Steady growth in tourism is expected to continue in Gabon, with considerable potential for the hospitality sector. The government aims to increase the number of hotel rooms by 23%, from 5300 in 2013 to 8300 by 2025. Over 90% of rooms are currently located in cities. Though national parks account for only around 6% of Gabon’s hotel rooms, this is set to change, according to the National Agency of National Parks.
Most growth in hotel capacity is in the capital, Libreville, and Port-Gentil, the country’s second largest city and centre of the oil industry. Ahead of the African Cup of Nations in 2012 (Coupe d’Afrique des Nations, CAN), co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, several new establishments sprung up in Libreville and growth in the segment has continued since. A spate of hotel construction is anticipated as Gabon prepares to host the 2017 CAN, with new venues planned in Port-Gentil and Oyem requiring additional facilities. “Gabon will host the 2017 CAN so it is very important that we increase our capacity in accommodation as well as transport services for the flood of anticipated visitors,” Ogoula Barisse, the former director-general of the General Directorate of Tourism, told OBG.
A classification system for hotels was implemented in Libreville ahead of the 2012 CAN and is being expanded across the country. The General Directorate of Hospitality and Hotels is responsible for monitoring hotels and classifying all establishments in Gabon. “We are working on classifying hotels across the country according to a star-rating system, which will eventually be harmonised throughout the region,” Barisse said, adding that major hotel brands are increasingly attracted to Gabon because of its stability and growth potential.
The new Park Inn by Radisson, located 2 km from the airport and the city centre, added 140 hotel rooms to Libreville in January 2015, as Gabon’s first mid-range branded hotel. Another new addition to the capital is the Palme d’Or, located near the Omar-Bongo University. The luxury hotel opened in February 2015 with 13 suites and apartments. Singapore-based Aman Resorts, a luxury hotel group, will also contribute to rising hotel capacity with plans to build six new hotels in Gabon. Aman is developing a lodge in Pongara national park and a 30-suite hotel in Libreville, with a resort in Loango national park to follow. Future plans include accommodation in Lopé, Ivindo and Batéké Plateaux national parks. “Tourism in Gabon is primarily corporate, which is why local and international operators prioritise the construction of high-end hotels,” Ismael Libizangomo, CEO of Wali Hotels & Resorts, told OBG.
Renovations are underway in several of Gabon’s major hotels, which will increase capacity. Ongoing work on the Okoumé Palace, managed by Carlson Rezidor on a 20-year contract, will see the hotel transformed into a 330-room five-star Radisson Blu hotel, to open by the end of 2015. The 80-room Méridien Mandji in Port-Gentil is also under renovations, to be completed by 2016, at a cost of $18.7m. The project includes construction of an additional 50 rooms. The Méridien Re-Ndama in Libreville, with 256 rooms, is also preparing for upgrades, though details of the plans had yet to be released at time of writing. Renovation of both Méridien hotels is part of a programme by Starwood to renovate 13 hotels under its management at a cost of $200m.
The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) granted the Société Gabonaise de Tourisme et de l’Hôtellerie a CFA15.7bn (€23.55m) loan to renovate the former Novotel Rapontchombo in Libreville, which will be managed by the Decameron Group under a 12-year contract as the Decapolis Rapontchombo. The project will include construction of two new buildings to bring the total number of rooms of the fivestar establishment to 180, as well as 30 apartments.
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