Q&A: Making a comeback

Since the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014, the region’s tourism business has taken a huge knock. While Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were hardest hit, surrounding countries suffered a severe drop in visitor numbers last year. Thankfully, with infection numbers on the decline, life is starting to flow back into West Africa. But Ghana experienced a double whammy of a badly performing economy on top of the medical crisis. This is no reason to count the country out, however. Axel Hauser, General Manager of the Moevenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, is confident that despite these setbacks, Ghana has what it takes to fully recover, and is already seeing occupancy figures rise. Q: What are your thoughts on the current state of the Accra hotel market? A: From our experience in West Africa, we believe the market is fundamentally driven by the investment in Africa. Oil finds in many countries have driven a build-up in oilfield services and other associated industries. Q: What effect did the Ebola outbreak have on the industry? A: Of course the recent health crisis in neighbouring countries has had an effect on us in Accra, however already this year we have seen many of the postponed events have taken place and our meeting facilities have been extremely busy from April onwards. Q: Has the performance of the Ghanaian economy had an impact on your business? A: Yes, the state of the economy is an important factor for all businesses and keeping a close eye on trends and predictions is part of our daily business. Some of the issues are highly complex and the direct impact is difficult to measure, whilst with something like exchange rate, fluctuations are much easier to quantify. Q: What differentiates the Moevenpick Ambassador from its competitors? A: As part of an international brand, the Moevenpick Ambassador Hotel offers internationally recognised health and safety standards and unrivalled security systems. Additionally, as a certified member of Green Globe we ensure our impact on the environment is minimised and our corporate social responsibility is maximised. With an experienced international management team who can pass on their expertise to the local workforce – the managers of the future – we pride ourselves on delivering a service that keeps our clients returning. Q: What do you focus on to ensure you remain appealing, as a hotel, for business travellers? A: The aim is to encourage repeat business by giving the business traveller an experience that not just meets their needs but anticipates them. One recent innovation was to provide free Wi-Fi during the journey to the hotel from the airport so guests can let their families know they have arrived safely and catch up on email en route. Q: How important is connectivity? A: Wi-Fi has been a non-negotiable for some time, but what is also required is the hotel’s ability to offer higher bandwidth speeds, ISDN lines, simultaneous translation and dedicated support. Q: What are your thoughts on the imminent opening of the new Kempinski hotel in Accra? A: It clearly highlights the importance of this destination, while it will also provides the destination with a greater opportunity to attract additional events and compete with nearby destinations in neighbouring countries. Q: Do you anticipate other new openings in Accra in the near future? A: Accra has been identified by various international operators as a key destination. As the market is expected to grow in the future, additional operators will push into the market. Overall it will assist to cross market the destination and this will certainly be of benefit for all parties. Q: What are the specific characteristics of the MICE market in Accra? A: In Africa we expect to see a continuing strengthening of the MICE market in line with the interest in the sub-Saharan African region from the oilfield, banking and construction industries as interest internationally centres on Africa. Conference buyers are experienced busy people so fast responses, tailor-made solutions, a dedicated contact throughout the event, the ability to offer and deliver diverse and memorable programmes, are all key to the success of any event. Delivering on promises and transparent pricing are also unwritten requirements but the aim should always be to exceed expectations. Catering for delegates from all over the world requires planning to meet the different tastes and expectations. However, at Moevenpick Hotels we aim to provide a memorable dining experience. Whether it’s a coffee break with a local theme or local produce, an experience that delegates can join in or you wow them with your presentation – the deal breaker/maker is that they will want to return. Q: Are you able to comment on whether or not the Moevenpick group has plans to add to its single property in sub-Saharan Africa? A: Africa is a priority for the majority of hotel companies who see the continent especially sub-Sahara Africa, offering huge potential for expansion.