The Moevenpick Ambassador is a landmark property in Accra and currently the only 5-star hotel in the ‘downtown’ area. That status looks set to change in the coming months, and editor Dylan Rogers caught up with General Manager Axel Hauser on a recent trip to the Ghanaian capital, to get his thoughts on the prospect of some competition and Accra, generally, as a business travel destination.
As an international hotel group, Moevenpick is a name that rolls off the tongue, but as it currently stands, its strengths lie in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
In fact, it currently has a presence in only four African countries – Ghana, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia – although those four countries cover 24 properties, with Egypt alone accounting for 18 of them, thanks to 10 hotels and resorts, and eight luxury cruise properties.
No surprise then that the Moevenpick Ambassador in Accra is a bit of a departure for the group, although perhaps a sign that it is looking south of its current strong presence in North Africa?
General Manager Axel Hauser is not biting.
“There is a strong intention to grow within Africa,” he says. “Various projects are on the table, but at this stage I cannot expand on that.”
For now, Moevenpick has the Ambassador property in Accra, and appears more than happy with it. It’s the largest 5-star property in Ghana, with 260 rooms, a big parking lot, large ballroom, huge pool area, acres of landscaped gardens, an inviting lobby space and classy executive floor.
For Hauser, it’s a no-brainer that Moevenpick has dipped its toe in the water in this West African country.
“Accra has a very strong demand in the key interest of doing business here,” he says. “Ghana in general is perceived as a very safe country and the people here are wonderful. However, when it comes to attracting larger business, the key question has always been: ‘where do the people stay?’”
Hauser and his staff are expected to get some serious competition towards the end of the year. The opening of the 5-star Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City has been delayed for some time now, but with a young, new GM at the helm and building now picking up speed, Accra will soon be home to two 5-star hotel properties, just a few hundred metres apart.
Hauser is not fazed.
“We are looking forward to having Kempinski open, as we see them not only as a competitor, but also a group with a great product and a great brand that stands for itself,” he says. “We will be able to drive further business into town – not only for the benefit of the hotels, but for everybody.”
Hauser puts his refreshing attitude down to his experience.
“Around the world we know we need a certain density of hotels to drive business. Ghana has strong potential, is blessed with natural resources and is an interesting investment spot for European, US and Asian companies. That itself drives business. Unfortunately, because of a lack of infrastructure and adequate hotel lodging, the hosting of larger events has not been possible. So, if you have two properties like Kempinski and Moevenpick, along with the existing properties, we can certainly cater for a wider spectrum of guests.”
Ghana currently enjoys a positive image in the eyes of the rest of the world, and is often cited as an example of a successful democracy and an easy place to do business. No surprise then that Hauser is staying put and is bullish about the short-term future of Accra.
“People told me when we opened that business would go down. But, we see more and more business travellers coming in,” he says. “Ghana will also generate a certain volume of business just internally, and the beautiful thing is that we are not reliant on the tourism sector. We are rather looking into the corporate and MICE segments.”
“On top of that, Ghana is central and easy to reach from Europe in six hours. We are also well connected via Dubai to the Far East, and you have the US carriers coming in as well.”
Quite simply, Hauser and Moevenpick are here to stay.
“We are all committed to putting Accra on the map as the place to do business in West Africa,” he says.