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
Radisson Hotel Ahmed Raza On Moving to Nigeria
Radisson Hotel Group General Manager, Ahmed Raza (Image: Supplied)
Ahmed Raza is an experienced operator with a demonstrated history of working in the hospitality industry. Skilled in catering, hospitality industry, menu costing, property management systems, and MICROS. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Ahmed shares his experience on moving to Nigeria, the hospitality business, impact of Covid-19 and much more. Excerpts.
Alaba: Moving to Nigeria to work, what’s different?
Ahmed: I have been very blessed and fortunate to be able to see the hospitality industry in different places including Asia, the US and now Africa. Every country, every culture has a completely different style and something that makes it its own. I think the hospitality culture is definitely growing in West Africa. Being in Nigeria, it is a very hospitable country. Nigerians are very warm and friendly, they are hustlers and go-getters and bringing that and refining that service culture is something that is really starting to pick up here.
It is a huge service driven country and I have seen a lot more people wanting to engage in proper training and getting proper experience so that they are knowledgeable about what it is that they are selling so in time the service industry is going to match up with its international competitors. That is what I believe, we are not there yet, there are a lot of things that need to change and happen but the nice thing about it is that groups like Radisson Hotel Group are dedicated to implementing the proper training programs for its teams and staff.
Alaba: How is Radisson different from your previous experience?
Ahmed: Radisson Hotel Group is flying high in the hospitality industry. Today it stands as one of the largest hotel groups in the world, with more than 1,400 hotels in operation or under development. The Radisson brand stands out for me because it believes that people are at the centre of a successful hospitality business. The foremost way to be a responsible company is to have ethical business practices at the core of our culture. Our ethical standards can be seen every day in the way we treat all our stakeholders from customers and team members to suppliers and other business partners.
Alaba: Talking of this period of COVID-19 pandemic, how are you managing?
Ahmed: From the onset of the pandemic, it was clear to me that this was a rare and massive change. Along with the team we decided to focus on bringing positive results and understood that the only way of succeeding is to become agile and dynamic. We engaged with all our guests and bookers in a way of looking forward to the end of the crisis, building lasting relationships that would benefit the hotel in times to come.
Radisson Hotel Group was the leading chain in developing Safety Protocols in order to prepare for guests to return. This association with the Swiss-based SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification company, led to a full review of the best health and safety practices. The outcome was the 10-step and 20-step protocols that ensure that all aspects of wellbeing and safety of both the staff and guests are the primary focus of what we do. Those tools gave us the confidence to put go-to-market strategies that resulted in additional business for the hotel, increasing our market share substantially.
Alaba: What is the extent of the impact COVID-19 has on the hospitality sector in Nigeria?
Ahmed: These are uncharted waters; we have gone back to the times of Ebola. Although this was mainly localized around the West African region but with a phenomenally higher fatality rate of over 90% compared to Covid of around 10%. The hospitality and aviation industry were the first and have been the worst hit so far. This is mostly because the industry is primarily involved in the provision of accommodation, transportation, entertainment, food, and other services to individuals who move from place to place for business and pleasure. Restriction of movement was one of the first steps taken to combat the virus, and then the eventual closure of borders and domestic travel.
In fact, it is estimated that travel will decrease by 40-50 per cent after the pandemic restrictions are removed. It is also important to note the shift of the pandemic epicentre from China to Western Europe and US which are the hotel’s industry’s major source markets and therefore the economic impact to the sector is far reaching. Keeping in view the fact that the total contribution of tourism in Nigeria to the country’s GDP is 35%, it accounts for huge economic and social losses from this sector alone.
Alaba: Radisson Blu Victoria Island has just carried out refurbishment, how much of a game changer is this for you
Ahmed: The hotel has rolled out a comprehensive strategy of innovation and renovation concentrating on the safety of the guests to accelerate the anticipated recovery from the pandemic. Radisson Blu Anchorage Lagos has embarked on an ambitious renovation exercise to the tune of a substantial investment with the sole aim of guaranteeing the safety and convenience of guests during and post the coronavirus pandemic. The rooms are wearing a new colour, blends meant to continuously brighten the mood of guests while the gym and the pool have been redesigned with modern equipment for guests’ pleasure.
Alaba: How do you sustain this position?
Ahmed: Through continuous improvement – innovation transfers across the brand e.g. Hybrid Meetings, Carbon neutral meetings, training, strong marketing and PR machinery.
Alaba: What is the percentage of Nigerian guests that come to your hotel?
Ahmed: 75% – to be confirmed
Alaba: With vaccines on the horizon, how hopeful are you for normalcy to return?
Ahmed: Our typical customers are the top corporates looking for personalised experiences and service. We like to call this a rollout of the micro-vacation. With vaccination rates being up, the domestic leisure travel segment is breathing life into Nigeria’s hospitality industry, we are on the road to full recovery. There is a lot of pent-up demand, especially in the luxury segment of hotels. For example, we are seeing extremely high demand in Lagos for leisure, our rates have not dropped. For domestic travellers, we are offering flexibility in their booking dates and a wholesome, future-ready experience tailored to the ‘new normal’ that we are all faced with today.
Alaba: In your projection, what direction will the hospitality business be taking in 2022/2023?
Ahmed: It is important to remember that the hospitality sector is no stranger to crisis. Our industry has survived countless challenges and periods of economic downturn, and COVID-19 is no exception. Industry experts predict that the industry might begin seeing a rebound in typical demand within 18 to 24 months. Understandably, hotels will be expected to adopt heightened cleaning standards moving forward, as cleanliness will be a critical factor in a guests’ decision to book a hotel room.
Secondly, technology. Love it or hate it, the hospitality business cannot ignore it. Hospitality providers will need to serve guests in a significantly more connected way, striking the right balance between automated solutions and human interaction. So much change. And so much of it is driven by the most important person in hospitality: the guest. Every brand operating in this dynamic and innovation-friendly market wouldn’t have it any other way.
Alaba: What is your favourite local meal, any special hobbies?
Ahmed: Suya and Pepper Soup anytime of the day, I have a great passion for Tennis. Currently play at club level to unwind from the daily routine.
Alaba: What legacy do you want to leave after your time here?
Ahmed: There is no doubt that the success of this hotel, and customer satisfaction is the best legacy I would like to leave behind.
Radisson Hotel Group announces a transition in its African leadership team
Radisson Hotel Group Bert Fol and Sandra Kneubuhler (Image: RHG)
Radisson Hotel Group announces a transition in its African leadership team with the appointment of Bert Fol as Regional Director for Africa, focusing on English Speaking Africa and the promotion of Sandra Kneubuhler to District Director for South Africa, in addition to her role as Country Director of Sales.
Sandra Kneubuhler, Country Director of Sales and District Director, South Africa.
Kneubuhler, a South African national, started her hospitality career in 2001, holding various positions in Zambia, Switzerland, Thailand, and Qatar before returning to South Africa. In 2005, she assumed the role of Corporate Trainee at the Hyatt Regency Johannesburg, progressing within the group in roles such as Sales Manager, Revenue Manager and acting GM before launching the group’s Global Sales Office as the Global Sales Director: Africa, a position she held since January 2015.
Drawing on her extensive sales experience and local market insight, Kneubuhler joined Radisson Hotel Group in February 2019 as Country Sales Director for South Africa. Developing and leading the Group’s dynamic sales structure. Ever since Kneubuhler and her team have delivered exceptional results, especially during the challenging pandemic period.
In her new role, Kneubuhler assumes the additional responsibility of overseeing the operations for all Radisson Hotels in South Africa, working closely with the Group’s Regional Director for English-Speaking Africa, Bert Fol.
“Since joining the Group three years ago, Sandra has demonstrated through her passion for the industry remarkable results. Even when faced with the most difficult circumstances due to the pandemic. As a Group, we firmly believe in balanced leadership and developing our talent. And with a team player like Sandra who is powered by passion and forward thinking, it was a natural next step in her career progression which we believe will prove rewarding in every aspect.” says Bert Fol, Regional Director, Africa, Radisson Hotel Group.
Bert Fol, Regional Director, Africa
Fol, a hospitality veteran with 30+ years’ experience in the hospitality industry, worked for some of the largest and most prestigious global hotel chains. Before joining Radisson Hotel Group in January 2014 as Cluster General Manager of the Radisson Blu Hotel, Bucharest and Park Inn by Radisson Bucharest. In addition to his role as General Manager, Fol also had hotels in Turkey reporting to him in his capacity as District Director.
Since 2017, Fol has successfully led Northern Africa and thereafter, the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa as Regional Director. Within his capacity as Regional Director, he will now lead the operations in English-speaking African countries.
“With Bert’s wealth of industry knowledge and his standout leadership qualities, he has made strides for the Group within numerous key markets. I have no doubt that he will be equally successful delivering results in his new area of responsibility.” said Tim Cordon, Area Senior Vice President, Middle East & Africa at Radisson Hotel Group.
Abuja Culinary School Launches The Tertiary and Secondary Education Culinary Art Project (SECA)
Abuja Culinary School Students and Facilitator (Photo: Supplied)
The Abuja Culinary School The SECA (Secondary Education Culinary Arts) initiative is a project that aims to train 1 million secondary and tertiary school students in Culinary Arts Education. This gives students across the world access to their comprehensive online lesson module consisting of lecture notes. And more than 25 learning videos of different dishes, including pastry, continental dishes and African dishes for a period of one year 100% free.
The Abuja Culinary School is on a mission to open up the culinary industry and its boundless opportunities to the young ones. It believes this opportunity will pique their interest in pursuing a career in Culinary Arts. and raise the next generation of food industrialists, food technologists, food designers and chefs. They also believe it will increase their students’ ability to earn an income. And raise a generation of thinkers who will proffer solutions to food problems and break new frontiers in the culinary arts industry.
As one of the top culinary schools in Nigeria, The School’s vision is to see the culinary industry in Nigeria, develop, impact, and uplift people. The importance of knowing how to cook like a true chef is rewarding health-wise and economically. The hospitality industry accounts for billions of dollars in revenue yearly. So, why not get a skill that helps you get a chunk of that money.
Do you want to become a skilled Chef, food technologist, food designer or food blogger, baker, a restaurant manager or owner? The Abuja Culinary Courses, ensure you get the right skills and culinary education that will set you apart from others. With different courses that are a good fit if you are joining the food and hospitality industry.
Register with this Link
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