African hospitality conference ends on high note

The 2008 Hospitality Investment Conference Africa (HICA) ended on a high note at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg.

The conference, which took place from 28-30 September 2008, featured delegates from within and outside the Southern African region. It was organised by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT).TBCSA, Chief Executive Officer, Mmat?at?i Marobe noted the excellent calibre of speakers and how they contributed to the quality of the conference discussions and the networking opportunities. “To mention a few, our delegates included decision makers from leading global hotel brands such as Rezidor, Movenpick, Marriott, Accor, IFA, GroupRCI which is part of Wyndham Group, Fairmont, Starwood and key Southern African operators such as Protea Hotels, Southern Sun, City Lodge, Legacy Hotels and Queensgate Hotels.”

A highlight for many of the delegates was the Return On Investment panel session, which revealed critical information through a research which was commissioned by the TBCSA to Pam Golding Hospitality.

“It was an absolute pleasure to attend HICA 2008 with the speakers been of high quality and the ‘take home’ value that was tremendous.  The content was highly relevant, fresh and stimulating” commented Thomas Overbeck, Chairman of Southern African Association of Conference Industry (SAACI).
The conference kicked off on Sunday 28th September 2008 with in-depth discussion on the topic of responsible tourism and the need for the hospitality sector within and outside Africa to embrace the “green revolution”.

Conference delegates also learned about successful practices of involving local impoverished communities in the hospitality sector from Adama Bah from ASSET in The Gambia and examples of doable “green revolution” practices from Judy Kepher-Gone of Kenya’s Base Explorer Camp. African hospitality leaders were challenged to spread and share the benefits of the sector.

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“HICA 2008 moved into a higher gear on Monday 29th and Tuesday 30th when industry leaders from leading global and local hotel brands took the stage to discuss trends and performances of the sector from both a global and African perspective - “the discussions were fresh and inspiring thus helping to boost our confidence levels as investors in Africa” commented Ron Stanger from Sovereign Solutions.

“A comparison was drawn on the performance of African hospitality against the prevailing global trends with astonishing results shared with us as delegates giving us increased confidence to invest in the continent” commented Puneet Chhatwal, Vice President of Hotel Development, The Rezidor Hotel Group.

The STR Global Hotel Survey revealed that there is slower growth across most regions with the Middle East and Africa as exceptions. The STR Global Hotel Survey shows that on the African continent, most cities reported between 70% and 80% occupancy apart from Nairobi which suffered due to the political turmoil following the elections in Dec 2007. Currently the Middle East is still on upward movement led by developments in the UAE, Europe and the Eurozone is slowing down while the Asia-Pacific region is holding its position.

On the last day of the conference, questions were asked as to whether it pays to build a hotel considering the high cost of resources and labour globally? The discussion also focused on whether the hospitality sector is ready to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

It was revealed that MATCH Events Services has already secured 30,000 beds towards fulfilling the 55,000 beds required to successfully host the global tournament. However concerns were raised with accommodation operators who are increasingly opting out of concluding contracts with MATCH Event Services and charging exorbitant prices thus running the risk of damaging South Africa’s reputation in the process.

According to Marobe the panel of speakers made of role players within the Southern African hospitality sector committed to working together with their governments and FIFA to help South Africa deliver a world class tournament with far reaching legacy benefits.

The TBCSA team was congratulated by many of the speakers and delegates for convening the conference. “Congratulations on the hosting of another successful HICA and thank you for the opportunity of partnering with you. The content was certainly edifying and the contacts made great” commented Pila Rulashe from Grant Thornton Strategic Solutions.

Both the TBCSA and Pam Golding Hospitality are pleased to report that they have received the undertaking of key sponsors to continue with this important event for the next three years.

The Hospitality Investment Conference Africa has become the annual platform for investors, hotel operators and owners to network and it will be back in 2009 with more contacts and discussion topics to help develop Africa’s hospitality industry.
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