Matthew Weihs - A prelude to AHIF 2015: Africa’s growth is keeping us very busy

Whether you’re currently reading this on a plane to Addis, or considering joining us on September 30th, my team and I have put together a quick prelude to bring our community up to speed for the biggest date in Africa’s hotel investment calendar.

More excitement, especially for Sub-Saharan Africa.

2015 has been a big year for the hotel investment landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa. Only two years ago, it had the same pipeline for number of rooms as North Africa. Now it exceeds it by almost 70%*. We’ve got plenty to explore at the Africa Hotel Investment Forum 2015. If you haven’t registered, do so here.

Defined by deals

We’re pleased that so many aspects of AHIF have continued to grow each year. However, one measurement we take great pride is in the actual deals happening at our event. Last year we had 12 deal announcements on site. This year we are expecting more.

As such, we continue to invest in networking opportunities for our community of delegates. Our latest interactive sessions will bring attendees together to discuss both broad topics, such as technological challenges, as well as in-depth dialogue around South Africa, North Africa and the Indian Ocean.

Addis and beyond…

There will be an official handover from Ethiopia, a great location and wonderful hosts of AHIF for the past two years, to Rwanda, for AHIF 2016. Addis Ababa is a thriving city and currently demands one of Africa’s highest rates (according to STR Global data). This clearly reflects business optimism, a growing population and an under supply of branded rooms. It also provides the backdrop for opportunities in the mid-scale market and we’ve put together a who’s who of leading thinkers on this subject.

Sebastien Bazin, CEO of AccorHotels, will look at the digital age and how this has impacted travel. We’re excited as to how this will reveal more about their strategy for mid-scale opportunities. This particular market segment, with more competition in pricing coming into the market, will help to fill the gap in supply that, according to STR Global, sits at 1 room in place for every 5 needed currently.

MICE and more

Rwanda’s tourism is currently worth RWF478bn (9.1% of GDP) and it is forecasted to rise by 6.6% in 2015 to RWF510bn. Annual rises of 4.3% pa thereafter is expected to take the total to RWF780bn by 2025. One of the major factors in this is the focus on the MICE (Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions) sector. A clear strategy to develop conferences in Rwanda to help create local jobs and investment has led to the development of around 1,000 new branded rooms in Kigali.

We will be lucky to hear from Frank Murangwa, the Rwanda Development Board’s MICE Division Manager, about why this is such an important sector. And Bench Events is looking forward to being one of the very first international events to take place in the stunning Radisson Blu and Convention Center next September.

Africa receives only 5% of the world’s travellers but currently holds 15% of the world’s population. Travel and Tourism makes up for 8.1% of GDP currently with the World Travel and Tourism Council estimating this to grow by 4.9% per annum until 2025.

The ground is set for continued progress on the continent even with what seems a continued roll call of image sensitive issues such as Ebola and terrorist activities . We shall be hearing from Olivier Jager, CEO of ForwardKeys, who will share how such problems impact airline bookings and the overall resilience of the African market in dealing with them.

Welcoming the Aviation community

We have listened to the feedback of our AHIF14 audience and are excited to announce our first aviation panel discussion. Aviation is a hot topic and has the potential to be the main driver of tourism growth on the African continent. We are delighted to welcome representatives of Air Djibouti, Rwandair and Ethiopian Airlines for a session that will explore the link between air connectivity and the level of hotel investment on the continent. You can even get a head start on the subject here.

Growing Africa whilst protecting Africa

As Africa moves forward at what seems an unprecedented pace, there is always a danger that in the process, the assets that define the continent are neglected and ultimately destroyed. We will hear from Lamine Sebogo, the African Elephant Program Leader of the WWF about their efforts in the fight against poaching along with how business can help protect the heritage. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our friends at Hilton for sponsoring this session in particular but to also reach out to all of our 32 sponsors. Without their support we would certainly struggle to deliver such an interesting event.

Personally, my travel interests to Africa have increased dramatically in 2015, having made around 10 trips to Africa in the past 10 months. I am always curious about who is travelling and why, which sectors they come from and what their motivation is to work in Africa. The business is varied which perhaps indicates how Africa is diversifying, but the sentiments are the same — once you’re “into Africa”, it’s hard to find a reason to get out.


Matthew Weihs
Managing Director

More blog posts about AHIF here