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Regional focus


explains Rankoussi, the company quickly pivoted to local travel as international borders closed. “We have been proactive in substituting international demand to domestic and regional travellers where possible,” he says. “This helped us create new opportunities to maintain, as much as possible, positive cash flow positions to safeguard jobs and the competitiveness of our hotels.” Again a good case study here is Lagos, where Radisson swapped short-stay business visitors for self-isolating hospital staff and oil and gas workers from abroad. One Radisson property in the city even hosted an emergency coronavirus call centre.


The perfect opening Generally, despite the current malaise, brands seem fairly sanguine about the industry’s future in the region. That likely has something to do with its relative newness. In a world where there’s one hotel room for every 1,496 people in the Middle East and Africa – compared with every 92 in North America – that latent demand will have to be filled eventually. Despite the downturn, in short, it’s unsurprising that new hotels run the gamut from swanky (a Radisson Hotel on Reunion) to functional (a Hampton by Hilton near Johannesburg). This is reflected by broader strategies. Marriott, for instance, plans to


add over 30 properties and 5,000 rooms to its sub- Saharan portfolio by 2025. It’s a similar story at Radisson, with Rankoussi explaining that he hopes to double its portfolio in the region over the next five years, with new projects planned in cities as varied as Dakar, Luanda and Dar Es Salaam. Some of these new properties seem remarkably – and optimistically – glamorous. For one thing, there’s the business-minded Radisson Hotel and Convention Centre in Johannesburg, all smooth curves and glass. Then there’s the Radisson Collection in Bamako, a luxurious property in the Malian capital. Conveniently located near embassies and government buildings, it offers restaurants, bars and stunning views of nearby mango plantations. To put it another way, as long as African economies keep growing, Troughton suggests that “it’ll continue to fuel” the construction of hotels for the new elite. This seems likely: even with coronavirus, Ethiopia’s economy still expanded by over 2% last year. The same applies to tourism, Troughton adds, particularly given the unique experiences Africa has to offer. “For things like safaris, these are really the only places that you can come to.” Excellent news. Given the challenges it’s faced over the twentieth century, African hospitality definitely deserves a break. ●


Hotel Management International / www.hmi-online.com


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