Ethiopia’s hotel advantage

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(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) which is the premier tourism and hotel investment conference in Africa returns to Addis. It will be held at Sheraton Hotel, on the last week of September, 2019. AHIF was previously held in Addis Ababa in 2014 and 2015. It is expected to encourage and attract many prominent international hotel owners, investors, financiers, management companies and their advisers.
According to a study by international tourism consultant Thomson, the event should bring in millions of USD to Ethiopia and billions of USD in hospitality projects across Africa. Capital got a chance to sit with Matthew Weihs the managing director of Bench Events a London based event organizer, to talk about the AHIF.

 

Capital: What does Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) do?
Matthew Weihs: AHIF is a platform that deals in Hotels with a primary audience of Investors, hotel developers, owner, financers and we look to forward in touch with Hotel operators, local projects mainly branding, financing and owners, government officials, arctects, lawyers, consultants and advisory firms and it is really the network for Africa to develop Hotel infrastructures in the continent.

Capital: How did the AHIF come into existence?
Matthew Weihs: Our back ground is in Hotel investment, first and foremost, my chairman Jonathan was working as one of those advisors for London office for CBRE twenty and plus years ago, they decided to have a good way to network and show where the market is for investors and the market might be going to investors and also to attract more investors in to the Hotel sector to run a conference. Now it is the world largest investment forum, but, it tends to focus on the gateway cities of London and Paris, it goes out to work on emerging markets in other parts of the world, over time we launched in secondary cities in Dubai and Russia etc. and by doing with local partners in, management contracts, and joint ventures.
Ten years ago we needed to change our attention to Africa with the help of sponsors, typically the big hotel operators like Marriot, Radisson, Hilton because they are looking for local partners, and ways of doing ways of joint ventures, franchises and when I started the business ten years ago where to do business, and decided to focus on Africa, because no one is doing anything as to me potential partners to do deals in African continents and I started to research and develop AHIF.

Capital: When did you decided to bring in AHIF?
Matthew Weihs: AHIF was launched in 2011 in Morocco, Casablanca, and we did two years in Kenya and two years in Rwanda and now come in Ethiopia for the third time, Indeed Ethiopia hosted the events in 2014 and 2015 in Addis Ababa.
We also have developed a system for French speaking countries for our brothers and sisters in west Africa this enables us to realize the projects and appears it to the development of market in that diversity to run that events side by side.
The formation is because of the demand, that African countries have and we need to see that potential as Hotels are exciting market.

Capital: How much is Bench Event successful in bringing AHIF in Africa?
Matthew Weihs: Well, have passed all of our data confidentially with consultancy advisors we spoke to our delegate for the last many many years, who made deals, networks and typically we made survey responses about we twenty and plus contacts flooding through our pipelines, they established a response contributed to a net work of deals that amounts 6.2 billions of USD worth of deals in the African continents.

Capital: Is there a local partner who works with you?
Matthew Weihs: Oh !yes, Calibra Hospitality Consultancy and Business plc has been with us since 2011 where AHIF hosted in Casablanca Morocco. Calibra is predominantly working with bench events in AHIF, as a consultant, managing and brokering new deals, you see in the year 2013 before we arrived here in Ethiopia, There were only two or three hotels with no more than 800 rooms in the country and now we are able to open eight international branded hotels that doubled the amount of rooms to 1,500 rooms and the pipe line shows there are more than 25 brand hotel come that add 5,000 more rooms. We show that Ethiopia is a destination that has benefited from that show and Calibra consulting is predominantly getting behind us, as consultancy that manages and brought us this deals, Calibra was attended our forum even in Europe and Middle East, making the contact via our network to contribute for the growth of hospitality industry for the Calibra part, as an effective advisory firm, they managed to attract close to 23 billion birr worth of local investment in to hotel industry.

Capital How many participants are coming to Addis for the forum?
Matthew Weihs: We had more than 200 attendees from Ethiopian in the last forum. In this event we expect more participants who come across the world to have networks.

Capital: How does the Ethiopian government provide support?
Matthew Weihs: Ethiopian Tourism organization and Ethiopian investment commission are determined and focused in developing the tourism infrastructure, and in investment potentials of Ethiopia, so working closely with those government organizations and incentify investors for new projects and investment. And the good thing is the government is declared interest in prioritsing tourism to further increase the attractiveness, along with its renowned enthusiasm for collaboration with the business communities to boost the sector.

Capital: the forum is organized in Various African countries, what are the criteria for selecting the host countries?
Matthew Weihs: African is so diverse, so massive and so politically the tough history, it’s crazy. The continent is really big and it’s hard to get the market yourself having involved in 54 market it is so hard. If you make it in Ethiopia, the majority of the participant will be Ethiopians.

Capital: What advantages does Ethiopia have?
Matthew Weihs: Yes, the rapidly growing national airline new hub airport, that connects Europe , Africa, Asia, delegates can get here easily, other markets may not have this opportunity, relaxed visa regulations and the country being the political center of Africa makes already Ethiopia attractive for hotel investors. These types of criteria definitely help Ethiopia to host the event and each year to be fair we will give it to other countries. However Ethiopia has a massive advantage.

Capital: Anything thing you want to add?
Matthew Weihs: I think Africa is obviously opened for business, and Ethiopia is shaping itself much more attractively for the industry, one piece of advice for people who want to build Hotels in Africa, before you do anything, better to speak to us, hear how to do it properly, hear how to get the most out of it, to do it sustainably, responsibly, successfully and to make the future bright. So I would just need to encourage in in the involvement in the market diversify portfolios for those who don’t have an idea how to build and come and learn this is the place to do it.