Room and boards: Projects to build hotel and conference facilities take shape

Supported by state efforts to expand tourism to every region, Côte d’Ivoire’s hotel infrastructure once extended throughout its territory, reaching 11,374 beds and 7786 rooms in 1997. During the civil war, however, the national hotel capacity dwindled with the destruction of many tourist buildings. After the conflict ended, estimates varied widely, ranging from 3000 beds to 10,000. Today, most hotels are located in Abidjan, and in 2013 an estimated 2000-3000 beds were available from hotels managed by both local and foreign firms, including the Golf Hotel, Hotel Pullman, Tiama and Novotel.

Since the return of political stability, the hotel industry has enjoyed a rapid recovery, partly due to rising business tourism. Speaking to local media in 2013, Maférima Diarrassouba, CEO of Société des Palaces de Cocody (SPDC), the public entity that oversees state-run hotels, said, “During the crisis, occupancy rates plummeted and large groups such as Intercontinental left the country. Occupancy at Hotel Ivoire was barely 20%. Today, we cannot meet the demand.”

New Beginnings

In early 2014 Sofitel reopened the Hotel Ivoire in the capital city’s district of Cocody. Acquired in July 2011 by Sofitel for €4m, the five-star hotel was launched under their brand following 18 months of renovation to meet the company’s standards. The hotel is set to cater to the new class of businessmen coming to Côte d’Ivoire, with 209 rooms, four modern conference rooms and two restaurants. In 2015 a second phase of construction will begin, adding another 217 rooms (including 31 serviced apartments and 84 suites), two restaurants, a bar, business centre and additional meeting rooms, shopping facilities, as well as a spa, casino and cinema.

Other major projects include the construction of a CFA26bn (€39m) Radisson Blu near Abidjan’s Port Bouet Airport, under the aegis of the Rezidor Hotel Group. Expected to open in 2015, the hotel will offer 252 rooms, seminar and conference rooms, a business-class lounge and retail stores. Azalai Hotel Group, a West African chain, will open its own CFA14bn (€21m) hotel in 2015, one of several to be built across the region for a total investment of $165m. Construction is under way for another two hotels, the Café de Rome in the Plateau and the Palm Club in Cocody, which would provide at least 150 additional rooms in the city, though plans stalled in 2011 and no new opening date has since been announced. By the end of 2015, the SPDC expects another 500 rooms to be available.

Hit The Beach

The country is also seeking to unlock the tourism potential of its coasts. “We are optimistic because Abidjan’s hotel projects are advancing very well, but what we’re waiting for are projects like beach resorts that will allow us to diversify our activities and relaunch our leisure tourism attractions,” said MarieReine Koné, CEO of Afric Voyages, a local tourism agency. To this end, the government is encouraging the rebirth of beach tourism. In early 2014 the state entered into a partnership with La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, at Ikegun Village in Lagos’s Ibeju Lekki, to establish 20 resorts. Though information on the value of the projects was unavailable at the time of writing, locations for the resorts had been selected and construction is set to begin in 2015.

Opportunities For Growth

Many operators agree that the nation’s hotel capacity will be sufficient to meet tourist arrivals when the various private and public sector hotels are finished. However, new projects will be needed to address the country’s underdeveloped capacity for large-scale gatherings. Already business travellers account for nearly 60% of the tourism market, and the potential for conferences offers further scope for future growth.

“With the return of the African Development Bank to Abidjan, the need for hotels that can hold 4000-5000 people will be critical,” said Monique Philippe, director-general of local travel agency Ivoire Tourisme Voyages. “As Abidjan retakes its place as a regional political and economic hub, there will be many different conferences and seminars, and at the moment, we don’t have anywhere to put 5000 visitors at once.”

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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2015

Tourism chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2015

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