Hotels in African cities are more than just a place to put your head down. Many must also provide facilities that few local residents enjoy.
When the Paris-based Louvre Hotels Group opened its 80-room Golden Tulip in the Nigerian city of Lagos’s up market Lekki district two years ago, it also had to provide a service most Nig¬erians still dream of: electricity for 24 hours a day.
The developers of the hotel installed three huge diesel-powered generators, in essence a mini-power station for the facility. These had to be engineered to kick in at a moment’s notice, without blowing the electronic devices of guests.
On a good day the whole of Nig¬eria – a country of 150 million people – only gets about a third of the electricity available to Abu Dhabi. So these generators are not emergency backup, instead they are the primary source of energy for the hotel.
Providing electricity and water are among the biggest items on many hotels’ operating costs.
Some countries have also had to contend with militant attacks, and many hotels in Kenya now provide additional security for guests. According to the country’s national bureau of statistics the efforts are paying off. Tourist arrivals through Kenya’s two main airports increased by 9.6 per cent to 186,685 tourists in the second quarter from 170,374 during the same period last year.
Increasingly, business is challenging leisure tourism as the main reason for African visits. According to the Johannesburg consultancy Corporate Traveller, nine out of 10 business travellers to African countries stay in four or five-star hotels, costing at least 3,000 rand (Dh772) per night. Almost half of these guests stay in five-star hotels, while most of the rest opt for four-star lodging.
“Proximity to work site, office or meeting venue is the primary driver in what accommodation is selected,” says Raylene Pienaar, Corporate Traveller’s general manager. “Almost all customers surveyed indicate these as determining factors; this is often due to the traffic conditions in the destination city.”
Ms Pienaar says travellers also prefer chauffeur-driven cars to self-drive rentals. Other considerations for business travellers include Wi-Fi access. Security, too, plays a part in decision-making. Executives travelling to countries such as Nigeria are concerned about kidnapping and will select hotels in which they can hold meetings, or that are close to their venue.
Visas remain an immediate restriction to corporate travel. South Africa, for instance, introduced tightened visa requirements a couple of years ago that resulted in an immediate drop in total arrivals.
Following an outcry from tourism operators and airlines these were lifted last October. Arrivals jumped by 16 per cent the same month, according to data released by PwC.