Q&A: Minor Hotels – Steady expansion

With more than 150 hotels spread across 26 countries worldwide, Bangkok-based hospitality company Minor Hotels has its sights set firmly on Africa. From early investments in the East African luxury market, including the Elewana Collection of 15 properties, the multinational has expanded quickly on the continent, signing management deals and rebranding properties in key locations. And in 2014, it acquired most of Sun International’s African properties. Mark Havercroft, Minor’s Regional Director for Africa, offers a little more insight into the company and its African plans.

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Q: What’s your view on the current state of the African hotel industry?

A: It is most certainly expanding aggressively in certain regions such as East and West Africa, and in specific countries such as South Africa.

Q: Drilling down a bit further, what’s your view on the opportunities in the different hotel market segments – ‘luxury’ versus ‘mid-market’, for example?

A: There is a varying degree of growth in all sectors from the five-star through to limited service operations, but I believe the biggest growth potential is in the mid-market space in both the business and leisure sectors.

Q: Any new African hotel openings in the short-term?

A: We have a newly-built five-star Anantara opening in the last quarter of this year in Mauritius. Anantara Mauritius Resort is part of an integrated coastal development; just 15 minutes from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, the new resort will be located near Blue Bay Marine Park. The resort will feature 164 guest rooms and suites, with eight luxury pool villas – two with two bedrooms and six with four bedrooms.

Q: Are you planning to introduce any new hotel brands to Africa in the near future?

A: Minor Hotels has several brands, currently. We have three in the region: our five-star brand Anantara, with properties in Zambia and Mozambique; our four-star brand Avani with properties in Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana Mozambique and Zambia; and the four-star NH Hotels brand in Somerset West in South Africa. We have an exciting brand called Oaks Hotels & Resorts which is predominantly a serviced apartment/long-stay operation, a brand and model we feel will be very successful in the changing accommodation market, and we have several potential properties under consideration in strategic locations with an identified demand for this model.

Q: What’s the Minor Hotels preferred model, in terms of hotel ownership, management etc, for Africa?

A: Minor Hotels considers most models, but prefers ownership and/or joint ventures with management rights and straight -forward management agreements for properties that complement the Minor Hotels brand ethos.

Q: Five years on from the Sun International African properties acquisition, what are your thoughts on this transaction and how it changed the Minor Hotels African footprint?

A: Acquiring those properties provided a solid footprint on the continent and certainly assisted in placing Minor Hotels on the African hospitality map.

Q: Are you looking to expand into any other new regions?

A: Through our expansion programmes and acquisitions, we are now a global player with properties across the globe, including our first property opening shortly in the United States of America. The group continues to expand wherever the opportunity presents itself.

Q: What, do you believe, are the biggest talking points in the global hotel space?

A: Without a doubt, Africa! In global hotel terms, Africa is the last frontier available for development and expansion if one refers to the latest pipeline report compiled by the W Hospitality Group. There are 276 hotels under development or construction in sub-Sahara Africa alone.

Q: Where would you like to see the Minor Hotels African portfolio in 10 years’ time?

A: I am not going to use the usual cliché ‘every capital city in Africa’. One must be realistic when expanding or developing in Africa – it has its challenges. I would like to see Minor Hotels expand when and where opportunities provide a solid, stable return for our shareholders that provide the true Minor Hotels experience of quality and desired return, not quantity.