Global brands set sights on Tunisia

Avani Hotels & Resorts and Groupe Chabaane have teamed up to develop two new Avani properties in Tunisia.

An increase in visitor numbers is attracting investment to Tunisia. At the recent AHIF conference in Kigali, Rwanda, ForwardKeys data revealed a 13.3-percent increase in arrivals to Africa for January to September, compared to the equivalent period last year. Egypt and Tunisia were leading the recovery after the health and security concerns of 2014 to 16 have begun to fade. Among the top 10 destinations, visitor numbers to Morocco and Tunisia were further boosted by visa exemptions for Chinese travelers.

“I am very pleased to see such strong growth in air travel to Africa,” Jon Howell, managing director of AviaDev, Africa’s route development conference, said. “However, it is notable that consumer demand and airline investment has been greater in travel to African countries from outside the continent than it is between African countries.”

Tunisia accounted for 6 percent of Africa’s international arrivals for the period. According to figures from the country’s central bank, the new visa regime with China saw visitors more than double between January and September.

China’s travelers were likely to be joined by those from the UK, after the country’s Foreign Office lifted a travel warning imposed after the terrorist attacks in Sousse in 2015. “We are planning to open Tunisia in the second half of winter and we are really wanting to carefully put together another program…served to Tunisia,” Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser told analysts.

The demand was being met by an increase in supply. The Africa Hotel Pipeline Report, launched at AHIF, ranked Tunisia at number six in the top 10 countries by number of rooms in terms of chain hotel development pipelines. Tunisia had 17 sites in its pipeline, with an average size of 227 rooms.  The country was number four in terms of pipeline status, with 83 percent of the 17 hotels under construction, indicating that the country was not falling prey to the wider malaise in Africa, where hotels were signed but never built.

New Luxury

As we reported last week, Thai-based Minor Hotels has announced plans to debut its luxury brand, Avani Hotels & Resorts, in North Africa with two hotels in Tunisia, in partnership with local developer Groupe Chaabane.

Scheduled to open in the coming months, Avani Les Berges Du Lac Tunis Suites will be located in Les Berges du Lac II, a commercial, residential and diplomatic area in the Tunisian Capital. The 41-key property will offer serviced apartments along with spa facilities. Currently in its design phase, the Avani Gammarth Tunis Resort & Spa is expected to open in 2021 and will have 250 guestrooms in a beachfront location.

News of the hotels came shortly after the brand’s debut in Europe, with a hotel in Lisbon.

Katherine Doggrell is an editor at Hotel Analyst, the U.K.-based news analysis service for hotel investors.