Where BRICs are being laid

Until recently, very little attention has been paid to African hotels unless they were involved in war, famine or Hollywood (Hotel Rwanda and Blood Diamond come to mind). It’s safe to say most people think of safaris or adventure tourism when they think of Africa. But the real story of the region lies in the more than 10 years of economic development averaging nearly 6% GDP growth for the Sub-Saharan Africa region.

With the intention of opening an office in Africa, my partners Stuart Smith and Chris Mumford had some interesting observations:

  • Hilton opened the first development office in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2010, promoting Derrek Anderson to the role of VP of development. In April 2012 the company announced the appointment of veteran hotelier Jan Van der Putten as VP of operations, Africa and Indian Ocean, who opened an office in Johannesburg. Hilton has 12 hotels in nine Sub-Saharan African countries with six hotels in the pipeline.
  • Starwood, who has run its Africa operations out of Belgium and Dubai, placed a director of development and acquisition based in South Africa on May 1, 2011. Starwood has 20 hotels in 13 Sub-Saharan African countries.
  • IHG opened its first office on the continent in Cape Town in May 2012, appointing Michael Cooper VP development, Sub-Saharan Africa. IHG currently has 20 hotels in six Sub-Saharan African countries.
  • Marriott appointed Alex Kyriakidis president and MD of MEA in April 2011. Marriott is a late player to the region, however, and has seven properties under development in six Sub-Saharan African countries.
  • Rezidor Hotel Group has recorded the fastest growth in the region after opening an office in Cape Town in 2007. Rezidor has 36 hotels in 14 countries, and 28 of the hotels having been initiated in the last 36 months. 
  • Morocco, which has 1,500 hotels, doubled the hotel inventory from 97,000 rooms to 180,000 rooms between 2001 and 2010. The plan reportedly is to double the hotel sector again by 2020.
  • There are 47 properties comprising more than 10,000 rooms under construction at the end of March 2012, according to STR Global, and existing supply consists of nearly 2,500 properties and 375,000 rooms across the Sub-Saharan Africa region.

The Sub-Saharan Africa region is widely recognized as the last great frontier of hotel development. But as with many frontiers, it is fraught with danger. We also wonder where all the human talent is going to come from. Like China and India before it, massive training initiatives and cultural shifts will need to take place for a service culture to be embedded into the people. Hopefully TIA (This is Africa) will have a positive connotation in the future.