Hilton Sees Opportunity In Africa

by Jessica Montevago

A herd of elephants at Chobe National Park, Botswana.

Hilton Worldwide is opening its first property in Botswana next year; its upscale-yet-affordable Hilton Garden Inn property will be the first in a series of new hotels the company will debut over the next several years.

The 150-room hotel will be located in the capital, Gaborone, a short ride from Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.

Hilton vice president of development for Africa Michael Cooper said the city is booming with commercial and business activity, evolving into a hub for the financial and diamond industries.

Botswana is also a major safari tourist destination, home to big game like elephants, Cape buffalo, crocodiles, hippos, lions, antelopes, and leopards, as well as scenic lakes and waterfalls.

Traveling to Botswana gives travelers an experience unlike anything else, Cooper said. “You have the opportunity to see amazing events in nature—wildebeests traveling in a herd or walking right up to rhinos. In Rwanda, you can climb mountains into the rainforest to see apes in their natural habitat. It’s uniquely different.”

Hilton sees Africa as a key region for growth; the new hotel is part of Hilton’s broader plan to expand its presence in all of the major cities in sub-Saharan Africa.  “We’re working our way up the map,” Cooper said.

Hilton currently operates 38 hotels in Africa, and 38 more are in the pipeline.

Its most recent addition was the Hilton N’Djamena in Chad, which opened in January. The 194-room property, offering views of the Chari River, is located near tourist attractions like the National Museum, central market, and Avenue Charles de Gaulle. It has eight meeting and event spaces, including a ballroom that can host up to 500 people, a 24-hour fitness center, and an outdoor pool.

One of the properties in the pipeline is the Awassa Resort & Spa in Ethiopia. Construction for the $42 million project will begin this year; it will include 169 guest rooms and villas, an outdoor swimming pool, and a spa complex. The resort will have four dining options, including a specialty restaurant and poolside bar and grill, as well as meeting and event space. It’s expected to open in 2020.

Hilton also will open a property in Nigeria in the next few months under its Curio – A Collection by Hilton brand. The Legend Hotel will be located within the boundaries of Lagos Murtala Muhammed International Airport, with 54 guest rooms, including eight suites, and three upscale dining options.

Cooper said the important thing for travel professionals to keep in mind when selling Africa is “there is no one place called Africa; Africa is 54 countries. And they each deserve individual attention.”

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