Australians call it ‘walkabout’, northern Europeans go looking for the sun, others go looking for business, whatever the reason, for many once they have left home for the first time they want to continue to travel. This curiosity, combined with economic growth is driving the demand for hotels in Africa. Where once demand was dependent on international travellers Africans are now doing it for themselves, and as a consequence creating a much more robust and sustainable industry.
Nairobi leading the way
One example is the MICE segment in Nairobi which has fundamentally changed over recent years. It was originally dependent on international conferences and consequently generated significant room-nights – over the past 10 years, the number of domestic delegates has doubled, which has forced hoteliers to adapt to the new demand. Whereas previously hotels enjoyed room sales along with the conference, now most delegates live locally and do not need accommodation. Hotels are, therefore, having to review their business mix.
Although this example may not be good news for hoteliers, it is illustrative of the changing trend within African hotels generally – less reliance on European, Middle Eastern and American guests and more demand from local and regional customers. Overall, domestic tourism in Kenya grew from 37% of total bed-nights in 2011 to 54% in 2015.
In the short-term revenues may be affected, with more local conferences, tighter budgets and more local guests without a hard currency in their pocket. However, it is in fact great news. With the whole continent requiring hotel accommodation, the pool from which to draw your customers has just got 1.25 billion larger.
Not only is the number of potential guests much larger, the majority of these guests are better informed of the real risks of travel across the continent, so are less likely to be swayed by 24-hour news channels. They are also likely to reduce the seasonality of your business. Leisure guests will be able to travel throughout the year for short-breaks and commercial travellers will be able to make quick overnight stops, rather than planning (and delaying) longer trips.
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