Taking on Africa

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Kempinski Hotels is Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group, with properties in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The group currently has seven African hotels in its portfolio, but that number appears likely to grow quickly in the coming years, as Kempinski has embarked on an aggressive African strategy. Editor Dylan Rogers caught up with Avsar Koc, the Regional Sales & Marketing Director for the IMEA region, at ILTM Africa in Cape Town.

 

When you’ve been in operation since 1897, you’re bound to be a hotel group that knows a little about luxury accommodation.

But having established itself in the more developed markets over the course of a hundred years or so, Kempinski, like many of its competitors, has its eye on the last untapped resource.

“The only place for us to make an impact is Africa,” says Koc. “We are not new to Africa, but we want to be the leading luxury hotel company in Africa.”

Kempinki’s current African footprint includes properties in Egypt, Chad, Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles. The Villa Rosa Kempinski has already shaken up the Nairobi hotel scene, having opened in August 2013 and grabbed some serious market share. That’s off the back of the launch of the Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara, which is a tented camp.

So, what’s next? Lots, apparently. Kempinski is building a new property in Cairo, which should open at the end of the year. There are also two ‘takeovers’ – one, a property in the DRC, where Kempinski will conduct a branding and operational take over.

The group is also quite excited about taking over the famous Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali, Rwanda. It grabbed international attention when it featured in the film Hotel Rwanda.

“Rwanda and Kigali in general is up-and-coming,” says Koc. “Kigali is spotless and they have everything, in terms of infrastructure – the airport, roads, hotels etc. But more importantly, the attitude in Rwanda is very, very welcoming. It’s the ‘Singapore of Africa’.”

Kempinski is also awaiting the opening of a new property in Accra, Ghana at the end of the year.  

“But the property that has made a lot of noise in the marketplace is the project in Equatorial Guinea,” says Koc. “The capital of the country is moving from Malabo to Oyala and we are the first establishment in this brand new city. Our hotel will have 450 rooms, 50 villas and an 18-hole golf course. The soft opening will probably be around September or October. In terms of look and feel, it’s probably one of the best hotels, not only on the continent, but worldwide.”

There’s also a Kempinski new build project taking place in Angola, expected to open at the end of 2015. But that’s not all. Even if Kempinski doesn’t have concrete plans for certain areas, Koc can see the possibilities.

“Brazzaville, Conakry, Bangui, Tunis – these are the types of places that hold potential,” he says. “Then there’s Lagos and Abuja. From a sales and marketing point of view, these are the types of places I know will be successful. But we won’t go into the market just for the sake of it. We have to find the right partner and the right location.”

That may be the case, but Kempinski faces a lot of competition on the African continent, with a host of international groups, with 5-star properties, all gunning for a big chunk of the pie. Koc isn’t fazed.

“There are good hotels in our segment, but they’re quite scattered and don’t seem to operate in a strategic way. I don’t think they can show you their road map for Africa, and it’s a mystery to me. Big companies are still hesitant when it comes to Africa. Either they don’t know or it’s not what they’re interested in. But we believe in all segments, business and leisure, Africa has tremendous potential.”

For Koc, the interest in Africa is “long overdue”, but he’s bullish about the road ahead and the one chartered by Kempinski.

“There are lots of hotel companies that have a bigger presence,” he says. “But in the luxury segment, we would like to be a bit more selective in our destinations or products. We’re on the right track.”

Dylan Rogers