The Marriott Protea Hotel Blantyre Ryalls has a long history; it was started back in 1922 and has served travelers through the region ever since. Marriott took over the management of this Protea hotel and others in 2014 and it is now one of the stars in the group’s line-up.
It wasn’t easy to get a taxi driver motivated to drive us to the hotel from the airport so we decided to take the minibus. It was extremely cheap at 50 cents per person but was really slow. Blantyre has a small city center (without much structure) and the Protea is right in the middle of it. The building looks beautiful and colonial and exudes the African charm you’re looking for.
Check-in took quite some time, with lots of back and forth about the rate, the room reserved and more. After 30 minutes a room was finally ready; it was small but functional, though there wasn’t much space next to the beds (which were excellent), the desk and the bathroom. The bathroom was cramped as well, with very little room in-between the shower, sink and toilet.
The good news is that the air conditioning worked very well. It was a single unit that was incredibly quiet and effective (in fact, it was freezing most of the time). The hotel internet was slow though; it would not reconnect and often just stopped completely. There wasn’t enough bandwidth to go around when more than a few people used it, so it was a sad affair.
Now the hotel has a gorgeous pool that is, unfortunately, saddled with many mosquitoes (malaria is a problem in Malawi) and a well-equipped gym (that saw a lot of busy workouts while I was walking by).
The hotel includes breakfast with all reservations, but it was disappointing. There was a rather generous spread, but they were all low quality items. Most Hiltons do a better job.
I found the staff here to be very pleasant (Malawi is called ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’ for a reason) and also knowledgeable. Protea seems to have decent staff training.
We tried dinner at the 21 Grill On Hannover (the steakhouse at the hotel), which has often been named as one of the best restaurants in this part of Africa. This is not true anymore; all the chicken and steak dishes we tried were barely edible and were certainly not fresh.
The Protea Hotel Blantyre Ryalls in Malawi has posted rates of $250-$300 which is a lot, given the rather mediocre product. This Marriott Rewards Category 1 hotel allows redemptions at 7,500 points per night, though, which is a great deal.
Protea isn’t up to Marriott standards yet and Marriott headquarters has seemingly decided that it’s not time to rein it in yet. It would be great if that happens as the rates already reflect a superior product which it isn’t yet.