Interview: Yann Caillère

Which hotel segments require increased capacity?

YANN CAILLÈRE: Currently, demand in Côte d’Ivoire – and in Abidjan specifically – concerns the business world, whether for individual or group stays, such as residential seminars and conferences. We already have a variety of brands present in the Abidjan four and five-star hotel market, and the announced arrival of the Azalaï and Radisson hotel chains is a good thing, as it shows the market’s dynamism. Eventually, as renovation works continue on the Hotel Ivoire complex in Cocody, by Pierre Fakhoury Operator, we think that the supply will be sufficient in this particular segment. However, that being said, the leisure tourism market in Abidjan and Côte d’Ivoire more generally is at an embryonic stage.

How can business travellers be encouraged to prolong their stays for leisure purposes?

CAILLÈRE: We hope that with the existing tourism development tax on hotels, the authorities will have sufficient funding to be able to promote Côte d’Ivoire as a destination, by encouraging more tourism clients to come, as well as marketing to business clientele to prolong their stays. We are the largest contributors to the hotel industry, via this tax, due to the fact that we have five hotels in Abidjan. As far as leisure tourism is concerned, Côte d’Ivoire has to identify its resources and comparative advantages, and develop them while at the same time structuring, organising and promoting them. The country is no longer visible among popular vacation destinations even within Africa, even though this was previously the case.

However, hotel operators also have a role to play of course. The presence of hotels on the internet, through reservation web sites or advertising, ensures significant visibility for those cities and countries where we are present – and it is no different for Côte d’Ivoire. Additionally, the media campaigns that we as hotel operators organise – though they of course have the primary objective of improving the visibility of our brands – can also encourage a traveller to prolong his or her stay.

What practical solutions are there to the lack of local qualified labour in developing markets?

CAILLÈRE: Education and training are key in emerging economies, and we spend 3% of our salary budget on this aspect. Finding qualified labour locally can be a real challenge. Our Académie Accor Afrique, for example, is designed to help new employees settle into their professions while also providing the skills to accompany them throughout their careers.

Part of this strategy involves investing in managers by having them undertake training programmes so they can effectively help train new staff themselves. Doing this – as with any vocational training programme – will allow us to create a virtuous circle, such that the graduates of our programme can in turn actively propagate those skills they have learned through training. It cannot be stressed enough: education and training are key to increasing the success of the hospitality industry in Africa and must continue.

Given existing meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions (MICE) infrastructure, what type of events should Côte d’Ivoire attempt to attract?

CAILLÈRE:To be completely honest, the supply of conference rooms currently available in Abidjan is excellent. Everything from small meetings for 10 people to large conferences for 3000 attendees can be hosted. Needless to say, there are several benefits to having large hotel operators in the city, given that they can make use of their networks of regional and international sales bureaux to help provide up-to-date information on capacity and availability for conference venues. However, it is not merely the hotels that are responsible for promotions. It is also important for a capital to be recognised as a MICE city or destination, and success in achieving this kind of recognition depends on fundamental legwork that must be done through a variety of channels. The promotion of this destination depends also on international organisations, specialised agencies, financial institutions and other companies.