* IMF forecasts 5.8 pct growth for sub-Saharan Africa in
* Tourist arrivals to Africa up 6 pct in 2012
* New hotel rooms pipeline up 16 pct this year
* Marriott, Starwood, Hilton among those building
* Libya developing tourism as part of rebuilding strategy
By Victoria Bryan and Kwasi Kpodo
BERLIN/ACCRA, March 20 New hotels are springing
up across Africa, despite the trials of bureaucratic delay and
poor infrastructure, to take advantage of an increasing number
of tourists and business travellers serving a growing middle
The International Monetary Fund is forecasting economic
growth of around 5.8 percent in sub-Saharan Africa this year,
second only to developing Asia, and the hospitality industry is
keen to tap that growth.
"The hotels are coming up, and I am happy to be part of the
construction," said Kwame Tsofe, a 48 year-old steel worker
offloading steel rods from a flat-bed truck at the construction
site of a new 209-room Marriott hotel in Ghanaian
That trend is repeated across sub-Saharan Africa, from
Nigeria to Ethiopia and down to South Africa.
Tourism arrivals to Africa rose 6 percent in 2012 to a
record 52 million, driven by a rebound in North Africa and
growth in sub-Saharan destinations, according to figures from
the UN World Tourism Organization.
New hotel rooms planned on the continent are up 16 percent
on last year, according to consultancy W Hospitality Group.
"There is a boom in Africa, in all sectors, including
hotels," said Trevor Ward from W Hospitality. "We are being
contacted by an increasing number of dedicated investment funds
seeking to enter the African market."
The Hilton chain is among those wanting to expand in places
like South Africa, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Angola.
"There has been improved political stability, improved
investment from governments, and when you get those kinds of
conditions tied with some reasonably strong economic growth, it
is ripe for hotel investment," the group's EMEA head, Simon
Vincent, told Reuters in Berlin.
Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson said his group was
looking at Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa. "All seem
to be pretty attractive markets, and many are starved of hotel
rooms," he said.
Putting up a hotel in Africa is not a simple business,
though; they have to be self-sufficient, with their own water
filtration systems and back-up power, and infrastructure
problems can delay the construction process by several years.
In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the proportion of the
road network that is paved stands at just 17.6 percent, not much
better than the 16.4 percent figure for 2006, according to data
"While there's a great growth opportunity in Africa, it does
remain a challenging market," Frits van Paasschen from upscale
hotel group Starwood told Reuters.
Both Starwood and Marriott said even seemingly easy tasks
like getting furniture and fixtures into the country can cause
headaches due to problems with supply chains, logistics issues
and paperwork for imports.
"We probably underestimated the time it would take get
materials to the hotels and across borders, along with the
general fit-out time," said Jeff Strachan, VP Sales & Marketing,
Middle East & Africa at Marriott.
Two of Marriott's hotels in Rwanda and Ghana are now
expected to open within the next 12 months, after their initial
opening dates were delayed from 2011 and 2012.
Work on a Hilton hotel near the airport in Lagos, Nigeria,
has also been halted after the airport authority complained
about the hotel's position under the flight path, according to
local media reports.
Hilton said it could not comment on the approval process.
"We look forward to the start of the construction on a
property we believe will significantly improve Lagos's
accommodation offering," a spokeswoman said.
Even so, in Accra, for example, several chains have opened
new hotels over the last few years, Best Western, Moevenpick and
Holiday Inn among them. Several more are scheduled to open this
Luanda, the seaside capital of oil-rich Angola, is also in
the grips of a construction frenzy. An army of cranes punctures
the skyline and smart new apartment blocks, shopping centres and
hotels are taking shape beneath scaffolding cocoons alongside
colonial-era buildings of a city that was known under Portuguese
rule as the 'Rio of Africa'.
Billboards announce projects from an array of construction
companies such as China's CITIC, Somague, Mota-Engil
and Teixeira Duarte from Portugal and
Odebrecht of Brazil, all chasing lucrative contracts
in a state with oil revenue to spend.
Materials companies follow hot on their heels.
German cement firm HeidelbergCement is investing
$400 million in the region. It announced last week plans for a
new $30 million cement mill in Takoradi, Ghana, just three
months after opening a mill near Accra.
TOURISM TO LIBYA
To the north in Libya, developing a tourism industry forms
part of its rebuilding strategy after the uprising that
overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Earlier this month Libya had a stand in Berlin at the ITB,
the world's largest travel fair, adorned with pictures of its
ancient Roman ruins. While a band played traditional music, tour
companies pitched their offerings.
"We would like to show the new face of Libya, and it's free.
You can smell the freedom," said Salem Azabi, manager of the
Marhaba Libya company, which was advertising its tour packages
to the country's lakes and archaeological sites.
It is still early days, however, and continuing security
incidents, such as a shooting at a gas complex west of Tripoli
earlier this month, will not help.
"Even though there is not tourism to Libya at the moment,
the country is interested in getting to a point in the medium
term where tourism will be possible," said Martin Buck,
organiser of the ITB.
While Marriott is still waiting to reopen a hotel in Tripoli
that was damaged during the uprising, others are moving fast.
"In Libya we've just picked up a luxury hotel development
from where it left off after a two-year hiatus," said John
Sipling from law firm BLP's hospitality section. "It's as if the
uprising never happened."