“Investing in Africa’s Hotel Infrastructure” at Investour

On January 23rd, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) hosted an “Investing in Africa’s Hotel Infrastructure” session at their Investour meeting in Madrid. On behalf of Bench Events I was honored to moderate this session, which built upon the efforts of the UNWTO to promote better working practices between the public and private sector across the African Continent.
Almost 200 attendees were present during the session and the panel* of speakers included both Government and private sector representatives engaged in lively debate around the state of the African market.
Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO Secretary General, set the tone of the debate outlining some of the barriers to entry in Africa including VISA, air connectivity and land ownership.  The session highlighted the potential for development across Africa and how, with such a fast moving industry, NOW is the prime time to invest into Africa’s growing tourism industry. 
I found it specifically heartening to hear the amount of infrastructure developments countries like Zambia are putting in place to support tourism growth; new roads, better energy supplies and a collaborative approach to maximizing the potential of the Victoria falls between Zambia and their neighbour Zimbabwe. 
The session overall helped assert the true potential of Africa and, with SMIT on the panel, it gave the audience a feel of what a clear tourism vision and positive deal structure for the private sector can give a country.  The hotel operators and Azalai Hotels who participated on the panel concurred that while there are challenges with securing finance, on a whole, with so much abundant opportunity the banks seem enthusiastic to lend to the right projects. Securing land and in many cases, the on the ground contacts appears to be more challenging.

However, apart from these “costs of business” the reality is that Africa has huge potential for their businesses.      

Matthew Weihs – Managing Director.


* Investing in Africa’s Hotel Infrastructure Panel Members:

• Hon Ex Sylvia Masebo – Minister of Tourism and Arts Zambia
• Imad Barrakad, Chairman of SMIT, Moroccan Agency for Tourism Development
• Mr. Seydou Sidibe, Assistant Director Sales & Marketing, Azalai Hotels
• Mr. Rafael Gómez-Jordana, Executive Director for Africa, Santander Bank
• Mr. John Alarcón, Development Manager, Meliá International Hotel
• Mr. Denis Sorin, CEO, Mangalis Management Group