Hotel group COO talks about his company’s African expansion plans

Hotel developments across the continent are growing as international hotel groups start to recognise the potential for ‘destination Africa’. With business travel increasing in many African regions, and tourism destinations requiring leisure hotels to meet the needs of travellers from around the world, Africa offers potential for multinational hotel brands.

Fabrice Mauny

Fabrice Mauny, Accor’s COO for Africa, Indian Ocean and Caribbean Islands

The entry and expansion of numerous multinational hotel brands into Africa, including the likes of Four Seasons, Radisson Blu, Marriott and Protea Hotels, has been well covered by How we made it in Africa. South African hotel group, City Lodge, recently decided to venture into the rest of the continent for the first time with its entry into Botswana and Kenya, and Canadian luxury hotel group Four Seasons has taken over the management contract of a lodge in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. In addition, Starwood Hotels told How we made it in Africa that it has ambitious plans to more than double its hotel brands on the continent to 100 hotels by 2020.

Accor is another hotel operator – with brands such as Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Mercure and ibis – that is investing in its expansion on the continent, particularly in the development of its economy and mid-scale brands (ibis and Novotel). How we made it in Africa asks Fabrice Mauny – Accor’s chief operating officer for Africa, Indian Ocean and Caribbean Islands – about Accor’s plans for Africa, and where it sees potential on the continent.

What expansion plans do you have for Africa in the upcoming years?

Accor is the world’s leading hotel operator with more than 3,500 hotels implanted on four continents, and is also the first hotel operator in Africa with 17,000 rooms (116 hotels) in 18 countries. Indeed, for nearly 40 years we have developed our hotels on the African continent, animated by a spirit of conquest, a real ability to adapt and implement our strong brands: from budget to luxury.

The Group aims to open 5,000 rooms and to account 146 hotels by 2016 in Africa. We also have great hopes on sub-Saharan Africa where we already have 54 hotels in 14 countries. Our ambition is to open, by 2020, 35 hotels in this region.

There has been a growing interest in Africa’s hospitality industry in recent years, with a number of hotel brands expanding to (and within) Africa. Why all this interest now?

The economic growth and the big cities’ urbanisation are representing important opportunities for the hotel industry in Africa.

To better respond to changing lifestyles in Africa and to African customers’ new expectations, Accor also expands its brands – mainly the economic and mid-scale ones. However, like our competitors, Accor will not hesitate to develop, when relevant, its upper-scale brands in main cities/capitals; Pullman for instance.

Economic growth in Africa has been accelerating since 2000, making Africa the third region of the world in terms of economic development. It represents a growth potential for the hospitality industry that does not exist in other parts of the world. Urbanisation plus growing consumption plus internet and new technologies boom, help us to have great hopes.

Which regions have you identified as having the most potential for hotel development, and why?

Accor identifies sub-Saharan Africa as a key region. We already have 54 hotels in 14 countries. An example? Look at Nigeria. All economical experts agree that Nigeria is going to have the strongest economy on the continent. We already have three hotels there (The Moorhouse MGallery in Lagos Ikoyi, the ibis hotel at Lagos Airport and the Novotel in Port Harcourt). We will open, in May, our second ibis hotel in Lagos Ikeja.

On the African market, Accor is mainly interested in developing economic and mid-scale brands: ibis and Novotel, in line with a strong demand from pan-African travellers. However, Accor will not hesitate to develop its Pullman (upscale) brand or other brands for opportunities [presented].

Describe some of the challenges that Accor faces in Africa?

When developing hotels, one of the main challenges regards the recruitment and the training of the staff. We rely on our Académie in Africa. For information [purposes], the Académie has trained 1,846 people in 2012 – representing overall 3,252 training days, not including trainings on the “field”.