and office space.
Designing the Dushanbe Serena has not been an easy exercise, demanding that a building of so-called modern size and shape still respect Serena’s policy of high-lighting traditional design, a traditional aesthetic. We are all the children of mixed historical pasts, some of which pasts we like more, some less. It is like one’s parents or family: we like some more than others. But it is in its totality our heritage, it informs our present and acceptance of all of it is necessary to guide our future. The challenge for Serena was therefore to escape the bland artificial so-called international but essentially foreign architectural idiom that characterizes so much of the architectural landscape currently admired elsewhere, architecture where innovation has become synonymous with excess or extravagance. We have therefore undertaken considerable research into this country’s artistic idioms, its cultural expressions. My hope is that from the etching on the glass of this building to the intricate paintings on the walls and the designs and decor throughout the hotel right down to the uniforms of our staff we will have showcased Tajik motifs and colours and this country’s culture in a true and authentic form. We have been greatly assisted (and I want to thank them here) by the collaboration of many talented, hardworking local artists. Their enthusiasm and creativity have inspired us. They are a credit to this country.

The total cost of this project has been over US$58 million. This is excessive by normal standards since it has made the cost per room higher than the average tariffs we can expect to achieve. Non-availability of materials and of skilled labour, transportation costs have all contributed to this high end cost. Included in this figure are, of course, the some US$4.6 million that the company has paid to the Government treasury in direct and indirect taxes along with other levies such as customs duties. For this project to earn back so massive an investment will be a lengthy process at best. This project is thus essentially a development project rather than a purely commercial venture or opportunity and it must be seen and recognized as such. I would like here to thank most warmly our partners and lenders, International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Deutsche Investitions and Entwicklungsgesellschaft MBH (DEG), the German development agency. AKFED is happy indeed that DEG agreed to join us as an equity partner, and it is particularly satisfying that DEG decided to continue with us, despite the fact that there has been an unexpected and significant cost overruns.

During construction, approximately 300 skilled and semi-skilled manpower were employed, of which over 80% were Tajik nationals. Moreover, efforts were consistently made to develop the skills of the local manpower employed so as to minimize the dependency on expatriate skilled manpower, and the availability of this trained local manpower should now benefit future construction projects in this country.

In the same line of thought, the hotel has at present some 190 employees, of which over 90% are Tajik nationals in many cases trained by us. I want to congratulate these young men and women, who bring to their work an enthusiasm, a desire to continue learning and to perform at the highest level which is admirable and which augurs well for this hotel as a landmark of quality and professionalism in Dushanbe. Serena will, of course, focus on the continuing training and development of our young and talented staff. With increased experience and the enhancement of their skills they can expect to be given higher responsibilities, thus improving their families’ income and living standards.

Our intention is to position the Dushanbe Serena as the flagship hotel property in this country, combining Tajik design with the traditional Tajik warmth and hospitality, providing the highest levels and quality of service to international or foreign visitors and tourists as also to the citizens of Tajikistan themselves. We will maximize the use of indigenous produce, working with local farmers and suppliers to reduce reliance on imported goods. My hope is that the citizens of Dushanbe and Tajik visitors to this city will make of the Dushanbe Serena Hotel their natural meeting point, to enjoy the facilities of this hotel, to relax and simply to meet each other for a pleasant moment or to further their business interests. The hotel has 85 guest rooms including Presidential and Executive suites, six restaurants of different types, meeting rooms, a banquet hall, a fully-equipped business centre and a health club that includes a spa, state-of-the-art gym equipment, treatment rooms and a roof-top swimming pool with a view over the city to the mountains beyond, not to mention large and attractive gardens.

Like all Serenas, this hotel observes strict standards of environmental friendliness, both in terms of the product but also in terms of energy conservation, recycling of effluents and hard and soft landscaping. We pride ourselves that all Serenas (and we now have 34 in operation internationally and three more in progress) go beyond existing environmental laws, regulations and minimum requirements and in fact, through new techniques and approaches, set new benchmarks. Like all Serenas, this hotel will also engage in a programme of corporate social responsibility, assisting and working with various local village organizations, technical and educational institutions and civic groups, civil society.

Finally, I should like to end these words with an acknowledgement of the support and contribution made by Mr Ramesh Khosla of Arcop, our architect, and his assistant, Anca Haganu, BATT Construction, our contractors, and Planning and Construction Management, our Project Management. It is thanks to them that we are able today to celebrate the completion and commissioning of the Dushanbe Serena before you. My heartfelt thanks go to this team. Working and creating with you has been a joy.

Thank you – Tashakoor.

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