How global hotel groups can leave a lasting legacy in Africa

Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel, Accra

PRESS OFFICE: Djembe Communications

It is in the context of a highly competitive global economy and the long-term trend of low oil and commodity prices, that Africa’s policy makers have turned towards economic diversity to achieve sustainable growth. A diverse, robust, healthy supply chain cannot, however, appear out of nowhere: it requires infrastructure investment and a skilled workforce. And, in a region with a dearth of both, the two must evolve in tandem – but they must leave a lasting legacy.

Hospitality – particularly the provision of world-class hotels – is business-critical. Right across the continent, four-star and five-star hotels have become an integral part of the infrastructure mix, a key strategic tactic in the competitive job of attracting business travelers and investors. For global hotel brands – and governments investing public funds – putting money into hospitality (one of the fastest-growing sectors), allows companies to take advantage by entering the market at an early stage. In addition, the liquid nature of real estate assets in a growing economy provide hotel groups and investors with a comparatively low-risk profile. Investors can also be encouraged by the rapid growth of the sector over recent years. In November 2017, Hotelier magazine reported that “Nigeria, Senegal and Cape Verde dominate the West African hotel pipeline with 77% of the total planned hotel rooms”. West Africa currently has a total pipeline of 114 hotels and 20,790 rooms, accounting for 42% of the sub-Saharan Africa region.

West Africa’s English speaking countries have seen particularly strong growth, where some of the world’s biggest hotel groups have made a lasting footprint. In Ghana, Mövenpick has become one of the country’s leading hotels. Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra (Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts), was recently crowned as a leader in hospitality at the first edition of the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards for its outstanding contributions, accomplishments and service towards the development of the hospitality sector in the country. The Award recognises Mövenpick for its exceptionally high standards in product quality, increase in business activities, hotel service delivery and guest satisfaction. These high standards are especially important for business travelers and the conferencing sector, as investors and business leaders look for global-standard corporate facilities and infrastructure in-country.

Ghana featured on PWC’s Hospitality Outlook 2017-2027 report. It looked at the country’s existing tourism industry, pointing to highly attractive destinations such as the Kakum National Park, the Volta Lake, Akosambo Dam, Elmina Castle and Labadi Beach. Investors and hotel groups are rightly looking towards the country as well-placed for growth. Ghana’s government has also been a keen supporter of the sector. Its Integrated Tourism Development Programme and subsequent 15-Year National Tourism Development Plan (running from 2013 to 2027) reflect a consistent commitment over several decades. Other African countries also recognise the wide economic benefits that a thriving hospitality sector can bring.

In January 2017, Zambia’s Tourism and Arts Minister Charles Banda, spoke at the third Zambia-Spain Investment Forum where he explained how tourist arrivals increased from 914,000 in 2013 to over 1,000,000 in 2016. Zambia benefits from outstanding natural beauty – over 100 waterfalls and rapids make it an exciting adventure destination – and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World is in Zambia. The business community will also benefit from the expansion of Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda International airport, which will include a new two-storey terminal building, 22 check-in counters, a shopping complex and airport hotels; doubling the capacity for the number of passengers that can be processed at the airport.

By introducing international standards to fast-growing cities and nations such Ghana and Zambia, hotel operators are making a significant long-term investment in the country. Governments can also lean on management companies that they engage to manage assets, which make a direct, lasting investment through years of training and development. By driving best practice in the hospitality sector in Ghana, Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra has made a significant contribution to hospitality infrastructure and the training of local employees – a critical component in building a sustainable skilled workforce.

The economies of West African countries, their citizens and supply chains all profit from the increased levels of foreign investment in what is a fast-growing industry. This is the type of legacy that Africa needs and the socio-economic footprint that those seeking capital gains in Africa should aspire to leave behind.

Axel Hauser is the Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra General Manager