Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Op-Ed: Côte d’Ivoire in 2021: A rising star post-Covid-19

The fastest growing economy in French speaking Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, has been an ongoing key market for all hotel investors, developers and operators with an interest in Africa. Despite the fact that the country’s ambitious strategy with the aim to position it as a top-5 African travel destination, “Sublime Côte d’Ivoire”, has been delayed by the pandemic, the tourism industry remains the country’s priority.

Before COVID-19, travel contributed 7.5% (1500 billion CFA francs) to the country’s GDP. In 2020 it was slightly more than 3,5%, still high, considering that on a global level the tourism industry experienced a 90% decrease inactivity.

The hotel industry in Côte d’Ivoire is highly competitive, however, quality supply remains limited. The total number of hotels in the country is currently estimated to be more than 2,000, with a total capacity of 38,000 rooms (based on 2017 data from WTO). It focuses mainly on Abidjan, the economic capital which drives significant business tourism. The Africa Pipeline report from W Hospitality group placed Côte d’Ivoire in the top-10 countries with 15 hotels under development and over 2300 rooms in the pipeline. So, what are the key opportunities in Côte d’Ivoire?

Overall there is still room for growth for the hospitality industry in Côte d’Ivoire, in terms of the right product and positioning. The three main opportunities that I identified during my recent trip to Abidjan were reinstating confidence and peace of mind to investors, owners, and guests as the world slowly return to travel, capitalising on the air travel expansion and providing facilities for business travelers.

COVID-19 travel
The world has been fundamentally changed by COVID-19, and so has the hotel safety and cleanliness standards. Businesses that can deliver a clean and safe environment and facilitate seamless and rapid testing are sure to have a competitive advantage.

In 2020, Radisson Hotel Group worked closely with SGS to conduct a thorough review of all existing health and safety processes, working with a team of experts to develop and validate the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, a comprehensive series of 20-step and 10-step protocols for hotels and for meetings and events. These enhanced protocols, which include comprehensive health and safety procedures, such as increased cleaning and disinfection, especially in high touch point areas, sanitizing stations, team member personal protective equipment (PPE), physical distancing measures and hybrid solutions for meetings, improved air circulation and strict food safety procedures, have all been validated by SGS, building on local requirements and recommendations, to ensure guest safety and peace of mind from check-in to check-out.

Air travel
Côte d’Ivoire has two international airports in Abidjan, the main entry point, and Yamoussoukro.
Just this month the French government signed a funding agreement for the extension of the Abidjan Port-Bouët airport, expanding its capacity from three to five million passengers. Qatar Airways also announced it would operate three flights per week to the Côte d’Ivoire capital Abidjan via Accra starting as early as June 2021.
Just 500 meters from the city’s main Port Bouet airport, the Radisson Blu Hotel, Abidjan Airport features 261 rooms and suites with walk-in shower, and free high-speed wireless internet. The warm tones highlight the contemporary design, exuding a soothing atmosphere. The property also offers various food & beverage selections and a large Meeting and Events centre with 13 functional rooms.

Business Travel
Côte d’Ivoire ranks third on the continent for business tourism, behind Nigeria and Morocco. Business travel accounts for the largest share of tourist spending, mostly coming from regional conferences and exhibitions. Hotel demand originates predominantly from Europe (40%) and African travellers (33%), mostly driven by business clients. There is a clear opportunity for hotels that provide conferencing facilities, since the only large venue (Abidjan Conference Centre (ap. 2,000 sqm)) is located outside of the city centre.

Erwan Garnier -Senior Director, Development, Africa, Radisson Hotel Group

Radisson Hotel Group’s development strategy is focused on the business segment for hotels, resorts, serviced apartments and mixed-use establishments. Identifying the vast potential of the country, we are striving towards having each of our six brands present in Abidjan by 2025. Our current Abidjan portfolio consists of the operational Radisson Blu Hotel, Abidjan Airport, and the Radisson Hotel & Apartments, Abidjan Plateau currently under development. We plan to position ourselves in the high-end international market with our affordable luxury brand Radisson Collection, continue expanding our Radisson Blu portfolio, and consolidate our presence in the high-end segment with the introduction of the Radisson brand, positioned on the upscale segment and Radisson RED, on the upscale lifestyle segment. As for the mid-range, we will expand this segment via our Park Inn by Radisson brand. Building on the presence in Abidjan, we’ve also identified San-Pedro, Grand Bassam, Assinie and in the capital, Yamoussoukro, as regions we will expand in with our upper and mid-scale international hotel brands.

Although Côte d’Ivoire’s tourism industry has been heavily affected by Covid-19 and global travel restrictions, the country is in much better shape than most of its neighbours. Less dependent on raw materials and relatively unaffected by the new wave of Covid-19, Cote d’Ivoire is expected to exceed 6% growth in 2021. While the country’s ambitious plans to draw in roughly 5 million visitors by 2025 might be hard to achieve, tourism remains the country’s priority, which means there is strong potential for long-term growth in the hospitality sector – both in regards to business travel as well as leisure tourism.

An Opinion piece by Erwan Garnier, Senior Director, Development, Africa, Radisson Hotel Group

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