Patience and Sustainability: Rezidor Hotel Group CEO Wolfgang M. Neumann

At this years Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), Bench Events Chairman Jonathan Worsley grabbed a few moments with the Rezidor Hotel Group President and CEO, Wolfgang M. Neumann.  With Rezidor operating in 30 African countries since it entered the market in 2010, Jonathan crosses a range of subjects including construction times, working with owners, boosting immigration and community outreach, including Soap for Hope.

Watch the full exclusive interview below:

Alternatively, read some of Wolfgang’s key answers here:

JW: Where is the Rezidor Hotel Group today and what is it that has made you so successful in Africa?

WN: Well we’ve really believed in Africa for many many years. We been present on the continent since 2010 and we have always been locally engaged. Africa has 54 countries we all know that we are now in 30 countries and every country is different you need to understand the complexities, the culture, the history and you need to be engaged locally and that’s allowed us to grow the way we have. We are opening 16 hotels this year and it is a fantastic journey for us.

JW: What are some of the challenges in Africa? We are seeing that some hotels take up to 7 years to construct a hotel. What are you doing to shorten that timeline?

WN: You need to be patient in Africa. You need to have time. This beautiful hotel that we are in the Radisson Blu Kigali Convention Centre, 32,000 m² that took is a little over five years. You need to engage with the local community, local governments, train people and you need to be present. You need to be able to help people understand what the hotel business is all about.

JW: And also working very closely with the owners I assume?

WN: Yes and African owners as we know our first time owners most of the time and they are very excited to go into the hotel business but they do not necessarily understand it. And so we need to help them understand what it takes from a design perspective and what it takes to bring a hotel into operation.

JW: You were on a panel yesterday and one of your key points was about working closely with the aviation sector. Are you seeing that increasingly now? How’s has bring AviaDev to AHIF this year helped?

WN: It helps a lot. The hotel business and the aviation sector have worked together for decades as we know, but I think now we are seeing more and more progress. Bringing the two parties together this conference I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to align our message.

One of my key subjects is certainly to make travel easier in terms of visa restrictions and to help our international tourists and business customers to come into the country in a much easier way. Immigration needs to be much easier and simpler… I think governments are waking up to it and seeing it. Rwanda is one of the countries that gets it right, but you can still do it better.

JW: In closing, tell us about the Soap For Hope programme taking place behind us today.

WN: We are very proud to launch our 44th hotel with an initiative called Soap For Hope. When you stay in a hotel room, you don’t always use the soap bars in full. The hotels currently in this programme produce an amazing 66 tonnes of partially used soap which we reprocess to produce new soap for some 45,000 people. These soaps are distributed to local charities to make a difference in the communities in which we operate.

Note: The interview write-up has been edited for ease of reading.  All effort has been made to respect the original context of the answers.