Press Release

17 Sep 2013

Business Leaders Tweet the Secrets of their Success

Business leaders attending the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), which takes place in Nairobi on 23-25 September 2013, have revealed what they consider to be the keys to success in doing business in Africa.
Their comments were provoked by a question from AHIF's organiser, Jonathan Worsley, on Twitter (#AHIF). He says: "Africa is something of a conundrum. It has economic growth of over 5%, more than double the economic growth rate of most developed economies, which should make it a very attractive place to come and open a hotel. However, there seems to be a widely-held perception that doing business in Africa is high risk and one does hear some horror stories. So I put the question to a group of top executives who are making money there."

The advice is varied but common themes are patience, flexibility and personal relationships:

Neil George, Senior Vice President, Acquisitions & Development Middle East & Africa, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, replied: "Patience. Patience. Patience. Nowhere is it more rewarded than in Africa."

Alex Kyriakidis, President & Managing Director, Middle East & Africa Continent, Marriott said: "Our secret is to focus on the right partners who can source financing and stay focused on developing the hotel to opening."

Philippe Doizelet, of hotel consultants Horwath HTL responded: "In Africa where things often take time, patience is one key: caring, sharing...and make projects happen."

Lee-Anne Bac, Principal, Grant Thornton, Johannesburg commented: Doing business in Africa: "It's about who you know AND what you know. The four Ps to consider when doing business in Africa are population, place, partners and patience."

Trevor Ward, Managing Director, W Hospitality Group said: "Respect. Africa is 54 countries, respect the differences. Africans are diverse, respect them for that. Our way is not always the right way in Africa. We must learn before we attempt to educate."

Kevin Murphy, President & CEO, Asiawide Hospitality Solutions said: "Take the time to learn the history of the project & the background, character & integrity of those you seek to partner - and how widely will it benefit more than yourself."

Mark Willis, Area Vice President Middle East & Sub-Saharan Africa, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group said: "Successful business on the African continent is all about personal relationships before you even get to the nitty-gritty of closing deals." He elaborated: "We work hand in hand with potential owners throughout the process. This shows our commitment and assists greatly in making the deal happen. At the end of the day it is about educating stakeholders. Once you show that commitment and knowledge you are halfway to closing the deal. Networking is key. We get a lot of good leads from our networking and our exposure across the African continent."

Hooman Ehsani, Director, Tribe Hotel, said: "Never underestimate the power of a local brand. In business, as in sports, Kenyans know they can compete on a global level...and win."

Ghulam Samdani; General Manager, Ole-Sereni also emphasised a local focus: "1. Understand and respond to local clients needs. 2. Offer local flavour in every aspect of business. 3. Take a global approach towards service delivery. 4. Develop and grow local talent and 5. Offer unique and warm African luxury."

Phiwe Marumo of the Industrial Development Corporation added: "There are no golden rules for doing business in Africa. Flexibility and agility is the prevailing rule of thumb. We need to use different instruments if we are to be relevant and make things work in the markets we do business in. What works in South Africa is not guaranteed to work in another market. We must localise and adapt. Another take away is never underestimate the role and impact of culture, custom and cultural practices on your business and strategy. Organisations must be prepared to adapt as and when necessary."

Samer Abu Ayash, Senior Vice President, Head of Design, Construction & Real Estate, Kingdom Hotel Investments, said: "We do not look at Africa as one country; but rather a diverse space with each country having its own set of challenges. We accept / embrace these challenges while maximizing the benefits of the phenomenal potential."

Ulrich T. Eckhardt, President India, Middle East & Africa, Kempinski Hotels, cleverly turned the Twitter discussion to his advantage by making reference to the recent opening of the new hotel in Nairobi. He replied: "Come see for yourself! The new Villa Rosa Kempinski has raised the bar for luxury in the Nairobi hospitality scene, and it's a sign of what's to come as we continue to expand our portfolio in Africa."

To engage with the leaders in depth, come to AHIF,


About AHIF
AHIF is the premier hotel investment conference in Africa, attracting many prominent international hotel owners, investors, financiers, management companies and their advisers. The conference is also receiving support from the Kenyan government by way of sponsorship from the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation (KTDC) and the presence of the tourism minister Hon. Phyllis Kandie MP.

The speaker line up features government ministers from four countries and dozens of CEOs and board-level executives from the most important companies building and running hotels across the continent, including:

• Phyllis Kandie, Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, Kenya
• Carvalho Muária, Minister of Tourism, Mozambique
• Dr Maria Mutagamba, Minister of Tourism, Uganda
• Jean Max Rakotomamonjy, Ministre du Tourisme Madagascar
• Simon Vincent, President EMEA, Hilton Worldwide
• Alex Kyriakidis, President & Managing Director, Middle East and Africa, Marriott International, Inc.
• Hervé Louis, Chief Finance Officer, ACCOR
• Ulrich T. Eckhardt, President India, Middle East & Africa, Kempinski Hotels
• Jean-Gabriel Pérès, President & CEO, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts
• Ewan Cameron, Chief Executive Officer, Lonrho Hotels
• David Scowsill, President & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council
• Patrick Fitzgibbon, Senior Vice President Development - Europe & Africa, Hilton Worldwide
• Samer Abu Ayash, Senior Vice President - Head of Design, Construction & Real Estate, Kingdom Hotel Investments
• Rui Barros, Senior Vice President & Managing Director EMEA, Wyndham Hotel Group
• Neil George, Senior Vice President, Acquisitions & Development Middle East & Africa, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.
• Peter Norman, Senior Vice President Acquisitions & Development, Hyatt International (Europe Africa Middle East) LLC
• Taras Ettl, Vice President Development - Middle East & Africa, InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG)
• Bani Haddad, Regional Vice President - Middle East and Africa, Wyndham Hotel Group
• Marianne Ndegwa, Jordan, Managing Director, Kenya Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC)
• Rohan Patel, Director, Sankara Hotel Group Kenya Ltd
• Olaf Schmidt, Global Sector Head - Hotel, Retail & Real Estate Investments, IFC (International Finance Corporation - World Bank Group)

Confirmed sponsors are as follows: 2013 Host Partner: (KTDC) Kenya Tourist Development Corporation. Platinum Sponsors: ACCOR, Mangalis Management Group and Marriott International, Inc. Gold Sponsors: AECOM Design + Planning, Africa Export Import Bank, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Colliers International, G1 Architecture, Golden Tulip, Grant Thornton, Hilton Worldwide, Horwath HTL, Hotel Partners Africa, Hyatt International LLC, HVS, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), Kempinski Hotels, Lonrho Hotels, Moevenpick Hotels & Resorts, Ole-Sereni, Shapooji Pallonji International, Starwood Hotels and Restorts International, STR Global and Wyndham Hotel Group.

About Bench Events
In addition to the next Africa Hotel Investment Forum, Bench Events is one of the organisers and founders, alongside Questex Travel + Hospitality and MEED Events, of several well-known conferences for the hotel investment industry including Berlin (IHIF), Dubai (AHIC), Istanbul (CATHIC) and Moscow (RHIC).

Further Questions
For further information and high resolution images, please contact: David Tarsh, +44 (0) 20 7602 5262, +44 (0) 7770 816 070, Susan Gikera,, O: +254 020 425 000, M: +254 724 651 791 or Joanne Howell,, +44 (0) 7813 164 649.