Several big hotel brands including Marriott, Hilton and Rezidor are planning to open hotels in Kenya and other African countries to cash in on a surge in business travellers from around the world. For instance, interest in Kenya from China and other new markets including India and the United Arab Emirates led to a 15 percent surge in visitors to the country to 1.26 million last year, accounting for about 80 percent of total bookings in Nairobi.
Marriott plans a total of about 5,000 rooms in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gabon, Nigeria and Rwanda by 2015, a $1.5 billion investment.
Kenya is racing to improve facilities to meet this growing demand, which has important economic implications – the sector generated foreign exchange earnings of 98 billion shillings last year, second only to tea. Its main airport, the biggest in east Africa, is being expanded to double its capacity to over 4 million passengers.
At the Africa Hotel Investment Forum held in Nairobi Kenya, Alex Kyriakidis, Marriott’s president and managing director, Middle East and Africa, said they are expected to sign a deal by the end of the year to open a hotel in Kenya by 2015. Alex believes that investment in infrastructure in the airport is a very positive move.
Speaking on concerns of violence and terrorism that Kenya had endured in the past, Alex said, “We have just gone through the Arab Spring in North Africa (and) all our hotels are absolutely fine”.
Africa has posted strong growth rates of about 5 percent in recent years, second only to Asia, drawing increased investment, according to World Bank estimates.
Hilton plans to open two new hotels in Nairobi and is looking to renovate and rebrand existing hotels on Kenya’s coast, as well as venturing into Congo and Rwanda. Rezidor will open two in Nairobi by 2014.