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The Unexpected Stronghold: Africa’s Growth During and After the Pandemic

Just a bit over a year ago, when most of us were fearing for the worst to come yet had no specific information on how exactly the pandemic would transpire (and, majorly, its consequences were ubiquitously underestimated), experts and pundits alike speculated that the biggest hit would be taken by the developing markets, that is, India, some countries in Latin America, and the continent of Africa. While such predictions are understandable and were based on the well-supported data regarding the state of the medical care, economy, and socio-political situation in each of the respective territories, they turned out to be mostly wrong, at least when it comes to the hospitality industry.

The African market is a great example of an almost miraculous recovery, defying what many have prophesied. According to recent research by W Hospitality Group, the continent’s hotel development continued its growth trend in 2020, with 82,000 rooms in 447 hotels in the pipeline at the beginning of 2021. Whilst the Covid-19 outbreak had a profoundly negative impact on the region’s hotel operations, the deal signing was (somewhat surprisingly) not as drastic as could have been foreseen. Specifically, 71 deals with 10,000 rooms were signed since the last study, down “only” 30% on the previous year, a much more satisfactory result compared to other continents'’ performance.

Still, it is important to mention that far from all the hotels that were supposed to start welcoming guests in 2020, actually opened their doors. As such, 90 properties with 17,000 rooms were scheduled to open across Africa during the past year, with only about a quarter doing so in reality. The reasons for this are well-known. Nevertheless, most of the remaining deals turn out to be postponed, not canceled, signaling a positive sentiment on part of the developers and operators regarding the long-term perspectives and the potential of the continent. Consequently, the next two years show record-high numbers on the books: 217 hotels with 32,000 rooms scheduled to open between now and the end of 2022.

In terms of the brand presence, Accor and Marriott, the usual rivals competing for primacy in the region, have once again scooped the top two positions, with the former leading slightly in terms of the room count (19,241 rooms in the pipeline in 2021, 89 hotels in total) and the latter focusing rather on the number of its properties that are somewhat smaller than the competitor’s (94 locations, 18,723 keys). The other groups on the top-5 leaderboard are Hilton, Radisson, and IHG with 55, 34, and 16 openings respectively.

In conclusion, things look much more positive for Africa than was once speculated. This pandemic has brought many changes not only to the industry but to our general lifestyle and the way we do certain things. However, industry players seem to count on the strong long-term recovery, and considering the recent positive demand sentiment, they might just be right.

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