Could the development of African hospitality technology speed growth in the continent’s industry?
The African continent is gaining traction as a major global force in the hospitality industry. The continent’s potential within this industry continues to grow, as several countries experience a boom in tourism and development, driving the necessity to accommodate the influx of international and domestic guests.
North Africa accounts for the majority of the hotel development pipeline (41 percent), and West Africa follows at 34.1 percent. The Sub-Saharan African hospitality industry is forecast to experience growth of over 5 percent every year for at least the next decade, with many major brands increasing the number of hotel rooms in the pipeline.
In 2015, Hilton planned to increase development in Africa by 18 percent over the previous year with 7,250 new hotel guest rooms added to its pipeline, followed by Carlson Rezidor with 6,953 rooms and Marriott with 6,412 rooms. Nigeria is the leading country on the continent when considering current hotel count and rooms in the pipeline.
With the hospitality industry thriving and investors setting their sights on further tapping into this potential, developments in African hospitality technology will have to speed as well in order to provide a competitive level of guest service and engagement. Without such advancement, African hospitality will face challenges in attracting and satisfying global travelers who are used to digital accommodations from a global industry rapidly changing to adapt to these expectations.
Gillian Saunders, a global leader of hospitality and tourism and head of advisory services for Grant Thornton South Africa, noted the significance for the hotel industry to embrace technology as a way to improve the guest experience and compete with sharing economy giant Airbnb.
She said, “Hotels must act now to differentiate themselves. They must make a reality of mass personalization – whilst keeping the human touch – to surprise and delight guests.”
As African nations begin to prioritize expanding the availability of innovative solutions, Internet connectivity, and mobile technology, the hospitality industry is shifting toward embracing technological trends. The market shows strong potential to catch up quickly to its global counterparts already experiencing the benefits of hospitality technology, especially as global brands that have incorporated hotel technology into their identity establish more of a presence in Africa.
African hospitality technology is already making a name for itself through various innovative companies and the fast adoption of mobile technology by African travelers. Ross Kata, online distribution expert and area manager with Expedia, said,
“We’re seeing mobile phones absolutely replacing the desktop. Nowadays people prefer to book their flights and taxis using their phones, a global trend which has not skipped [the African] continent.”
The positive aspects of hotel technology could serve to further speed the surge in African hospitality development and assist hotel management in maximizing resources in a market that often has to import experienced labor. Streamlining operations with digital tools and increasing guest service efficiency are both critical potential benefits that are often associated with hotel technology implementation. Use of mobile apps can also enhance the ability of hotel management to strategically market the African hospitality industry in a way that positions it as tech-friendly and connected to draw in travelers from all parts of the world who will see that their technology needs will be well served during their stay.
Embracing hospitality technology will allow the African hospitality industry to make a strong name for itself as the global industry as a whole competes for the attention of travelers who are more interested than ever in experiential travel uninhibited by borders or oceans.