AN hospitality expert has identified innovation and strategic planning as panacea for Africa to win the battle against coronavirus as well as sustaining a smooth business environment in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era.
Regional Director for Africa, Minor Hotels, Mark Havercroft, who spoke to Travelpulse&MICE recently said “As lockdowns are extended around the world, including in Italy, the United Kingdom, France, India and now South Africa, businesses are working hard on strategies to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running when these are lifted, even if only in a staged manner. And the hospitality industry is among the sectors leading the field.”
Havercroft warned that It is essential for hospitality businesses to be ready to jumpstart operations as soon as it is safe to do so, adding “if they are to have any hope of not only getting back to business as usual, but also of continuing with any pre COVID-19 growth proposals.
“We can hazard a guess that the hospitality industry, at full capacity at least, will be among the last to resume business,” he says.
“In the interim, businesses throughout the industry must work on a clear strategy so they’re ready to take advantage of every possible opportunity to resuscitate their hard-earned enterprises post lockdown wherever possible by maintaining a state of readiness to resume operations.”
Giving a clear example of his portfolio, he explained that Minor Hotels is an international hotel group, encompassing the Anantara, Avani, Elewana, Oaks, NH Hotels, NH Collection, and TIVOLI brands. With more than 580 properties across 55 countries (in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Europe and South America), Minor Hotels continues to expand its portfolio in strategic markets.
“Prior to the onset of COVID-19, Minor Hotels began expanding its footprint in Africa, with plans in motion for much more growth. The group already operates 11 hotels and 17 safari lodges on the continent with three more properties in progress.
“Anantara, the group’s luxury brand, has a presence in Mauritius, Zambia and Mozambique. Avani resorts can be found in Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Seychelles and Zambia, with Avani Suites Nairobi currently scheduled to open late this year, and the Avani Bel-Ombre Mauritius Resort and Spa set on track for a 2021 launch.”
Havercroft explains that Africa offers huge potential for growth in the hospitality industry, thanks to a burgeoning African business and leisure travel market with more and more people having the urge to travel “locally” rather than the traditional overseas trip.
“While much of the world is overcrowded with hospitality developments, there is still significant room for growth and expansion across Africa; stunning locations and attractions ranging from the exotic to the adventurist are in abundance. Last year alone, the African hospitality market attracted $1.8 billion in capital,” he reveals.
“This can, in part, be attributed to the continent’s growing middle-class population – now more than 350 million people, and the consequent increase in potential travellers providing a bigger local market for the tourism industry.”
COVID-19, however, Havercroft says has brought the hospitality industry a whole set of novel challenges to face. The industry has all but ground to a halt globally, new construction on hold, swathes of cancellations and postponements being registered, and the promotion of travel and related bookings curtailed. There are even difficulties with driving long-term bookings, considering the uncertainty around when people will be able to travel again ? or when they will feel safe to do so.
In a post COVID-19 world, hospitality brands across the board will be vying for their slice of this new market of tentative travellers. Havercroft’s view is that achieving success in this unknown realm will be heavily dependent on the levels of success businesses have achieved in existing markets.
“Consumer confidence will be more important than ever as travellers step out into the world after this global crisis,” stresses Havercroft.
“Travellers will look for familiarity offering a sense of comfort, safety and reliability in their accommodation choices. An existing presence globally, along with an extensive record of customer satisfaction, bolsters trust.”
Furthermore, Havercroft proffers that the key to successfully gaining a larger stake in the African market will lie in providing a wide range of mid-market options and varying price points in order to appeal to that expanding group of middle-class business and leisure travellers from Africa.
He is frank that many challenges lay ahead and that when travel finally resumes, there will be a frantic race to attract guests and success will require innovation and originality.
“Ultimately the key to long-term victory in drawing clientele in lies in a strong brand reputation and delivering consistency and quality to keep people coming back. Havercroft added”
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