Marriott’s smart and bold African moves
Group bought Protea Hotels in 2014 which opened the doors for expansion into continent and the Middle East
THE BURGEONING hotel industry in Africa is not news. The continent’s positive growth over the past five years has been well documented, and so too have the fortunes of sub-Saharan Africa’s major hotel markets South Africa, Mauritius, Tanzania, Nigeria and Kenya.
But it is worth repeating, for emphasis and appreciation, that last year 365 hotel chain developments were reported with more than 64 000 hotel rooms added, according to a report by the W-Hospitality Group.
That’s an increase of more than 29.3% on the growth shown in 2015. The investment predictions for this year are over $1 billion and nearly $1.8bn more for next year. The numbers are mind-boggling in such depressed economies as can be found in sub-Saharan Africa.
It’s clear that the hotel industry may be applying a bit of foresight when it comes to Africa’s opportunities. According to PwC’s 7th edition of the Hotels Outlook: 2017-2021 the revenue for the South Africa, Mauritius, Tanzania, Nigeria and Kenya markets as a group is forecast to rise to R59.2bn in 2021 from R3bn in 2016.
Described as “the continent of opportunity for the 21st century”, Africa continues to be an attractive investment proposition for many global corporates including the hotel industry.
It is estimated that by 2030, Africa’s top 18 cities are likely to have a combined spending power of $1.3 trillion.
Marriott International, a leading hotel operator on the continent, operates more than 140 hotels with close to 24 000 rooms across 12 lifestyle brands in 20 countries in Africa. With over 50 hotels currently under development, Marriott International is set to add more than 11 000 rooms with a projected target of over 200 hotels with more than 35 000 rooms across operating and pipeline hotels by 2022
But beyond the numbers there are major players, and behind those major players is a passion for hospitality. The Cape Town Marriott Hotel Crystal Towers is one of the group’s shining stars.
Conveniently located inside Century City, it recently underwent a rebranding and refurbishment, and stands out as an example of what the renaissance in African hospitality looks like.
“Marriott International acquired Protea Hotels in 2014. This was a milestone in the history of Marriott International in the Middle East and Africa.
“The acquisition turbo-charged Marriott International’s presence on the continent and bolstered the company into emerging as the largest international operator in Africa,” says Alex Kyriakidis, president and managing director Middle East and Africa, Marriott International.
The hotel’s rebirth is not coincidental, but it’s perfectly timed to take advantage of the continent’s growth. Over the past decade, Africa’s GDP has more than tripled. Africa received 58 million international arrivals last year, with the number expected to grow further in coming years. The continent’s growing middle class is said to be as many as 300 million people.
“While some of Africa’s largest economies have seen a slowdown in recent times, we have remained cautiously optimistic that this will stabilise. The economic pressure leads to owners of unbranded hotels and unbranded high end residential seek a ‘flight to safety’ and this has led to a surge in conversions to internationally wellknown brands,” says Kyriakidis.
With economic growth comes opportunities for travel, whether for business or pleasure.
In response, Marriott International is expecting to add 30 000 rooms in Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt.
Marriott has been a pioneering force in the industry and the continent, and its history in Africa can be traced back to the Sheraton Cairo in 1971 and Cairo Marriott in 1985.
The company today has a strong presence in Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.
Not content or idle, Marriott is now eyeing markets like Benin, Madagascar, Mali, and Senegal – a move that puts them among the Afro-optimists on the continent.
“Today we live in a very highly volatile political and economic environment where instability seems to be the new normal. I have often referred to this as ‘The Perfect Storm’. The reality of the hospitality sector is that demand fluctuates with business activity and consumer confidence.
“My answer to this is, in short: make yourself more competitive, build on operational synergies that lower your costs and yes size does matter,” Kyriakidis says.
“In a world of massive uncertainty and immense opportunity, our approach is to be both smart and bold.”
Smart and bold are themes that spring to mind when visiting a Marriott property, from the décor to the facilities. The Cape Town Marriott Hotel Crystal Towers is modern and trendy, and ideal for the traveller who appreciates quality amenities, cylindrical showers and warm, pink lighting under the bed.
Marriott appeals to the international traveller and recently announced a joint venture with the Alibaba Group, designed to elevate the travel experience for Chinese consumers.
“This joint venture combines the power of Marriott’s global portfolio of brands and hospitality expertise with Alibaba’s digital retail leadership, providing a gateway to reach Alibaba’s over 500 million mobile monthly active users,” says Kyriakidis
Of its future, Kyriakidis is optimistic about brand Marriott, and a major part of that future involves digital technology.
“Technology is changing the way people relate to brands. Hotel groups have no choice but to innovate. Today, mobile apps are being used as everything from a digital concierge to accessing big data. Geo-location can make it easy to sell guests something that is literally right in front of them.
“Technology also allows us to personalise a guest experience based on the data we collect from the way a guest interacts with technology and uses it,” he says.
“Marriott International has been at the forefront of technological innovation to transform the guest experience.”
JEWEL IN CROWN: The Cape Town Marriott Hotel Crystal Towers.
Alex Kyriakidis, president and managing director Middle East and Africa.