A New Wave of Tourism

Africa Outlook - - Contents - Writer: Phoebe Calver

African hos­pi­tal­ity’s roller­coaster ride

With the pop­u­lar­ity of the African con­ti­nent as a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion in­creas­ing in re­cent years, the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor has sub­se­quently ex­pe­ri­enced a boom in the de­mand placed upon it.

The de­vel­op­ments tak­ing place to cre­ate ad­e­quate in­fras­truc­ture are sub­stan­tial, along­side en­sur­ing that there is a work­ing model in place for the sus­tain­able growth of tourism on the con­ti­nent.

As part of the re­cent Dis­tin­guished Speak­ers Se­ries, Trevor Ward, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of W Hos­pi­tal­ity Group spoke to a se­lec­tion of the Ecole Hôtelière de Lau­sanne’s stu­dents about the out­look for the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor in Africa mov­ing for­ward, and has also been a guest lec­turer in the EHL Masters in Global hos­pi­tal­ity.

Mon­u­men­tal events

Towards the end of 2017, Zimbabwe wit­nessed the end of a long era, as a soft rev­o­lu­tion ousted Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe, and brought in Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa. Shortly after this mon­u­men­tal event for the coun­try, we saw the elec­tion of Cyril Ramaphosa as the leader of South Africa’s rul­ing African Na­tional Congress (ANC), who is on course to be­come the coun­try’s next pres­i­dent.

Elec­tions are hugely im­por­tant for the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try in Africa, as po­lit­i­cal power tends to be more cen­tralised than in more ma­ture democ­ra­cies and there­fore ma­jor shifts are not un­com­mon. In­vestors - in­clud­ing those who stay in ho­tels, and those who in­vest in them - need the sta­bil­ity that goes onto breed con­fi­dence, and that means eco­nomic growth, a vir­tu­ous cir­cle from which ho­tel own­ers ben­e­fit through in­creased oc­cu­pancy rates.

In 2018, elec­tions are sched­uled in Cameroon, Egypt, Mali, Sierra Leone, South Su­dan, and Zimbabwe and po­ten­tially in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC), how­ever, the lat­ter is the least likely to ac­tu­ally take place. Zimbabwe’s elec­tion will be care­fully watched. In­vestors in many sec­tors - not just ho­tels - are keen to re-en­ter the coun­try, hav­ing been de­terred for many years by the in­di­geni­sa­tion poli­cies of Mu­gabe, and we could see a mas­sive in­crease in in­vest­ments if the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment is con­ducive.

Lead­ing up to, and dur­ing the elec­tions, ho­tels ben­e­fit from the in­creased traf­fic from in­ter­na­tional ob­servers, politi­cians, of­fi­cials, and oth­ers who criss-cross the coun­try. But it is the four-five-year af­ter­math that re­ally mat­ters.

Kenya had two pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in 2017 and the im­pact on the ho­tel in­dus­try was pos­i­tive, as the Govern­ment ‘gets’ tourism. The au­thor­i­ties re­spon­si­ble for the in­dus­try were quick to pro­mote the coun­try, even run­ning a cam­paign on re­gional dig­i­tal satel­lite TV ser­vice, DStv pro­mot­ing the at­trac­tions of Nairobi, along­side the tra­di­tional beach and sa­fari prod­uct.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished around this time last year, al­most 20,000 new rooms in 117 chain ho­tels are sched­uled to open this year out of a to­tal pipe­line of 73,000 rooms, an in­crease on the cur­rent sup­ply of some 12.5 per­cent. Putting that into con­text, how­ever, Africa has a short­fall of al­most 500,000 rooms to reach the rooms per pop­u­la­tion head ra­tio of Asia-Pa­cific. That’s a long way to go, but it is get­ting there. In 2009, the en­tire pipe­line of fu­ture openings was just un­der 30,000 rooms.

At present there looks to be a con­tin­u­a­tion of the roller­coaster ride that Africa’s economies and the tourism in­dus­try that is so im­por­tant for many coun­tries. But for many, it will be on­wards and up­wards.

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