* China, Middle East-led investment
* Hotel chains eye oil hot spots for new sites
* Ethiopian Airlines sees greater competition
BERLIN, March 9 The world's big hotel
chains and airlines are rushing to serve new corporate customers
in Africa, as Chinese and Middle East investment boosts business
interest in the resource-rich region.
"Africa is becoming the next frontier, perhaps the last
frontier," Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Tewolde
Gebremariam told Reuters at the ITB travel fair in Berlin,
saying its planes were full of Chinese investors.
Hotel chain Marriott, for example, is opening new
sites this year in the Rwandan and Ghanaian capitals of Kigali
and Accra, and it plans to double the number of hotels it has in
Africa and the Middle East to 100 over the next five years.
"We've been trying to get into Africa for 15 years, but the
issue was financing," Ed Fuller, international director at
Marriott, told Reuters, saying that the wave of investment from
China and elsewhere was making opening new hotels much easier.
Rival Carlson has just opened a new Radisson Blu hotel in
Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the seat of the Africa Union and
therefore a hub of political activity.
"We are looking more at investing in sub-Saharan Africa,
especially the oil-producing countries," Chief Executive Hubert
Joly told Reuters, citing Ghana and Nigeria as examples.
International arrivals in sub-Saharan Africa grew by 7
percent in 2011, outpacing global growth of 4 percent, according
to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
Overall African arrivals were flat, though, as the Arab
Spring revolutions caused a drop in travel to North African
countries such as Libya and Tunisia.
Oil-rich Libya, however, has been a hotspot for those
seeking new investment as the country rebuilds itself after the
fall of Gaddafi.
Joly said the group's Tripoli hotel was doing extremely
well, while Marriott's Fuller described the potential for the
hotel industry in Libya as phenomenal.
It's not just about oil, though. The underdeveloped African
market is also of interest to western retailers, with U.S. group
Wal-Mart having bought a majority stake in South African
Ethiopian's Gebremariam said investors in the infrastructure
and agriculture sectors were flying in from all over the world,
and the growth opportunities were tempting airlines, too.
"With the economic slowdown in Europe and the United States,
more and more European and American carriers are focusing on
Africa," Gebremariam said, citing Air France-KLM and