The last four years have recorded strong growth for the Radisson Hotel Group in Africa. Within the period, the leading global hotel group doubled its African portfolio, opening a new hotel every 60 days and signing a new hotel deal every 40 days. The growth has spiked the group’s portfolio in Africa to almost 100 hotels and over 17,000 rooms in operation and under development across 32 countries. Projecting a robust outlook for the group this year, Andrew McLachlan, senior vice president, development, Sub Sahara Africa, Radisson Hotel Group, tells Obinna Emelike in this interview that the group is firmly on track to reach 130+ hotels and 23,000 rooms by 2022, among feats, and related issues.
How impressive was 2019 for Radisson Group Hotel in Africa and what are the majors milestones?
We had a busy 2019 in development, concluding 13 new hotel deals, and all these would not have been possible without our hotel owners and partners. Highlights include the ground-breaking of the second Radisson RED hotel in South Africa, which is in Rosebank, Johannesburg. We are entering Madagascar, a new country, with a portfolio of three hotels in the capital city, Antananarivo. We achieved the fasting hotel construction in Africa with the opening the Radisson Blu Hotel & Conference Center Niamey in Niger in record beating time. From the ground breaking to the hotel opening was a mere 11 months and this including the construction of a 15 storey 5-star hotel tower with 189 rooms and 2,600m2 conference center. Africa’s Leading Conference Hotel for 2019 was awarded to the Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre Kigali in Rwanda by World Travel Awards, Africa. Our operational hotels continued to grow in market share and we enrolled a record number of Radisson Rewards members, significantly growing our loyalty base. In addition to the opening of Radisson Blu Hotel & Conference Centre Niamey, we also opened three more Radisson Blu hotels, namely in Algiers, Casablanca, and Nairobi.
In your projection, where is Radisson Hotel Group’s operation in Africa heading in 2020, are there feats to achieve, new signing and expansion to drive?
2020 is a year of acceleration for Radisson Hotel Group. In addition to growing in select countries, we also plan to introduce the right hotel products and we see a growing demand for hotel apartments. Our reaction to this demand is to offer a brand extension. With vibrant and distinctive designs, our serviced apartment concepts are an extension of our Radisson Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson and Park Inn by Radisson brands. These properties offer long-stay guests contemporary design, beautiful living areas and magnetic social spaces. It is already proving to be a successful model in our hotel and residence properties in Cape Town, Maputo and Nairobi.
Radisson Hotel group unveiled a five-year strategy in 2018. How far have you gone with the strategy?
2020 is the third year of our five- year strategy and I am happy to report we have already achieved 56 percent of our target with 24 signing in 2018/19. So, we are right on track. During 2019 we had a change in shareholder and Jin Jiang, our new majority shareholder, is committed to growth. So, future for the Radisson Hotel Group looks bright. There are plenty of opportunities in Africa, but it is getting competitive, so we need to work harder to see the angle and do the right deals. Well located, well positioned and correctly branded hotel products with good concepts will beat economic and supply cycles.
Are you still making effort at growing serviced apartments within countries in Africa?
In the fourth quarter of 2019 (Q4 2019), we opened another fantastic hotel and apartment product in Nairobi. This is our third serviced apartment product in sub Saharan Africa. In addition we are working on a few more serviced apartment products in the region. Markets like Ghana and Nigeria differently require this type of product across the midscale to luxury segments of the market.
What are your key markets in Africa and why do you consider them key markets?
The three key markets for RHG are Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco. In addition to these three country focuses, we are also focused on growing aggressively in three clusters (Francophone Senegal & Ivory Coast cluster), (Anglophone Kenya, Ethiopia & Tanzania) and Arab Maghreb cluster.
Which of your market segments or brands is patronized most by the African guests and why?
Radisson Hotel Group’s priority brand for Africa is Radisson. It is a full service upscale brand perfectly positioned between a Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson. We launched the brand in Africa in 2018 and already have 13 hotels opened and under development. We expect 60 percent of our new signings will be under this brand and market position.
How has the relationship with your Africans been and what are doing to engage more of them, especially in markets with growth potential?
Without our hotel owners Radisson Hotel Group will have no hotels as the business model is to operate hotels on behalf of hotel owners under our brands in the form of a management agreement. Our owners, guests and staff are the cornerstone to our business. In Africa most of our owners are first time hotel investors and owners, so we need to engage with them differently to the way we may deal with a REIT or experienced multi hotel owner who already has years of experience owning hotels. We have a clear owner value proposition to deal with this.
Africa is a dynamic and ever-changing continent and the growth in new hotels over the last decade is testament that the industry is nimble enough to accelerate the growth when there are right demand generators in place.