Eye on West Africa

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Around this time each year we look at what the hotel chains are up to in terms of signing deals for new hotels in Africa. We started collecting data back in 2009, and since then the number of deals in the pipelines has more than doubled, with a record 73,000 rooms in 417 hotels as of the beginning of this year. And many deals have been signed, and hotels opened in the interim, meaning more development has taken place than is reflected in the current figures.

West Africa accounts for almost 30% of the pipeline rooms; 20,790 rooms in 114 hotels, second only to North Africa, which has a much more mature industry, especially in Egypt. As in previous years, Nigeria leads the way with 10,300 rooms in 61 hotels, followed by Senegal with 2,200 rooms in 14 hotels, almost all in Dakar. Actually, Cape Verde is second in terms of the number of rooms – 3,500 in 11 hotels; planned hotels there tend to be much larger.

Thirteen countries in West Africa have deals signed for new branded hotels, leaving just three – Burkina Faso, Liberia and The Gambia – with nothing currently on the books.

In Africa as a whole, it’s Marriott International, boosted by its merger with Starwood, which comes top of the table in terms of number of rooms planned. But AccorHotels, with brands such as ibis, Novotel, Fairmont and Mercure, continues to lead – if only just – with the number of hotels in its pipeline.

Of the total rooms planned in West Africa, 70% are due to open by the end of 2019.

Having said that, however, scheduled opening dates are not the same as opening dates! In 2014, only 26% of rooms scheduled to open that year actually did, with the remainder delayed into 2015, or in some cases still haven’t opened. The good news is that this metric has increased significantly, with 47% of scheduled openings in 2016 actually being realised. Okay, so the intention was to have 100% of scheduled openings actually happening, but the graph is pointing in the correct direction.

There are no fewer than 24 hotels due to open in West Africa in 2017. Best Western which, just a few years ago, had virtually no presence in West Africa, and is now present in Nigeria, Ghana and Benin, has five on the books this year, in Nigeria and Ghana. Mangalis, which was finally able to open its Noom hotel in Conakry last year, alongside its hotels in Dakar and Abidjan, is scheduled to open in Cotonou and Lagos, whilst Marriott must be praying fervently that its long-awaited hotel in Accra will, finally, open this year. Hilton is looking at its first hotel in Lagos, a 54-room Curio property at the international terminal at the airport in Ikeja. There have been many mooted projects there over the years, and whilst the Curio isn’t the largest hotel ever planned, it’s real, it’s nearly ready to open, and is looking beautiful. With its own immigration and customs desks in the hotel itself, you can be off your private jet and in the bar literally within minutes of landing – a big selling point no doubt.

There’s quite a lot happening up in Cape Verde, with Hilton’s 240-room resort on Sal Island due to open this year. This, too, has been on the cards for some time, but now it’s finally there, slated for September, with two other Hiltons planned. The Sal Hilton will be joined in 2018 by two Melia hotels, including one with 835 rooms and suites, perhaps the largest hotel in West Africa. Melia, relatively new to sub-Saharan Africa (it has a resort in Zanzibar) has five hotels in Cape Verde opening in the next two years, averaging 340 rooms apiece.

Interesting that Dakar is seeing so much development – Senegal is not a country that gets as much press as other countries in West Africa, but it’s been steadily progressing as a politically stable, economically diverse nation, but without much happening in the hotel scene. The Radisson Blu opened in 2009, and has been extremely busy, but could lose its market dominance when the likes of Hyatt and Azalaï open in 2018. The Sheraton, a total refit of the old Hotel Almadies, is also due to open next year. Club Med is expanding its operations, with a new resort at Mbour, and an expansion of its existing resort at Cap Skirring (both in the south) both underway.

Our research focuses on the deals signed by, and the openings of, branded hotels in Africa. There are, of course, a number of unbranded hotels under construction at any one time, often quite difficult to identify. I mentioned that Liberia has no branded pipeline, and indeed no branded supply – but I must give a mention to one new, unbranded hotel which opened very recently at Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, where the old Robertsfield International Airport Hotel used to sit, many years ago. Totally rebuilt, the 165-room Farmington Hotel is owned by a local company and managed by a UK-based operator, with an expatriate General Manager who has worked in several hotels in West Africa. I wish the Farmington Hotel, and all the hotels opening soon around the region, every success.