The big question facing players in the hospitality sector in Africa and across the globe: What is the key to reviving this once-thriving industry, which has been left decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening millions of jobs and livelihoods?

Focus on domestic tourists

Domestic tourists will be first to begin travelling again, so it stands to reason that Africa’s hoteliers should have their sights set firmly on the continent’s enormous and fast-growing middle class. Their consumer spending accounts for between 50% and 60% of Africa’s overall economic growth, so what they want is going to be top priority!

The usual bed-and-breakfast offering just won’t cut it

Hoteliers are going to have to work smart, extending accommodation options to include curated travel experiences and services if they want to see the sector returned to its former glory, rebooting not only the hospitality industry specifically, but also country economies as a whole. The Regional Director for Minor Hotels in Africa, Mark Havercroft, gives further insight on what preparations hoteliers should be effecting to ensure they make the most of their re-openings. He also highlights how his group has focused specifically on a broad offering of accommodations to suit the pockets of the full range of future travellers. For the past two decades, the economy of a number of countries on the African continent has been growing significantly faster than the global average, with sub-Saharan countries particularly leading the way, according to a recent report published by the African Development Bank.

Africa’s growing middle class drives prosperity 

Between 2000 and 2022, sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP is expected to climb 468%. The continent’s middle class has also shown the largest growth, to some 350 million strong, driving a rise in the private consumption of goods by an average 3.7% year-on-year since 2010, with consumer spending accounting for between 50% and 60% of the growth of Africa’s economy.

Targeting and servicing this significant middle-class market will be key to the revival of the hospitality industry in Africa post COVID-19, believes Mark Havercroft, Regional Director for Minor Hotels in Africa. “However,” says Havercroft, “hoteliers will need to be astute in their offerings in order to attract, retain and expand that market.” Prior to COVID-19, numerous large hotel chains had already begun to make substantial inroads into the African accommodation sector.

Along with the Minor Hotels brands such as Anantara, Elewana and Avani, other big names including the likes of Radisson, Marriott and Accor have placed a focus on this home-grown sector. According to Havercroft: “As travel and tourism destinations begin to open up again on the continent, it will be those hotels that are best able to service the economy, mid-scale and extended-stay markets that currently exist in Africa that will be the most attractive – to both business and leisure travellers.

The range of options that hotels place on the table for these markets will be critical to the overall recovery of the sector.” With its luxury Anantara brand already in Mauritius, Zambia and Mozambique, the Elewana safari experiences in Kenya and Tanzania, and its Avani city and resort brand in Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Seychelles and Zambia, Minor Hotels is also on track, despite the pandemic, to open its Avani Nairobi Suites serviced apartments in Kenya in the latter half of this year. “We are already catering across the broadest possible international market globally, but will continue targeting African travellers first and foremost now that our doors are fully open,” says Havercroft.

He is frank that success will, however, require far more than simply offering a bed and breakfast: “It will also be about extending each and every accommodation option to incorporate carefully curated travel experiences and services, with appropriate partners who operate beyond the lobby of each hotel.

These partnerships include local tour guides, op-erators of local shops and marketplaces, restaurateurs or any other attraction that may appeal to travellers.” Havercroft also notes that, prior to COVID-19, international brands generally tended to be focused only on bringing international travellers into their establishments: “For now, we need to firmly focus on curating experiences for our African travellers that will resonate with them and deliver beyond their expectations.”

This has been the group’s own vision from the start, to have a network of hotels offering different accommodation options in strategic destinations throughout the continent. “Once a traveller has confidence in one of your brands, and has had a good experience, they will be more inclined to sample other offerings among your other brands,” believes Havercroft. “This has certainly been part of our expansion strategy into Africa from the outset, and will now stand us in good stead as the domestic travel markets begin to open.” Minor Hotels is an international hotel owner, operator and investor, currently with a portfolio of over 565 properties. Through their Anantara, Avani, Elewana, Oaks, NH Hotels, NH Collection and TIVOLI properties, Minor Hotels operates in 56 countries across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Europe and South America, actively seeking suitable acquisitions, joint venture opportunities and management assistance opportunities.

This article was first published by NewTelegraphNG on the 20 June 2020. 

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