Hospitality industry hype at the moment is centred on the arrival of international brands into Africa and South Africa. The Protea and Marriott deal is a huge vote of confidence for Africa as an emerging tourism market. Not only is Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, on the radar of many large international groups, but it is also a rapidly increasing tourist trend market both in the corporate and leisure markets. South Africa was recently voted as one of the top five travel destinations for 2014. Although Europe remains our largest source of overseas tourists since 2009, arrivals from China have more than tripled, arrivals from Brazil have more than doubled, and arrivals from India have almost doubled.
What is most exciting is that local hotel management companies can learn so much from these international brands. Let’s face it, they have certainly got some things right. One doesn’t have to look any further than loyalty programs – which have suffered huge criticism in our local market lately. The introduction of international loyalty programs will expose millions of members to our market, a great plus for South Africa and Africa.
Along with the expectations, there is a notable desire for property developers to partner with international brands and as we wait for these groups to step in we have to ask the question: are they equipped to handle the local and African market? As a South African-based business which manages, owns and operates hotels, we see a great opportunity to learn from these major brands, but also an opportunity to forge relationships and offer them a local handle on trading conditions. There is no substitute for on-the-ground experience and one of BON Hotels’ strategy will be to present developers with local hotel management expertise by concluding franchise agreements with international brands. This will result in a win-win situation, international brands will tap into our local knowledge and know-how and we will be able to offer hotel developers the big brands they are looking for.