An Eye on West Africa

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We were all sorry to see the departure from Lagos of Peter Pedersen and his family last month. Peter had been in the city for two years, appointed in 2010 as the opening general manager of the InterContinental Hotel on Victoria Island. An experienced hotelier, Peter loved the city and its people, and we were looking forward to his 360-room, five-restaurant ‘monster’ opening. Towering 23 stories above Lagos, the ocean and city views, even from the lower floors, are absolutely terrific, and there are some incredible party spaces to enjoy.

Peter was also looking forward to the hotel opening, but it just didn’t happen, and he got the offer to move to Switzerland to open a new InterContinental hotel under construction there. As he went, we were reminded of the former opening general manager of the Radisson Blu hotel in Lagos, who spent four years “on seat”, and still wasn’t able to open the hotel.

It’s a shame, not just that these general managers were unable to achieve their objectives, but that these hotels didn’t/couldn’t open until years after the scheduled date. Clearly, many people underestimate the time it takes to complete construction of a hotel in Lagos. Why such misjudgements keep on happening is a mystery yet to be solved – a symptom of the ever-optimistic Nigerian outlook, I guess!

Upcoming new hotels in Lagos in 2013, apart from the InterContinental (which we hope will open in the second half of the year), are the 60-room Mantis Collection boutique hotel, The George, and the ‘extension’ (all of 200 rooms!) to the Oriental Hotel. Everything else – Le Meridien, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza et al, are delayed, delayed, delayed. And the pipeline of new hotel starts seems to have slowed dramatically, so don’t expect any easing of room prices just yet. It remains to be seen what impact the InterContinental will have on pricing – 360 rooms and suites is a lot of rooms to fill, but at the same time the owners have spent a lot of money on this hotel, and need to service that investment. What I do know is that a new hotel of this calibre will further raise the bar of quality in this town.

There have been delays in hotel development in Accra, Ghana too, but that city’s hotel scene is really buzzing. Two hotels – one new, one old – are vying for top spot there. The city centre Mövenpick Hotel opened in 2011, and with Stuart Chase at the helm, an old Ghana hand, the owners of the hotel are already expanding its facilities, to cater for the high demand, particularly for the restaurants and conferencing spaces. Stuart used to work at the Labadi Beach Hotel, a Legacy-managed hotel, which has undergone a comprehensive facelift, plus the addition of 65 deluxe rooms to its inventory. That’s the beach and city covered, and at the airport the Golden Tulip has also had a 100% makeover. Later this year, or early 2013, should see the opening of the Kempinski Hotel, destined to raise that bar even further. 

It is no coincidence that these projects all have international operators, and it is those chains that are raising the quality bar. African travellers have long suffered the dire state of hotels around the continent, with historically poor properties in the capital cities, and unspeakable hotels as soon as you venture further afield. 

What the international chains bring are standards, in all areas of the operation, especially in training, and management who understand the need to maintain those standards at all times.

Trevor Ward – MD: W Hospitality Group

www.w-hospitalitygroup.com

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