Africa’s Independent Hoteliers Insist on Going it Alone

African hotels
The nelson Mandela Suite at Villa Monticello, Accra

Many local entrepreneurs in Africa have avoided the lure of management or franchise deals with international groups and have chosen to remain independent.

“There is not much cooperation, because everyone is trying to grab a share of the market,” says Charles Meares, general manager of Villa Monticello, one of Ghana’s premier independent boutique hotels.

But with stiff competition from international groups that are better able to inject capital into projects, remaining totally independent makes little business sense.

“If you are an independent hotelier, chances are you won’t have the funds to carry out your own research to meet the demands of whatever niche market you are involved in, or even compete with the big chains,” claims Al Alvaro, a Paris-based hospitality expert.

To survive in a tough market, local hotels can stand out by offering a specialised experience such as cuisine, art or ecology.

These are “concepts that big groups generally shy away from due to their high maintenance demands,” says Meares.

He also argues that independent hoteliers now have access to distribution channels once controlled by groups or chains.

“The internet has been very resourceful in the area of reservations and marketing.”

As a result, independent boutique hotels are starting to appear, particularly in Ghana and Nigeria.

“The concept is catching on fast,” says Meares.

Alvaro suggests that “local developers or hoteliers who do not want to join forces with an international group can pool their resources and create a consortium, or join one, like France-based Relais & Chateaux.”

For W Hospitality’s CEO, Trevor Ward, “Nothing stops those with the right quality from joining luxury hotel consortia. But local competitors tend to think they are sworn enemies. The market will have to be more mature for people to understand the benefits of cooperation”