Hyatt’s African adventure

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Hyatt regency, a Chicago based hospitality management firm runs over 850 Hotels globally in 60 plus countries.
In Africa the hospitality industry employs many young people.
Joining the Ethiopia market early this year, the vice president of the region noted that Addis Ababa is the third largest conference city in the world.
Capital sat with Regional Vice President of Development Sub Saharan Africa, Tejas Shah who has been working for the last 17 years, to talk about the global Hospitality industry and Hyatt in Africa.

Capital: Why does Hyatt have a limited presence in Africa?
Tejas Shah: Oh! that has been our strategy from the development point of view. I would say actually because our development strategy focus on mainly gate way cities or hubs of the regions and then start looking at secondary cities market in respective countries across different geographies in India, China, or the Middle East of Africa. In Ethiopia as I said, this is the first hotel, but we will continue to look at opportunities in other cities well.

Capital: Hyatt opens its door in Addis early this year, what do you think of the market?
Tejas Shah: To be honest we are excited about the market here in Ethiopia. We have looked the opportunities for a few year and we are proud to open the first hotel here in Ethiopia. It is a great product for the city. It is all positive for us. The e-visa regulations contribute a lot in the success of our Hotel which also goes with the job drive we created .Here there are than 500 hotel professionals Ethiopian employees. It is a success for us.

Capital: Did you expect the market to expand?
Tejsa Shah: Absolutely, we believe with the tremendous potential of the market, the government takes a very good on initiative of increasing international better connectivity; there is a growth of middle class society.

Capital: What makes Hyatt unique in the hospitality industry?
Tejas Shah: We encourage innovative approach of localization; we need our customers to feel like home. We have done a lot of localization when you come to interior design, food and beverage menus etc. So we are very proud of our presence here in Ethiopia, we appreciate localization because we want our customers to feel a sense of place, here in Addis Ababa, we use locally produced materials like clay etc. above all creating linkage with the local manufactures and growers. Localization and creating linkage is one of our strategies to care for our communities in line with our growth strategy across the globe.

Capital: Do you have a plan to open your second hotel in Ethiopia?
Tejas Shah: We don’t have any plan but continue to look at other opportunities.

Capital: I know that Hyatt is working on reducing food waste here in Addis what is the reason behind the plan?
Tejas Shah: That is part of global environmental strategy as well; we have initiatives across different Segments in minimizing environmental wastages as a whole. That is why we set up a bottling plant to avoid the use of single use plastic bottles. So we have such initiatives in energy consumption, plastic wastage, and of course food wastage as Hyatt strategy to contribute for global clean environment initiatives.

Capital: You just came here for the African Hotel Investment Forum, how important is this for the hospitality industry?
Teejas Shah: It is a great platform to have a network with for investors old and new in developing projects, for us it opens a door to discuss with hotel developers, owners and franchisers to work together with all stakeholders from various parts of the world. we have been consistently participated the forum and it is grate for us to work pro actively in a very innovate approach in development and looking at new projects work in ,not follow a cookie butter approach to come up solution and grow together. And it is a platform to enable us to grow our presence anywhere in the world.

Capital: What is Hyatt’s plan to open up new hotels in Africa?
Tejas Shah: Currently we have eight Hotels that are operational in Africa, and Seven hotels are in pipeline, we continues to work more on that, but I said earlier, it all goes with our development strategies point of view which focus on gate way market in various countries, which followed by secondary cities. We always strive to expand our presence but in line with marketing strategy. Look, our business model is Management of Hotels in a way to work with owners and developers either local or international by signing Management contact.
For us expanding our presence in Africa means to offer the level of service for our customers. We seek growth in international tourist destination across as the number of tourist arrival in Africa expected to grow by 4.4 percent in the coming 15 years. There is a growth in infrastructure, there is a growing middle class society, there is favorable economic environment ,so it is a continent that we are optimistic about the potential growth in the respective African countries which we work to grow our Presence as well.

Capital: Where are new Hyatt hotels in the pipeline?
Tejas Shah: Yes as I told you seven Hyatt hotels are in pipe lines which are expected to be operational within three year. Nairobi- Kenya, Dakar-Senegal, Marrakesh-Morocco and Cairo- Egypt are among the new destinations where the Chicago-headquartered Hyatt’s signed to manage the hotels. So we are looking at various opportunities, I think the big driving force is that, eight out of ten of the fastest growing economy across the world is in Africa.

Capital: Let’s talk about the challenges and opportunities in hospitality.
Tejas Shah: I think there are challenges and opportunities; there are plenty of opportunities in various countries for hotel investment to grow, Hotel investment tends to be a long term investment the growth in spending in infrastructure, the growth of middle class, the growth of increasing tourist destinations, and works done in better connectivity like the single African Markets that African Union launches last year will lead to more regional connectivity which increase African travelers that is why I said plenty of opportunity. And of course there are challenges like instability in some part of the globe, But the opportunities are much more weight than the challenges.
Hotels or tourism generally creates tremendous job opportunities in Africa, as of the stastics I read recently, the tourism industry will lead to the generation of 3.8 million jobs across Africa. It is a significant number, direct and indirect employment generation which has positive impact in the countries economy.

Capital: What should African governments do to tap hospitality’s potential?
Tejas Shah: investing more on infrastructures in the tourist destination areas for better connectivity, relaxing the visa regulations, better political climate etc are vital. You know tourism in Africa is growing faster than the GDP of individual countries as well, Tourist in Africa projects to grow by 4.4 percent which is amazing.