UK hotel operator on expanding to Senegal and other African markets

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts in Lusaka, Zambia.

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts in Lusaka, Zambia.

UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), with brands that include Holiday Inn and InterContinental, is one of a growing number of global hotel operators expanding in the continent. The company has 25 hotels in nine African markets with three developments in the pipeline. It’s biggest market, South Africa, holds the lion’s share of 10 hotels.

How we made it in Africa asks the group’s director of operations in Africa, Simon Stamper, about its growth on the continent and the markets it plans to enter next.

Which African markets have caught IHG’s attention and why? 

We currently have hotels in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt, which continue to be focus markets for us due to the continuing trend of extensive inbound business and leisure travel there.

With regards to expansion in potential markets, we are always on the lookout for opportunities that make good business sense. We place the right brand, in the right location according to demand. The more people look at investing in the continent and doing business in Africa, the better our hotels can perform across markets in Africa.

There has been a flood of hotel brands expanding across the continent in recent years. Is the market becoming saturated in some countries?

We believe opportunities continue to exist for all players within the sector. We see growth opportunities in sub-Saharan African countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Senegal. With an increasing number of African countries encouraging investment opportunities, we look at the African continent with optimism.

Which markets and brands are being considered for future expansion?

We entered Africa 48 years ago with our InterContinental brand in 1968 and now have four of our brands present here. We have three hotels (3,744 rooms) in the pipeline, including InterContinental Dakar in Senegal which will be our first to open in the country. This particular hotel will form part of the Dakar Cliffside Resort set to be one of the most desirable communities in Dakar comprising retail outlets, offices, apartments and villas covering an area of 270,000m². The airport is only minutes away and the business district is 9km away.

Additionally, we will enter new countries in Africa over the coming years: Ethiopia and Uganda. The opportunity across Africa remains clear and our team is going to be making the most of that throughout 2016 and beyond.

Describe this “opportunity”.

People will always travel, whether it’s for business or leisure and our developments are in line with the growth of Africa’s travel industry. According to industry research a high percentage of international tourist arrivals are bound for destinations in sub-Saharan Africa due to the increase in business opportunities and travel attractions. While the accommodation landscape is diverse, the branded hotel segment is still the fastest growing and our InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express brands are the right brands to cater for leisure, corporate and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) travel in this region.

Are you catering to mostly business travel or leisure in these markets?

We cater to both business and leisure guests across all of our brands. However we do have specific brands that cater to specific needs. For example our Holiday Inn Express brand is geared towards short-stay trips and travellers on the go, whether it’s a corporate guest visiting a destination for a meeting or a tourist exploring a city for a weekend.

Which is the group’s best performing hotel on the continent (outside of South Africa), and what do you owe this to?

All of our hotels in Egypt are doing really well at the moment across all brands; and we owe this success to our fantastic team of people working in our hotels and corporate offices. This business is all about people and as consumers’ expectations of global brands evolve, more and more guests are looking for more personalised and unique travel experiences. We put effort into culturally adapting to the different markets we operate in, to understand the changing nature of concepts such as family and community.