Marriott Continues Investment and Growth in Africa
M arriott International, Incorporated will invest $200 million in Africa by opening 36 new hotel properties and hiring 10,000 new employees by 2020 — expanding its reach from nine countries to 16 countries — according to an article written by Hadley Malcolm of USA TODAY.
The announcement was released this past Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington, D.C.
Marriott nearly doubled its number of hotel rooms in Africa with its acquisition of the brands and operations of Protea Hotels Group this past November to become the largest hotel company in Africa — and it is set to expand its footprint on the African continent to 152 hotel properties and counting.
“Africa has significant untapped potential for travel and tourism, both as a destination and source of new global travelers”, Arne Sorenson — who is the president and chief executive officer of Marriott International, Inc. — said this past November. “The continent’s GDP is anticipated to grow at over five percent annually over the next several years which we expect will raise more people into the emerging middle class.”
Sorenson reportedly cited a “hugely growing middle class” and a growing “gross domestic product” as the two main reasons for the focus on growth in Africa for Marriott.
There are problems and issues yet to be resolved, to be sure. For example, the recent Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria has caused great concern to airlines and other entities which serve these four nations in Africa. Marriott currently has nine hotel properties located in Nigeria — all of them as a result of the acquisition of Protea Hotels Group — with no hotel properties located in the other three countries; so I believe that the effect of the Ebola virus on business for Marriott will be minimal at best.
I would be largely incorrect if I cited the expense of flying as a passenger to Africa as another issue, as Sorenson is seeing the expansion as a way to serve travelers within the continent.
Another issue — according to Sorenson — is that “the American view of Africa is still one that starts with, ‘it’s a basket case economically; it’s ungoverned or ungovernable, and therefore, to the extent we engage with Africa, it should be as a function of charity, not business’.”
I have been to Côte d’Ivoire before it succumbed to the unrest due to civil war; and in many cases, I was one of the first Americans to have visited some of the villages there. I imparted a story only eight days ago pertaining to one of my experiences there:
“Without going into details, I remember one time I was photographing an outdoor market in Abidjan — the capital city of Côte d’Ivoire — while doing everything I can to ensure that I respect the privacy of people by not taking their pictures. A local man suddenly grabbed my arm and started incessantly yelling at me angrily in a native language I could not understand; and he would not let go of my arm, which he gripped firmly and tightly. It was initially frightening when a crowd of local people started gathering around us — but then I noticed that the looks on their faces were more of curiosity and initial confusion than that of anger. I kept trying to explain in French that I was not taking pictures of people; but rather of the market — but to no avail. Finally, several men wrested the hand of the man from my arm, took him over to the side and eventually calmed him down before the crowd dispersed.”
Although that was a scary moment for me, I also admitted that it still is a great story to tell — but not one that would exactly promote tourism…
…but I would also have no problem returning to Africa in a heartbeat. The issue is that to visit some of the nations there require a course of inoculations to help prevent contracting such diseases as yellow fever, typhoid, malaria and Hepatitis A – and possibly against Hepatitis B and rabies — in order to visit Sierra Leone as an example…
…and there is currently no known vaccination or cure for the Ebola virus.
I wish Marriott well in its expansion in Africa. In some ways, I hope that other hotel chains follow suit…
…and in other ways, I am hesitant. There was a certain rawness about Africa for me when I visited years ago — and if you are interested in hearing about my travels there, please let me know.
I also have hundreds of photographs — but unfortunately, they are all slides. I do have at least four of them that have been scanned digitally…
…and if I do find the time and the means, I intend to convert more of those slides to digital format.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts about the aggressive expansion into Africa by Marriott? Have you been to Africa? If so, please impart your stories in the Comments section below.