Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

November 11 2013

Where a Major Hotel Chain Is Placing Its Priorities

By David McMillin

africa and meetings

There’s been plenty of buzz about the increasing business opportunities in Asia over the past few years, but one major hotel brand is aiming to be the go-to destination on another developing continent. Marriott has signed a new letter of intent with South African-based Protea Hotels that, once finalized, will add more than 10,000 rooms in South Africa, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda an Zambia.

“Africa has significant untapped potential for travel and tourism, both as a destination and source of new global travelers,” Arne Sorenson, president and CEO, Marriott International, says. “The continent’s GDP is anticipated to grow at over five percent annually over the next several years, which we expect will raise more people into the emerging middle class.”

Sorenson says that one of Marriott’s objectives is to become the first choice of that growing middle class and a cast of young, sophisticated travelers in Africa.

SEE ALSO: American Hotel Giant Relocates to the Middle East

Africa - By the Numbers

One look at economic estimates in Africa makes it easy to understand why Marriott is aiming for this kind of growth. According to Jonathan Berman’s “Seven Reasons Why Africa’s Time Is Now” in Harvard Business Review, Africa’s workforce will be bigger than China’s by 2035, and all those employees are getting increasingly connected. Mobile internet traffic in sub-Saharan Africa will grow 25-fold in the next four years.

Shortening the Opening Process

Despite an increasing number of new travelers popping up across Africa, opening properties where they can stay is another story - particularly for outside companies that lack the know-how to effectively navigate the unique business landscape. Marriott’s acquisition of Protea Hotels should help overcome some of those hurdles.

“The development cycle for opening new hotels in Africa is typically long due to the challenges posed by emerging infrastructure, so joining forces with Protea Hotels and their highly respected management team is the strongest way to jumpstart Marriott’s footprint in Africa,” Alex Kyriakidis, president, Marriott International for the Middle East and Africa, says.

Both hoteliers expect that the letter of intent will become a definitive agreement within the next two months, and the official acquisition could close within the first quarter of 2014.

SEE ALSO: 5 Key Challenges Facing Hoteliers

Want a glimpse of what luxury looks like in Africa? Click here for a look inside Protea’s current superior deluxe Africa Pride brand.

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