Starwood, Marriott and local hotel brands invest in Africa

Africa's hotel scene is getting new interest from international hotel companies: Louvre Hotels Group, a unit of Starwood Capital Group LLC, recently announced that it would open as many as 16 hotels in Africa this year, including its first in French-speaking sub-Saharan countries. 

The Paris-based company plans to add properties in countries including Burkina Faso, Senegal, Rwanda and Ethiopia, Louvre COO Alain Sebah told BusinessWeek. The company will start work on a hotel in Benin in February and may open a West Africa regional office in Abidjan. Louvre already operates 27 hotels on the continent, and is planning to open as many as seven in Morocco, three in Algeria and two in Tunisia, Sebah added. The company also may set up a fund to boost its investments across the continent.

Significantly, BusinessWeek noted that business travel has driven the growth, indicating a potential market for convention-focused properties.

Meanwhile, Marriott International completed its acquisition of 116 hotels in seven African countries that had previously been owned by Protea Hospitality Holdings in a deal worth $186.6 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Marriot CEO Arne Sorensen told the paper that Africa is a "bright" part of the hotel company's future. 

African hotel brands are also looking to expand their business throughout the continent: Business Day recently reported that Groupe Azalai Hotels will invest as much as $165 million during the next four years to expand in West Africa to capture rising demand from business travel. The Bamako, Mali-based company will build hotels in Ivory Coast, Senegal, Guinea and Niger and will renovate another in Mauritania. According to CEO Mossadeck Bally, the first hotel will open in Abidjan in early 2015. 

“Business tourism is rising in Africa,” Bally told the website. “Demand from international civil servants and businessmen is growing strongly.”