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PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete is expected to officially open the new look Mount Meru Hotel in Arusha on December 17, this year, following its successful refurbishment which has cost some 35bn/-.

Formerly owned by the government through the Tanzania Hotel Investment firm, the hotel was privatized in 2005 before closing shop in May 2006 for renovations.

It will now be run by Zabulan Hospitality Company, a Niche hotel operator from South Africa that has made its mark against established multinational competition on the African continent.

"The Tanzanian people's friendliness is legendary and the team at the Mount Meru Hotel is working night and day to integrate this friendliness with the best techniques in international hospitality," said the firm's executive director, Mr Anton Perold.

The hotel has already completed its commissioning procedures by interviewing candidates for 276 permanent positions on its team.

The hotel is set to become the essential luxury stay-over for tours and independent travellers on their way to and from their East African adventures and will add even more sparkle to the many attractions of the northern Tanzanian town.

He said as the gateway to the Tourism Northern Circuit - the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara - Arusha is an important tourist destination - and therefore one that should offer the best in East African hospitality.

"We want the Mount Meru to become known above all for its service. This is important not only for tourism but also important for the success of our business and for the economy as one of our primary goals is to contribute significantly to local economic sustainability," said the Mount Meru Hotel boss.

Mr Perold said that the hotel's refurbishment work was financed by the Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund (SAEDF), which was established in 1994 by the US Congress in conjunction with former American President Bill Clinton and former South African President Nelson Mandela to provide funding for and stimulate the creation and expansion of small and medium-sized businesses in the region.

"It was the ideal project for SAEDF from the start, because they wanted to invest in East African companies that were financially viable and that were therefore capable of creating a significant number of jobs - and the 178-room Mount Meru Hotel will eventually create 278 jobs in total."

He said that the hotel's enormous public areas sets it apart, making it the only resort-type hotel in Arusha's urban environment.

"The hotel has huge gardens,four restaurants and three bars and a conference centre," said Mr Prelod

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