January 25, 2017

Spotlight on Abidjan

Dami Adepoju

Abidjan is the economic capital of Ivory Coast, and the Francophone West Africa region.  With an estimated metro population of over 5.1 million, it is also the most populous Francophone city in West Africa.  The civil war between 2002 and 2007, and the 2010 presidential election crisis had serious negative impact on the city’s economy, and by extension its hotel market.  During the height of the crisis, hotel room occupancies sank, and many international groups such as InterContinental left the country.  Perhaps one of the city’s most significant economic losses was the temporary move of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to Tunisia.

The 2014 completion and opening of the new AfDB headquarters was a signal that bolstered confidence and indicated the country’s investment readiness.  The bank celebrated its 50th anniversary in the same year and with its return, brought back an estimated 1,500 employees and their families.  The formal retail sector is growing, especially with the opening of modern shopping malls – the city also has the first Burger King in West Africa.  A 2016 Nielsen Africa report ranks the country first ahead of other regional powerhouses such as Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.  Ivory Coast scored high on many fronts including business outlook, retail sentiment and stable economic growth.

AccorHotels re-opened the Hotel Ivoire, the city’s largest hotel property, in 2014 – after acquiring it in 2011 for €4 million – and upon completion of an extensive 18-month renovation of the property.  The first phase of the reconstruction was completed with 209 rooms, modern conference rooms, and two restaurants opening, with the second phase of construction bringing an additional 217 rooms, food & beverage outlets, business & meeting facilities, shopping, spa, casino and cinema.  The company signed a management agreement in 2012 to operate the iconic hotel (formerly an InterContinental) under its Sofitel brand.

[blockquote author=”” link=”” target=”_blank”]The company signed a management agreement in 2012 to operate the iconic hotel (formerly an InterContinental) under its Sofitel brand.[/blockquote]

In its 2015 country report on Ivory Coast, the Oxford Business Group estimated that in 2013 between 2,000 and 3,000 hotel beds were available in the city.  Included were the locally-operated Hotel Tiama, the Golf Hotel and the Accor-branded Novotel Hotel and Hotel Pullman.  According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, travel and tourism contributed 4.5% to total GDP of the country in 2015, and was forecasted to rise by 4.8% in 2016 and by 5.3% each year for the subsequent 10 years.  Total investment in the sector was also forecasted to rise by similar high rates in the same period.  The country made slightly more revenues from business travellers than leisure travellers with a ratio of 56:44 in 2015.  With a quarter of a million tourists received annually, and the government’s desire to increase the numbers, the opportunities for investment – particularly in the hotel industry – remain apparent.

The World Bank projects that the country will grow by 8% this year, one of the highest growth rates in Africa, and only second to Ethiopia.  At a Paris meeting in 2016, the country sought $8.8 billion in pledges to fund part of its 2016 – 2020 investment plan, it ended up receiving more than $15 million in pledges from donors and lenders from the international community.  Ivory Coast has particularly enjoyed a strengthening of its cocoa sector – rising cocoa prices, compared to the significant slump in commodity prices that has impacted countries like Nigeria and Angola.  The government has also been proactive in its investment in infrastructure – spending billions of dollars rebuilding bridges, highways and improving the country’s energy sector.  All of the positive economic performance has led to increased investment interest, which always bodes well for the hospitality sector.  High investment activity means more business travel, both domestic and international.  The only threat to such a positive outlook is the recent military mutiny in the country’s second largest city, which the government has resolved.  Barring any future threats to its political stability, Ivory Coast’s economic future looks rosy.

The hotel industry in Abidjan has continued to see a recovery in investment, performance and growth outlook.  Carlson Rezidor recently opened a hotel in the city – the 261-room Radisson Blu Hotel, Abidjan Airport in March 2016. Also in 2016, Azalaï Hotel Group (a Malian hotel chain with seven hotels in Mali, Benin Republic, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania) continued its US$165 million investment plan across the continent.  The group added one more African city to its portfolio, opening its 200-room hotel in Abidjan.  Another indigenous African hotel group, Mangalis Hotel Group, has two hotels expected to open in 2017, in Abidjan.  One will be a 149-room hotel operated under its midscale ‘Seen’ brand and the other will be a 257-room hotel operated under its more upscale, business-friendly ‘Noom’ brand.  Movenpick, the Swiss-based hotel group, announced plans for a 220-room hotel in the city center.  Work was expected to commence in 2017, with completion in 2018 or 2019.

Since 2013, over 1,500 rooms have or will be added to the hotel supply in the city, representing growth of at least 50%.  After a long period of stagnation, Abidjan seems poised on its road to recovery and growth.  The growing supply of local and international hotel brands demonstrate the kind of demand anticipated in coming years.

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