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Independent Hotel Show to reveal Hotel Room of the Future

UK: The Independent Hotel Show will reveal The Hotel Room of the Future when it returns to London Olympia on October 16 and 17.

The sequel to last year's Perfect Hotel Bedroom, the installation has been designed by Two's Company Interior Design based on research and roundtables with industry pioneers and futurists.

The Hotel Room of the Future will "present reality in a decade or so, rather than push the boundaries of believability. It will echo the ethos of the Independent Hotel Show - to provide hoteliers with innovation and design to continuously improve the guest experience".

There will also be a discussion at the Innovation Stage on 16 October to understand the process of how The Hotel Room of the Future was made, featuring Gilly Craft, BIID president and partner and designer at Two's Company Interior Design; Rodney Hoinkes, chief insight and innovation officer, Fresh Montgomery; and Petra Clayton, managing director of Custard Communications.

Hoinkes said: "We all hear about the huge investments in technology, personalisation, and design being undertaken by the chains. The Hotel Room of the Future is about the future that matters to independent hoteliers and their guests. What are the true trends, not just fads, and where should focus and budget be spent and wisely avoided. How, where, and why should they invest to compete for the benefit of their visitors and their operations."

Nicholas Sunderland of Two's Company Interior Design added: "Creating a room with 21st Century technology, luxury, comfort and outstanding service for the guest, as well as seamless interaction with front of house and housekeeping, are the challenges of today's hotelier. Our choices to convey this are carefully chosen and researched to create a room with outstanding product and service."

Sources : Author, Georges Sell, from the website Boutique Hotel News. 25/09/2018

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Belmond to reopen the Cadogan Hotel in Q4 2018

The 54-key property is owned by the Cadogan Family Estate, which bought it for £15.4 million in 2011. It closed for refurbishment in 2014.

Belmond says the property's interior design, by GA Design International, draws inspiration from the hotel's original features and rich history and heritage - from Sir Hans Sloane, to Kings of England, artists and writers and the scandalous stories of Oscar Wilde and Lillie Langtry.

"When you walk into a Belmond property you can feel the 'soul' of the place, and it's our job to keep the soul and spirit alive with the design concepts. We are working with talented designers to carefully merge the genuine elements of the local culture with a modern-day relevance that resonates with our guest's lifestyle and aspirations," said Belmond art and design director Joe Ferry.

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Wyndham adding ‘by Wyndham’ extension to all brands

At Wyndham Hotel Group’s annual meeting at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, President and CEO Geoff Ballotti told the thousands of franchisees and owners that starting next week, all 19 of the company’s brands will get the “by Wyndham” extension to their name.

HOTELS learned the company is giving hoteliers five years to upgrade the new signage standards and promised properties that it would pay for the faceplates if they hit certain quality benchmarks.

Beginning April 16, the updated brand names and logos will appear across Wyndham’s digital placements from brand websites to mobile sites and third-party listings. Hotel owners in North America may immediately begin placing orders for their new signs today. The updates will progress around the world with an expected completion date of December 2022.

For Wyndham’s brands, which Ballotti said are searched 6 billion times a year, that core brand connection will lead to critical increases in name recognition and a higher likelihood of booking, particularly on the brand.com sites, he said.

Lisa Checchio, senior vice president, Global Brands, further drove home the point, saying, “Think of how many potential guests drive past our signs: 80% of the U.S. population is within a 10-mile radius of one of our hotels, and between our scale and our broad geographic reach, our signs generate more than 500 billion roadside impressions in the United States alone.”

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It started with a tree

It started with a tree.

The idea that a reservoir being constructed in his home city of Fuzhou in Jiangxi province would submerge a forest of 10,000 camphor trees and 50 ancient homes dating to the Ming and Qing dynasties so incensed Ma Dadong that he decided to take them all on an arduous 700-km journey to a place 27 km southwest of Shanghai.

And that’s how Aman’s newest resort, Amanyangyun, which opened January 8, was born.

The entrepreneur, who made a fortune in advertising and is chairman of Shanghai Gu Yin Real Estate and investment management company Shanghai Gu Shan, grew up in the sweet company of those trees and houses. He and Aman enlisted botanists, engineers, architects and master craftsmen to dismantle the houses piece by piece, uproot the trees — including an “emperor” tree weighing 80 tons — and transfer them via flat-bed trucks to Shanghai.

Exterior of a villa at Amanyangyun

Lo and behold, a green forest with lakes and gardens on 25 acres has sprouted in the city, surrounding a new “village” comprises 13 antique villas, 24 Ming courtyard suites and 12 residences. The most spectacular house gets pride of place as a cultural complex and library named Nan Shu Fang, after the royal reading pavilion in the Forbidden City. There are five dining venues, including Lazhu, the most locally inspired, overseen by Shanghai-born chef Steve Miao; an elegant ballroom; and an Aman Spa which, at nearly 3,000 square meters, includes a fitness center, two swimming pools, yoga and Pilates studio overlooking a reflection pond.

A villa courtyard

‘Staggeringly ambitious’

The whole endeavor was 15 years in the making, and if Aman Chief Operating Officer Roland Fasel describes it as “a staggeringly ambitious conservation initiative” that pushes “the boundaries of traditional hospitality,” that’s no exaggeration.

Ma says it makes his spine tingle looking back at the process, and what is now. Roads through mountains and bridges over rivers had to be built for the big trucks to pass through. The emperor tree alone took seven days to transport. Upon arriving, the trees needed careful nursing to survive.

Dining at Amanyangyun

There were few craftsmen left in China with the knowledge and skill to rebuild and restore the houses, whose high-quality timber and stone generally were in good condition. The structure was made with ancient jointing techniques using timber; bricks covered the outer wall. Their exteriors were plain except for an intricately carved, dramatic entrance portal, usually displaying the status and origins of the original owner.

All this has been lovingly preserved, with experienced hands including landscape and design architects Dan Pearson Studio and Kerry Hill Architects to interlock “contemporary architecture with sense of belonging,” in Hill’s words.

The architects had their own challenges – “how to make Amanyangyun feel as though it had always been there, and that the forest had grown around it for many, many years,” Dan Pearson says.

A villa living room

Likewise for Hill, whose first challenge was the “blank canvas” site, with no terrain or landmarks to seed the masterplan.

Hill says his firm turned to Chinese urban design principles to develop a grain, scale and hierarchy that felt appropriate to the place. The public spaces of Amanyangyun drew reference from institutions such as the Forbidden City. Inspiration for the villa streets and courtyards came from visits to villages in Jiangxi province.

A courtyard suite

Each house is a self-contained world, with a composition of courtyards, semi-external and enclosed spaces. The generous proportions of the spaces and their sequence make the houses very special, says Hill. The quality of the materials gives a sense of timelessness and history — the fragrance of the wood, the handprints visible in the handmade bricks, the exquisite carvings.

“The contemporary guest suite is an essential building block in the masterplan,” Hill says. “Our design is a contemporary reworking of the antique house typology with its sequence of rooms looking inwards onto landscaped courtyards.”

Hidden updates

The key challenge here was to meet modern expectations of comfort without loss of authenticity. Most of the modernization is hidden to the guest, says Hill, including high-performance insulation sandwiched within timber panels and perforations in the outer brick skin that increase daylight in the interior without detracting from their characteristic monolithic appearance.

Villa bathroom

Pearson’s landscaping adds to that experience. “We wanted each (villa) garden to feel like a glade within the camphor woodland … providing sensual spaces for activity and contemplation and reflecting each season within the planting. We have used primarily Chinese native plants, many of which have significant symbolic meaning such as the Heavenly Bamboo, hydrangeas, irises and the welcome of fruit trees at every building entrance. Each villa contains a peony, once the national flower of China and known as the king of flowers, symbolizing honor, wealth and aristocracy, as well as love, affection and feminine beauty. Unusually for China, the whole site has been planted in a naturalistic style so that it feels deeply informal and relaxed,” says Pearson.

But will it bring returns?

Aman’s Fasel will not be drawn into discussions on the project’s financials and how long it would take to see returns, if at all. He acknowledges the hugely competitive Shanghai market – Savills Research & Consultancy shows a declining AOR to 64% in January compared with 71% in January 2017 and 75% in January 2016, while ADR dipped to US$85, from US$92 and US$94 in the same month in 2017 and 2016. The city has 22,071 rooms in the pipeline over the next few years; what’s more, openings last year were concentrated in the luxury segment, with their impact expected to be felt this year, according to Savills.

Fasel says Amanyangyun is viable. “The resort epitomizes our brand in every possible way, and I couldn’t wish for a more positive expression of our brand.” He adds, “It is the perfect complement to the buzzy bright lights of Shanghai, offering a rare chance to press pause on life in very unique surroundings embodying the essence of Chinese spirituality, introspection and beauty.” Amanjunkies are already making way to the retreat, where the cheapest rate is US$1,100 plus.

“What I perceive to be the most moving moment for guests is their chance not only to be part of the story, but to nourish the emperor tree,” Fasel says. “The emperor tree is the largest of all trees safeguarded from destruction and is a compelling visual reminder the entire project. Guests are invited to nourish the tree with water when they arrive — reflecting the importance of maintaining a connection with history to enrich the future.”

 
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The RE Hotel London Shoreditch is set to be re-branded as the UK’s first Mama Shelter

The RE Hotel London Shoreditch is set to be re-branded as the UK’s first Mama Shelter.

An affiliate of Crosstree Real Estate Partners has acquired the hotel and signed agreements with the French designer-budget boutique hotel operator to manage and brand the property following refurbishment.

The 178-bedroom RE hotel has until recently been an unbranded, family-owned hotel, built in 2008.

Crosstree’s renovation will include a full reimagining of the ground floor restaurant and bar space as well as enhancements to all public spaces and guestrooms, led by French design firm Dion & Arles.

Mama Shelter is an independent lifestyle hotel and restaurant company established by Serge Trigano and his sons Benjamin and Jeremie in Paris nearly 10 years ago. AccorHotels acquired a 35% stake in the business in 2014 and a London outpost of the brand has been anticipated for the last four years.

Will Dear, principal at Crosstree, said: “The RE hotel property offers us an exciting opportunity to create a new destination hotel in an emerging and vibrant part of London.”

Crosstree’s existing hotel investments include the under-development 268-bedroom Standard hotel in London’s Kings Cross, and the 196-bedroom Holiday Inn Mayfair, for which consent has been received for a hotel-led mixed use redevelopment designed by Sir David Adjaye.

Mama Shelter hotels are located in Paris (pictured), Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Los Angeles, Belgrade and Rio de Janeiro, with an eighth property scheduled to open in Prague.

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8 Ways Hotels Can Use Technology to Drive More Direct Bookings

November 29, 2017 by ReviewPro in Best Practices, Guest Intelligence, Hotel Marketing

As more intermediaries get between you and your guests and technology increasingly digitizes the guest experience, building direct relationships with guests has never been more challenging or important for hotels and brands.

So how can hotels keep on top of these trends and utilize new tools and technology to drive a higher volume of lower-cost, higher yield bookings? Here are some key strategies to consider:

1. Diversify distribution

Experiment with listings and advertising on channels like metasearch, Instant Booking on TripAdvisor, Book on Google and Trivago Express Booking, where commissions are lower than OTAs, and they pass the booking on to your hotel, enabling you to manage the guest relationship almost from the beginning.

2. Calculate and compare the costs of acquisition

Analyze the costs of each channel and the value of the guests they generate in terms of rate, length of stay, total spend and profitability. Direct bookings on your website may appear to be highly profitable compared to other channels, but consider the costs of cost-per-click bidding and other expenditures used to attract and service this business. Once you understand where your greatest profits are, invest more resources in these channels.

3. Manage relationships with OTAs

You’ve heard it before, but part of the reason OTAs have become so powerful is because hotels agree to terms that are not in their best interest. Hotels give OTAs liberal access to inventory and allow them to offer lower rates than those available through direct channels. It’s critical to control both the price and the volume of rooms you make available to OTA channels, to reduce dependency, to review OTA contracts carefully and to negotiate the most favorable terms possible. Most importantly, ensure that OTAs never undercut your direct-booking rates.

4. Optimize Your Website and Booking Engine

Your website and booking engine should be user-friendly, easy to navigate and feature helpful content, visuals and local information to help travelers plan trips. Include a best rate guarantee, and advertise the benefits of booking direct. Consider adding a live chat service to give site visitors instant answers to their questions.

Many hotels have adopted sales tactics from OTAs to increase conversion, such as adding messages to booking engines about the number of rooms available and how many travelers have recently booked. Other hotels display price comparison widgets such as Triptease’s Price Check and The Hotels Network’s Conversion Suite.

5. Be mobile friendly

As more travelers turn to mobile devices to research trips, communicate with hotels and share experiences, your hotel needs to adapt with the times. This means ensuring that your website is mobile friendly and giving guests the option to communicate with your hotel and provide feedback on mobile devices.

6. Focus on guest service

Expedia, Priceline and Google are technology companies that invest their money in marketing and technology; they can’t compete with hotels when it comes to customer service. The better your service and the higher the quality of the guest experience, the more likely your guests will come back, book direct and recommend your hotel. This includes ensuring that phone lines are adequately staffed in order to capture all those booking inquiries from smartphones.

7. Collect, Analyze and Act on Data

The volume of data available related to traveler behavior and preferences is virtually unlimited, but you’ll need to invest in tools and training to make sense of it. Tools like ReviewPro will help you aggregate data, analyze it for actionable insight, and use it to personalize marketing campaigns and the guest experience.

Display review scores and guest survey scores on your website to show transparency, increase traveler trust and drive a higher conversion rate. Send in-stay surveys to allow service recovery before guests check-out and post-stay surveys to identify what guests liked/disliked about their stay and prioritize operational and service improvements. Use a case management tool to automate follow-up on important direct feedback to deliver better guest experiences and exceed expectations.

8. Engage with guests and encourage brand advocacy

Use social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to engage with guests and invite them back. Done well, you can even mobilize brand advocates and influencers who represent a cost-effective and powerful way to spread the word about your hotel and encourage direct bookings

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Japanese, Chinese and Australian travellers across Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers…

By Jeff Weinstein on 11/9/2017
 Expedia Media Solutions, the advertising arm of Expedia, Inc., has unveiled new generational data looking at the motivations, preferences and travel attitudes of Japanese, Chinese and Australian travelers across Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Key findings include:

Trip types, travel logistics

  • More than two-thirds of Chinese travelers like to relax and see the sights, 86% travel by plane or train, and hotels are the leading accommodation option.
  • Staycations and sightseeing are the top trip types for Japanese travelers, and more than 85% stay in a hotel. Japanese travelers are the most diversified in their transportation options with 37% traveling by plane, 31% traveling by car and 25% traveling by train.
  • At least half of Australians take trips to visit family and relax. More than two-thirds travel by plane, and they stay in hotels or with friends and family.

Planning priorities

  • Chinese Gen Z and Millennials prioritize feeling pampered during their vacation, while trip activities top the list for Gen X and Baby Boomers.
  • For Japanese Gen Z travelers, getting the lowest price is priority number one, but other generations focus on the food experience ahead of price.
  • Australians across all generations prioritize trip activities above all else, but deals and lowest price are close behind.

Budget basics

  • More than half of all travelers across the three countries said budget was a primary factor when planning a trip, but Japanese Millennials and Australian Baby Boomers are the least budget conscious; more than 40% said budget was not a primary factor.
  • For most generations in China and Japan, the largest portion of their travel budget is allocated to hotels. In Australia, flights top the list with 25% of the budget, on average.   
  • Chinese Millennials are the biggest shoppers, allocating the largest percentage of their travel budget to shopping (18%) – more than any other Asia-Pacific generation.

Destination decisions, booking resources

  • Baby Boomers are the most destination decisive generation across all three countries.
  • Japanese travelers are the most open to destination inspiration; more than 60% don’t have a destination in mind or are deciding between two or more locales when they decide to take a trip.
  • Online travel agencies (OTAs) and search engines are the leading planning and booking resources for most Asia-Pacific travelers.

Advertising influences

  • More than two-thirds of all Chinese travelers said ads can be influential in their decision-making process. Nearly 70% of Gen Z and Millennials and over half of older generations said ads with appealing imagery and ads with informative content can be influential.
  • Forty-five percent of Japanese travelers said they can be influenced by ads with appealing deals.
  • Over half of Australian travelers said they can be influenced by advertising with informative content or appealing deals.
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“…Travel and tourism is particularly vulnerable to moments of crisis…”

Alex Zozaya is CEO of Apple Leisure Group, and he experienced two devastating earthquakes in Mexico City – one in 1985, and the recent, 7.1-magnitude quake in September. Here’s what he’s learned on preparing for – and recovering from – disasters, including the hurricanes that have ravaged parts of the U.S. and Caribbean.


Recent events might lead us to believe that natural disasters are on the rise, and that on a local, national and global level, we should re-evaluate our approach to preparing for potential threats and their impacts. While hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires have dominated the news across the Caribbean, Mexico and the U.S., disasters – whether born of nature, political events or economic upheaval – have always been a key operating concern for the hospitality industry.

Perhaps more than any other business sector, travel and tourism is particularly vulnerable to moments of crisis, and so to succeed and thrive we must be particularly ready to act. The idea of re-evaluating and improving contingency plans is not a new concept, but instead a basic requirement for resiliency.

What does it mean to be resilient in the face of a disaster? For resort and hotel owners and operators, it means ensuring the absolute safety of guests and employees, as well as the long-term viability of your physical property. But it also means working year-round to position every aspect of your business so that you can resume normal operations as quickly as possible, and prosper in the aftermath. It means creating opportunities even under the most difficult circumstances – for the good of the balance sheet, and for the good of your employees and the communities where you function.

Shared efforts

My experience with natural disasters began decades ago, and it has fueled a lasting commitment to preparation and recovery planning. It has also provided insight into the fact that rebuilding in the wake of a crisis must be a shared effort.

I was in Mexico City on September 19, 1985, when one of the most devastating earthquakes struck. Along with so many others, I lost my home but survived to see my great city recover. Exactly 32 years later, I was in Mexico City again when history repeated itself. Despite the tragedy and loss, it is clear that preparation helped in the most recent earthquake, including stronger building codes and evacuation drills like the one conducted on the very day of the earthquake. But it is also clear that preparation and planning must continue to improve.

For hotel and resort owners and operators in the Caribbean, across Mexico and in the coastal U.S., the 2017 hurricane season has provided similar insight about the role of preparation and the need for continual improvement in and relentless attention to recovery planning. Hurricanes Irma and Maria also reinforced the idea that disasters are not limited to specific properties but shared across entire regions.

Consider that there are 30 Caribbean nations, but only seven were severely affected by the recent storms. Then consider the widespread misperception among travelers that every island is damaged and shuttered, and you can understand how tourism and hotel occupancy across the region may continue to be impacted. The same narrative applies to the Florida Keys, where much of the area is open for business, but the perception remains otherwise.

Rescue workers dig in the rubble of a Mexico City building in September. (Getty Images)

What we can learn

What, then, can we learn from the recent months of turbulence? Here are several areas for consideration:

Make year-round planning, training and testing a priority. It may seem like an obvious part of operating your hotel or resort, but for many owners, contingency planning is not given the priority it demands. While every property has a disaster preparation and recovery plan, some are formulaic, untested and only infrequently updated. Specific preparation and recovery steps should be tailored to the needs of each property and should account for the availability of local resources, infrastructure considerations, transportation challenges and of course the different potential forms of crisis that could occur.

Plans must also be dynamic, which means that they should be regularly revisited and revised by an experienced emergency management team. Staff across the property should be regularly trained and drilled so that they are experts in their roles and responsibilities. The more experienced, trained and coordinated your team is, the faster your recovery will occur.

Focus on communication. This year’s events have made clear the value of good communication, in all of its forms. Resort and hotel owners know, for instance, that consistent outreach to guests and employees prior to an approaching storm helps to ensure safety, while streamlining any necessary evacuations. After an event, information-rich communications are equally essential – with guests, employees and local government and community leaders.

Support your entire region and all local communities. Regional recovery is in many ways as important as getting your individual property or properties up and running.  Getting local transportation back up to speed is essential for the community, but also for your future visitors; helping local tour operators, merchants and others is critical for area residents, but also for the bottom line. Supporting broad relief efforts and communicating with other business leaders to urge their support will help speed the overall recovery process, and communicating this progress will encourage visitors to return.

Today, the vast majority of businesses in the Caribbean are open for business, but the message has to be delivered loudly, from all. To this extent, recovery needs to be a shared cause across an entire region, and it must include an aggressive communications effort.

Remember your employees. While your employees were most likely properly trained for a natural disaster, remember that in times of crisis, your staff may put the needs of your guests before their own. Your employees are a key part of the solution in the height of a catastrophe and afterward, so it is important to do everything possible to support them in return. This support includes, if possible, allowing staff members and their families to shelter on property, and keeping employees on payroll even if your property must be closed for a period of time after an event. With the right planning, you can determine exactly how each employee can assist in the recovery effort while remaining on payroll – and that means your hotel or resort will be open faster and in the best possible condition.

Create opportunity everywhere. Across industries, the most successful businesses find opportunities for growth and change even in the most challenging times. In moments of crisis, new ideas are born, new strategies embraced and new potential seized. In the midst of the destruction of the 1985 earthquake, for instance, I determined to start anew and began to build my career in the hospitality industry, which eventually led to the founding of ALG subsidiary, AMResorts.

For many hotel owners, a devastating event leads to a re-evaluation of priorities and tactics. Some properties forced to close use the opportunity to renovate, improve physical structures to better weather future storms, or embrace new, more sustainable practices. Others may strike new alliances, re-brand, downsize or expand. Still others may see opportunity in re-opening as quickly as possible, ahead of the competition. The critical point is to recognize that opportunity can be created, everywhere

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Futurologist Tracey Follows from Futuremade

Futurologist Tracey Follows from Futuremade offered hoteliers some top tips for future-proofing their businesses at this week’s Annual Hotel Conference.

Speaking at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate hotel yesterday, she said today’s consumer is so used to convenience and efficiency, the sense of surprise and discovery has been lost from everyday life. With guests constantly seeking different experiences, if a hotel can provide something of the unexpected, it will be more memorable.

She added that in this global world, people are feeling more uprooted culturally and socially, and hotels would do well to involve their local communities to give their guests a sense of place, and personalisation is also key – something they can work on now.

In terms of potential future trends that hotels could one day tap into, she said that one day, travel recommendations may be available with the same molecular personalisation that a diet can be tailored to an individual.

Her tips were:
• Rediscover a sense of discovery and try to surprise your guests in some way
• Take people on a detour; allow your guests to wander (and wonder)
• Find new ways to involve your local community in your business to create a sense of place
• Offer a human or automated assistive service – even if that is Alexa or Google Home. “If we’re living in a connected way at home we’re going to expect it when we’re away from home.”
• Think about optimising a guest’s experience at a molecular level: food, fitness, family history
• Start exploring virtual tourism now as the competition grows exponentially through new realities
• What would you do if you thought you were in the wellness economy? You are – so start offering products, services and experiences that can facilitate that
• Gyms, spas and even bars need redesigning for the emerging social wellness trend
• Big data includes mood data: better understand your customer journeys via emotional data, not just behavioural data. “All of this emotional data through new technology is going to allow us to monetise feelings.”

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I always call Africa a land of goldmines and landmines

By Jeff Weinstein on 10/11/2017
 

“I always call Africa a land of goldmines and landmines. You just need to know how to manage the landmines,” says Saurabh Chawla, chief development officer, Louvre Hotels, Paris. So it goes in Africa, which has hotel development stories about as diverse as its 54 countries.

Those stories vary greatly depending on the stage of the supply cycle. While secondary markets with increasing demand in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria have longer runways for development, markets like Nairobi and Kigali, for example, have quickly become oversupplied.

Overall, the future of the sector on the continent is encouraging with a rising middle class, increased access by Africans to air travel and gaps in hotel product across the region. Yet this must be tempered by the more recent slowdown of the commodity cycle in various coastal and resource-rich countries, and the infrastructure deficit across the board. 

What is most clear: Opportunities exist in secondary cities for economy and midscale products, as well as at leisure beach destinations. South Africa and Nigeria still generate more than 50% of sub-Sahara’s GDP and remain the top development markets for the likes of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, AccorHotels and Marriott International, as well as local stalwarts Tsogo Sun, City Lodge and Protea Hotels (now owned by Marriott International). But take note, Africa is not without its homegrown upstarts with good product. Get used to reading about Mangalis (fresh product appealing to Africans), Onomo (focused on the mid-market), CityBlue (for midsize owners who need services) and Azalai (West African brand), among others.

Focus is shifting to middle-market products, according to Carlson Rezidor’s senior vice president for business development in Africa and the Indian Ocean, Andrew McLachlan. He points to Nigeria and its 12 state capitals as well as second-tier cities as having a lot of potential for Carlson’s Park Inn by Radisson brand. In fact, Park Inns are under development in four second-tier Nigerian cities, and he says the same is happening in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The caveat, McLachlan says, is that the secondary city hotels must have reasonable access to support the product, good regional air lift and the ability to draft business from nearby, bigger hotels (in Carlson’s case, the Blu brand).

Michael Collini, vice president of development in Africa for Hilton, says his team has identified about 150 targets with just under 50% of them being good fits for the mid-market Hilton Garden Inn brand. “It’s the single, strongest opportunity to build in Africa – both in primary and secondary markets, and even some mature tertiary markets,” he says.

Hilton is also using modular construction, as it has a strategic agreement with China’s largest container shipping company to deliver guestrooms and corridors. “We have one we are about to construct at the airport in Ghana,” Collini says. “The continent is ripe for it given the challenges we expect to see outside more mature markets. About 50% of growth will come from Hilton Garden Inn, and I don’t see why 50% of that can’t be modular.”

Construction is likely the best way forward. “The biggest challenge we find is quality product for conversion,” says Chawla, whose Louvre brands have 40 with 6,650 keys trading and 22 hotels opening within 12 months. “It is not ideal and in many cases existing hotels don’t meet health and safety standards, or the quality of construction is inferior.”

No matter the size of the opportunities, these regional players have to be careful of the pitfalls of a still emerging hotel space. Wolfgang Neumann, member of the board at Rezidor Hotel Group and former CEO, urges patience to overcome knowledge gaps, bureaucracy and compliance issues. “Everything takes longer in Africa, from building to opening, to training, import of goods, licenses, etc.,” Neumann says. “Be ready and have this built into your opening/pre-opening cashflow planning.”

Neumann also warns that many local African developers are new to the hotel game and need assistance and education about building an opening. “One must be closely connected to the owners and key people, and be ready and willing to assist/help,” he says.

McLachlan adds that developers should use turnkey construction contractors that agree to fixed times and prices to avoid delays and interest cost rollups that can as much as double the price of development. “If planning takes longer, it is worth it, and don’t succumb to pressure to start construction too early and end up with a bad project that may need to be torn down,” he says.