Antoine Guego, Chief Operating Officer for Africa and Indian Ocean at AccorHotels recently chatted with Bench Events Chairman Jonathan Worsley about the highs and lows of expanding in Africa.
Jonathan Worsley (JW): We had Sébastien Bazin, CEO of AccorHotels, participating in AHIF last year. He outlined plans for Africa India and Iran being the three target markets that Accor want to focus on. How’s progress been in the last year?
Antoine Geugo (AG): Well I think it’s still the case. As you know in Africa we have a plan to develop 200 hotels by 2020. We are actually at 106. We are opening the first IBIS hotel in Angola which is a deal we announced at AHIF last year. We have the official opening on November 9th 2016. So yeah, we are well on track.
JW: So what are some of the challenges you face developing hotels in Africa?
AG: I would say time. Time is not going at the same pace as other markets. Time to market is the key issue. Then, you could say that political stability could be another one, but mainly mainly time.
JW: And are you seeing that I’m shorter little, or the pipeline shortening at all?
AG: Not really.
JW: I would imagine one of the challenges for you would be finding the right partners and investors in this market?
AG: Yes absolutely finding access to the right partner or investor that has access to the debt, these are the key issues.
JW: You have a number of new brands that you completed a deal with Fairmont does that give you additional ammunition as you expand across Africa?
AG: Yes. We have 10 of these brands currently present on the continent and more to come. I cannot the development program of these brands today just because we’re in a quiet period.
JW: I imagine for Africa you are focusing on the mid market brands
AG: Well in Africa we focus on the upscale midscale and economy [brands], but there is a niche for luxury.
JW: And what at the moment is the most exciting market for you in Africa?
AG: It’s a good question. Definitely where we are not [currently operating]. So English-speaking eastern and southern Africa is our main target for today.
JW: We’ve got 500 delegates on this year at AHIF and I just be keen to learn what is that you get from attending this conference?
AG: This is my third [time attending]… and I have to say I would not miss it, that’s why I’m here today. This is one of the unique occasions where [AccorHotels] can meet all of the actors in the industry. Everybody that’s involved and wants to go forward in this market. You are doing a great job for that and we happy to be here today.