Marriott CEO talks Africa growth

Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to a crowd that included 200 corporate CEOs from the U.S. and Africa and 50 African leaders at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington, D.C. The Business Forum is part of the three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government. 

In conjunction with the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, the president noted that a number of American companies are announcing new partnerships in Africa, to the tune of $14 billion in new investments, including plans by Marriott International to develop hotels throughout the continent.  

Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson shared the company's plans to reach more than 150 hotels across 16 African countries by 2020. The growth comes on a base of 14 hotels and 10,000 employees prior to the company’s acquisition of South Africa’s Protea Hotel Group in April. 

The Protea investment made Marriott the largest hotel company in Africa, with the addition of 116 managed and franchised hotels, approximately 10,000 rooms and 15,000 employees across seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa. 

With the Protea acquisition complete, Marriott International is now planning to open nearly 40 additional hotels with more than 6,000 rooms at both its managed and franchised hotels in Algeria, Benin, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gabon, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zambia by 2020.

According to NPR, Sorenson was asked whether the current Ebola outbreak might hurt travel to Africa and, by implication, subsequent hotel development across the continent. He said its impact would be limited geographically, and the problem would likely be resolved before the hotels open. "African leaders are looking at ways to spur economic growth by lowering barriers, such as onerous visa regimes. Travel is trade and the more Africa embraces Smart Travel policies that encourage the free flow of people, the quicker growth will come,” Sorenson said.