HTI Consulting CEO Wayne Troughtong
Acknowledged as one of the African continent’s leading hospitality investment experts, Wayne Troughton of HTI Consulting shared unique insights in the firm’s first ‘Virtual Hotel Club’ held in early July, a dynamic and informal Pan-African digital platform that saw 295 registrations across 15 countries.
Data was gathered from a survey that covered 14 regional and international operators active in the African hotel space (41 hotel brands and 219 projects currently under development). These included the likes of Hilton Worldwide, Marriot International, Radisson Hotel Group and Accor Hotels, amongst others.
Development sentiment largely positive
According to Troughton, whilst the African hospitality industry is facing unprecedented challenges and obstacles in light of the global pandemic, he noted that development sentiment remains optimistic amongst the majority(57%) of hotel owners as reported by operators on the continent.
“Despite closures and significant performance declines, long-term investment fundamentals for the Sub-Saharan region remain positive despite significant short to mid-term challenges currently impacting the sector,” he said.
“Of a total 219 hotel projects currently In Sub Saharan African pipeline a large proportion (68%) of these projects are proceeding as planned, with only 18% currently on hold for a limited period,and 13% on hold indefinitely.” he stated.
“Concerns amongst hotel owners are, of course, still apparent and, for several, a ‘wait and see’ approach relates to factors such as uncertainty around travel ban lifts in various markets, how to restore guest confidence, and the impact of Covid-19 on hotel valuations. However, the optimism displayed by many owners generally relates to understanding of the sector and adoption of a longer-term outlook,”he explained.
Outlook geared to opening doors
Despite the current environment, construction related businesses in several countries resumed activity as early as possible after lockdowns eased,commented Troughton.
“Encouragingly, this has resulted in 21 projects (representing 2946 hotel rooms in 15 African countries) still expected to open in 2020, with 52% of projects expecting short-term delays of 3 -6 months,” he said. “Longer term delays (9-12 mths or 12 mth+) are typically being seen on those projects that were in earlier (or planning) phases of development,” he stated.
“These delays can generally be attributed to uncertainty around how long travel lockdowns will continue. However, around 30% of projects under construction don’t expect COVID-19 to cause any delays to their ongoing development,” he said.
Hotel owners are clearly taking a long-term investment outlook and are expecting COVID-19 to be largely neutralised prior to their hotels opening. This relates particularly to those in the early stages of planning.
Development pipeline remains healthy
Of the overall Sub Saharan Africa Development pipeline there are 219 branded hotels (representing 33 698 hotel rooms) across 38 markets.
“East Africa remains the region with the strongest hotel pipeline, followed by West and then Southern Africa. East Africa has 88 branded hotels currently in the pipeline, West Africa sees 84 branded hotels in its pipeline with Southern Africa sitting on 47 hotels,” stated Troughton.
Of the 21 hotels total projects expected to open doors in 2020, East Africa (40% of total supply), will see 1,134 rooms come on board, with the top cities being Antananarivo (22%), Dar es Salaam (20%) and Addis Ababa (20%).
West Africa (47% of total supply) sees 719 rooms planned to enter in 2020 across major cities including Accra (28%), Bamako (28%) and Cape Verde (24%).
Southern Africa (23% of total development pipeline) sees 963 rooms planned to enter in 2020, with South Africa – Johannesburg (71%) and Durban (21%) – seeing the predominance of activity, followed by Zambia.
Over the past three months HTI Consulting has engaged in numerous discussions with hotel owners who, Troughton states, have navigated different cycles during COVID-19 from survival (as hotels closed) to cost containment, defining hygiene safety protocols, staffing plans and ultimately, reopening strategies.
As several economies slowly start to open, so too have many hospitality businesses who are remaining positive and committed to the industry and demonstrating the determination necessary to over coming current adversities.
Doing the deals
“Despite pressured economic environments and tough decisions, many hotel operators have, been able to successfully conclude and sign deals with owners during the lockdown period. A total of 15 new hotel deals were concluded by 7 operators in 8 countries, from the period March – June,” stated Troughton of HTI Consulting.
Feedback indicates these deals were close to fruition prior to the COVID crisis, with owners showing strong sentiment to continue with the projects. Further feedback from operators indicates these deals were also typically signed in primary African cities such as Abidjan, Accra, Lagos and Durban that boasted strong and diverse hospitality markets prior to the crisis. These locations are also likely to recover at a quicker rate than secondary nodes, believes Troughton.
“Select operators who indicated that no deals were signed during this period pointed out that opportunities remain rife and that new enquiries are continuing to come through,” he said,
“It is anticipated that a lag will occur, with new owners typically being more cautious and awaiting to see how recovery unfolds,” he said. “Concerns have also been raised by owners around access to finance going forward as well as the willingness of the banks and financial institutions to fund hospitality projects at this point in time,” he continued.
“Whilst we haven’t seen any distressed sales at this point, with banks largely keeping hotels afloat, this may well change depending on the time frames we’re looking at to a return to ‘new normal’ as well as the potential resurgence of the virus in certain areas. The next 2 – 3 months will prove to be crucial, as many hospitality businesses do not have plans in place to ensure sustainability post this period.”
Opportunity sees operators doing it differently
“In several instances, feedback from large operators indicates a distinct shift towards conversions over greenfield development going forward, with a more flexible approach to the renovations and PIP costs.”
“Some operators are viewing this time as an opportunity to finalise forward planning during lockdown,” said Troughton “In several instances they have been able to take advantage of government support during this period in order to ensure they are able to streamline and accelerate internal approval processes, create more flexibility around brand stance, enhance their ability to pitch their products correctly to the local market and offer greater value and affordable experiences along with analysing fee structures over a select period.”
“Whilst lockdowns have placed many hospitality businesses and investors in a stalemate position over the past few months, we’ve noticed a positive change over the past few weeks as more as more hospitality businesses resume activities and we see a significant uptick in the commissioning of hospitality advisory assignments,” noted Troughton.
“It is reasonable to assume that a more cautious approach will be taken by hotel owners and investors in evaluating their investment strategy,” he said.
“Independent hotel owners mayindeed find it more difficult than the larger international brands to weather this current scenario. This too because branded hotels, and their new highly publicised hygiene protocols, may make for a more secure market and therefore allow them to see a more effective bounce-back and recovery.”
“Additionally those markets that are strongest in the area of domestic business travel (and then domestic leisure) should be amongst the first to recover.Indeed, focusing on the local market is what helped Asia recover from the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s.”
“For those owners and operators taking the the time to understand the changing markets we are facing, and willing to adapt to drive new demand, the medium to long-term outlook remains good,” stressed Troughton. “At HTI Consulting we continue to believe in the tourism potential in the region and strongly encourage further support from governments and brand managers to allow owners to minimise further losses and support recovery,”
“Despite current challenges and the overall uncertainty that trouble us all, there will be better times ahead and the travel market will eventually emerge stronger and more resilient. As governments slowly roll back travel restrictions and prepare to reopen society, the future winners are those that build a future based on a strong risk mitigation approach and display flexibility and innovation,” he concluded.
Released by: Kirsten Hill for HTI Consulting
African Sunsets Travel: Digitizing high end luxury safari experiences
African Sunsets Travel Founders, Dexter and Gladys Chikerema
According to a Google Travel study, 74% of travelers plan their trips on the Internet, while only 13% still use travel agencies to arrange dream destinations around the world. The generation we find ourselves in has steadily been moving toward a technologically savvy environment. It is travelling and new technologies combined, however, that boggle their mind.
This joint interest has opened the door to a new context where social media, apps, blogs and adding value to the life of people play an important role in planning a trip. In the same breath, we realise that the pandemic we find ourselves in has given rise to an increase of digitization, saturating all industries and making it difficult for small businesses to peak through the noise. Everyone has to adapt their models to survive and produce compelling content to attract desired clients for future travels.
Back in 2018, when Dexter and his wife Gladys took a leap of faith to start their own travel and tour company (African Sunsets Travel), the couple dug deep into their passion for Africa, travelling, hospitality and their love for serving people. They had no idea if their prosperous business would find its way in such innovative times. Born and bred in Zimbabwe and both being skilled tour operators with over 10 years of experience, they know and understand that building relationships with people has been fundamental in getting new clients.
Being plunged straight into the COVID-19 crisis, African Sunsets Travel (AST) has been determined to give their clients the best experience online by providing them with stories and virtual tours to keep them entertained during lockdown. Prospective clients can find their exciting stories and thrilling blog posts on their website.
“We are fighting the pandemic together with the world and we look forward to taking our clients on wonderful safari trips, once we’re over this hurdle.” They understand the value in digitizing their packages and adding valuable information that will educate and steer individuals away from panic and fear.
For this start-up company, it meant refunding up to 60% of their tours and trips for the year and moving 20% of their tours to an uncertain 2021. They have learnt that their traditional way of advertising and promoting their tours moved straight to the bottom as the world started to panic. The most important commodity right now is not travelling but rather face masks and sanitizers (in essence, people’s health and lives). We have been jolted into preservation mode, be it wildlife or humankind; all life is important and it is part of our global mission to show that we, too, value life.
“As a developing company, we believe that it is imperative to place people over profit, to follow leadership and instead of aggressively promoting travelling right now, recognise the greater need to calm and inspire the online audience. This time of uncertainty has called for innovation and imaginative storytelling, the way we package, coupled with understanding that digitizing is of utmost importance in the climate we find ourselves.
“When we started out, we never had a big business in mind but this current situation really pushed us into thinking bigger and better. We have the skills and resources to take on the new digital space, even if it maybe as simple as having a professional website and blog.”
Today, at African Sunsets Travel (AST) they pride themselves in facilitating affordable, enjoyable and quality tours. Their knack to combine luxury, style, service and authenticity guarantees clients a unique,exhilarating and unforgettable experience that will make every heartbeat to the rhythm of an African drum.
Credit: Toni Erasmus
Visit: African Sunsets Travel
Radisson Hotel Group announces new appointments to drive its expansion for Africa
Radisson Hotel Group Head of Development for Africa, Ramsay Rankoussi
Radisson Hotel Group is one of the largest hotel groups in Africa with almost 100 hotels in operation and under development, and with the ambition to grow its presence across the continent to over 150 hotels by 2025.
Based in Dubai, Ramsay Rankoussi has been with the company for more than six years and now leads Radisson Hotel Group’s growth in Africa. The appointment reinforces Radisson Hotel Group’s confidence that Africa continues to be a region of growth.
With the addition of Daniel Trappler as Senior Director, Development for Sub-Sahara, the company becomes increasingly relevant to owners. He brings a unique set of skills to the investment community. He is one of the few specialists in hotel transactions and capital markets, dedicated to Africa. Trappler’s strong understanding of the region unlocks access to a network of financial institutions which represents the biggest challenge across the continent, in terms of deal structuring and hotel openings.
Radisson Hotel Group’s development and growth strategy in Africa follows a two-fold approach. The first part concentrates on focus countries while the second centers around creating key hubs. By creating a mass city scale development strategy with a focus on key countries and surrounding markets including Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, the group’s ‘hub approach’ ensures synergy among neighboring countries and creates further value for its hotels, in terms of both development and operations. Each member of Radisson Hotel Group’s development team is a leader in this approach because of their geographical proximity as well as their local cultural knowledge and linguistic understanding of each focus market.
Asked about this new vision, Elie Younes, Chief Development Officer for the group says, “Africa has always been at the forefront of our growth journey and we have recently adopted a new tailored strategy across the continent, reflecting the needs of the market and also underlining our ambitions to accelerate our presence in all key cities. I am very pleased with Ramsay’s new role overseeing our development in Africa. Over the last 6 years, Ramsay has proven to be a key asset to our development team, and with the appointment of Daniel, we become increasingly relevant to our owners and investment partners. We look forward to developing our presence even further and contributing to the local community through job creation and additional positive knock-on effects of investment.”
The targeted territories where the group is focused on growing its presence include the Maghreb; West Africa with Senegal and Ivory Coast; Central Africa with Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo; East Africa with Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania; and finally, specific countries within the Southern African Development Community such as Angola, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia.
Ramsay Rankoussi, the group’s Head of Development for Africa said, “This is a tremendous opportunity to further accelerate our growth in Africa and I am pleased to be surrounded by the best team. We have ensured a geographical alignment in our resources and optimized our response time with deal experts in every market we cover. The addition of Daniel to the team unlocks a new horizon where Radisson Hotel Group will be able to further assist our partners in debt and equity raising, but we will also leverage our complete skillset in addressing cross-regional synergies from financial to construction solutions to ensure we always remain relevant to our owners.
What really sets us apart, is our pragmatic design approach and our transparency throughout the process, in combination with our continuous guidance throughout each phase, including construction and financing. We are always quick to provide answers and support.”
Issued by Radisson Hotel Group
Angola Bets On Avitourism To Attract Tourists And Revenue
The Ministry of Tourism of Angola, in line with guidelines from the WTO (World Tourism Organization), has as a goal for the year 2020 – 2021 a bet on Rural Tourism, involving this and other projects for the development and fight against poverty.
Within the scope of the project “Betting on Aviturismo” the Ministry of Tourism of Angola, in partnership with a company PROMISED LAND VENTURES (PLV), launched this Monday, in Tundavala, Huíla province, training group in Tourist Guides.
The location of Tundavala was chosen because it is a tourist spot of great potential, not only that it exhibits bird watching, but also that it refers to the majestic landscape that attracts and surrounds visitors with its strong exuberance.
The expectation of Angola Tourism is that, with no final training action, the trainees are qualified and equipped with technical skills on hospitality, reception, interaction and orientation of tourists, as well as addressing ecological issues and ecosystem conservation.
It is a project composed of several stages and the formation of local guides along the tourist route, used by the Ministry, using one of the key stages for the success of the project, preparing the guides for those who are able to guide interested tourists, national or foreign.By the time of the “Betting on Aviturism” project, there are already a total of 15 young people, in the provinces of Malanje and Bengo, deep on the communities, places where there is a record of the presence of endemic birds with great potential as rare birds.