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Regional focus


African expansion


For decades a forgotten corner of global hospitality, Africa has recently come into its own. With development pipelines bulging and visitor numbers growing, the economic and political improvements seen across the continent are increasingly reflected in local hotels. But with the pandemic exacerbating wobbly infrastructure and substandard healthcare, the industry still has its work cut out. Andrea Valentino chats to figures across sub-Saharan hospitality to learn more about the region’s remarkable boom, the ongoing challenges of coronavirus – and why the long-term picture is still looking rosy.


T


here was a time, before European colonists packed their bags and left the continent to its fate, when African hotels were the envy of the world. There was the Belle-Vue in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sinbad in Kenya and the City in Sierra Leone. And perhaps the grandest of all was the Beira. Opened in 1954, its sleek modernist lines and immaculate service made it the jewel of Portuguese Mozambique. Visiting dignitaries – not least from South Africa and Rhodesia – marvelled at the place. The Portuguese dictatorship, for its part, declared the Beira the “Pride of Africa”. It was not to last. By 1975, the Portuguese were gone, and Mozambique floundered into civil war and


political murder. And, for a while, African hotels followed the same trajectory. Apart from a rump in the Arab north, these symbols of white colonialism in Africa rotted away. Often nothing replaced them, and what did was more of a quick fix than a lasting statement of grandeur. The Beira itself became home to 3,500 squatters, the new inhabitants doing their washing in the Olympic-sized swimming pool. As recently as 1982, Marriott only had one property on the entire African continent – and even that was in Cairo. How things have changed. With an economic explosion, increased tourism and greater stability, hotel brands are now rushing to make their mark on Africa at breakneck speed.


Hotel Management International / www.hmi-online.com


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Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock.com


olodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock.com


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