With 11 hotel signings recorded to date and 10 hotel openings lined up across the continent before year-end, 2021 is set to be a record year for Radisson Hotel Group’s expansion in Africa.
Q&A with Ramsay Rankoussi, Vice President of, Development, Africa & Turkey, Radisson Hotel Group
1. What does the Radisson Hotel Group African portfolio currently include?
Our African portfolio currently consists of almost 100 hotels in operation and under development in over 30 countries across the continent. We remain firmly on track with our ambitious development strategy to reach over 150 hotels by 2025 across the region with a focus on identified key countries and in unlocking value by creating scale and synergies.
Radisson Blu has also been one of the leading brands across the continent for us, representing over 70% of our portfolio. We are now capitalising on our brand recognition by introducing new brands in the region where we now witness positive traction on our upscale brand Radisson but also our entry-luxury brand Radisson Collection. Radisson RED has gained its fame in South Africa with a second opening just a few weeks away and we expect the brand to be present in other key economic cities soon.
2. You’ve had an impressive first half of the year, what milestones has it included for the group?
During 2020, we have reviewed our strategy for Africa as well as our organisation and leadership. During that transition and while taking over the responsibilities for our growth across the continent, I made a priority in ensuring a balanced approach in each region we operate geographically, but also with clear focus and priorities across key countries.
Despite the challenges imposed in our industry following the recent pandemic, 2021 will represent a record year for us across Africa with 11 signings this year to date, which has certainly put Radisson Hotel Group as the leader in market share, in terms of signings across Africa, which we aim to solidify as we continue to accelerate our development plans.
We have announced so far the launch of our first project, the Earl Heights Suite Hotel, a member of Radisson Individuals in Accra, Ghana joining our new affiliation brand; our market entry in Victory Falls with the introduction of Radisson Blu Resort Mosi-Oa-Tunya Livingstone as well as another new entry with Radisson Hotel Djibouti.
Reinforcing our new strategy and balanced approach across Africa, we have also secured a record growth in Morocco with an additional eight hotels including the debut of our Radisson brand in Casablanca with the signing of Radisson Hotel Casablanca La Citadelle as well as the recent partnership established with Madaef which translates to seven additional hotels across key leisure destinations in the country.
These hotel signings equate to over 2,000 rooms, 50% of which are located in our core focus countries especially across Morocco with the remainder reinforcing our presence in cluster markets or entering into new territories, further cementing Radisson Hotel Group’s leading position as the hotel company with the largest active presence in the most countries across Africa.
As we continue to drive this momentum, we expect to conclude 2021 with further announcements across key markets as well as aim to deliver on our scheduled openings and return to more normality across the continent and in doing business.
3. What is the Group’s development plans and focus markets for the remainder of 2021?
For the remainder of the year, we will continue to build on the success and momentum we’ve had thus far, with a continued focus on our identified key markets, specifically Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.
We aim to further accelerate our presence across the continent through both new build and conversions. Africa is mainly led by business hotels, but with the recent signings, we have expanded our leisure offerings and serviced apartments which has proven resilient during COVID-19. Our ambitions are driven by creating critical mass in each of our identified focus markets but also ensuring market proximity. These regions are sub divided based on priorities, focus and potential scale.
Radisson, has now become our fastest growing brand, as it represents the ideal model for Africa, leveraging our core name “Radisson” along with an efficient and cost effective brand which is well positioned for every African city. We will however continue to reinforce Radisson Blu as one of the leading hotel brands, building on its success across the continent. With the recent introduction of Radisson Collection to Africa with the hotel opening in Bamako, we see the potential to accelerate the development of the brand in relevant key capital cities and form a collection of iconic hotels.
4. What African hotel openings can we look forward to this year?
Despite the current situation, we have a strong year ahead of us, supporting the robust expansion strategy, our teams are working tirelessly to realise the pipeline, with 10 hotel openings in Africa lined up before year-end. These hotel openings signify our debut into various markets, from a portfolio of three hotels in Madagascar, to Juba in South Sudan and St. Denis in Reunion Island. It also includes four of the seven hotels we’ve just announced in Morocco, which consist of resorts and residences. Building on the continued success of the Radisson RED brand in Cape Town, we will also be debuting this unique brand in Johannesburg soon with the opening of Africa’s second Radisson RED hotel in Rosebank.
5. How has the group managed to maintain its expansion strategy throughout the pandemic?
Conversions have and will continue to remain a priority in our expansion strategy, especially post-pandemic, as there is less liquidity for newer developments. We therefore seek to form wider partnerships and strategic ventures with local or regional chains and forge ahead with our city scale and critical mass strategy. The execution of our strategy with clear priorities will equally support in achieving positive economic efficiencies and synergies operationally across all our existing and future hotels, unlocking further value to our owners.
We have also demonstrated the relevant flexibility in addressing the current investment climate by providing not only tailored solutions to every project but also rationaliszing our relationships with our investors to assess the best timings in terms of openings and the right budget allocation in terms of segment, space and development cost.
6. What challenges and opportunities have resulted due to the pandemic for hotel development in Africa?
In response to the need for independent hotel owners to gain further brand exposure and consumer confidence, the group launched a new brand, Radisson Individuals, aimed at individual hotels with strong service scores and existing hotel identities who wish to remain independent or may be considering overtime transitioning to one of the group’s core brands. This initiative further demonstrates the ability for our group to provide solutions that not only supports our partners but also reflects our focus on conversions with a tailored offering which provides all the benefits of our network and scale with limited pre-requisites.
Emerging markets remain a priority for growth for Radisson Hotel Group and we therefore don’t deviate from that plan. We certainly anticipate funding issues especially, but this is where conversions and take overs are the most adequate solutions in preserving jobs and further enhancing the returns of existing properties.
As a group, we will continue to innovate and answer the evolving needs of our guests and stakeholders, such as developing concepts like our well-received hybrid solutions for meeting and events as we remain committed to providing the best and safest experience to our guests.
7. What sets Radisson Hotel Group apart in terms of its development approach?
We are proud to have a reinforced development team and resources to not only increase the momentum of our growth ambitions, but also to better respond to the needs of the investment community in each market with the right skillset and relevant solutions. Our accessibility and reactivity are critical to our success.
We have a stronger owner- centric approach with a dedicated team and relevant brands with the lowest development cost. Our technical team is dedicated in providing solutions and ensuring best project efficiency while maintaining the relevant brand integrity in each design. We have adaptive solutions to meet local needs, from compact offerings, midscale to luxury, serviced apartments, to lean operational model and clustering efficiencies. We offer owners wide access to a large network of experts to support deal structuring – from construction and, fit-out to banking institutions and advisory firms.