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Wyndham Hotel Group signed a management contract with ADM Business Plc to open Ramada Addis, one of Wyndham Hotel’s brands.The property that is to be the Ramada Addis Hotel is located next to Gulf Aziz building near Harmony Hotel. The new hotel that is set to open in the first half of next year will have 136 rooms and is expected to create job opportunities for over 250 people. Bani Haddad, Regional Vice President for Middle East and Africa visited Addis Ababa this week to participate in the African Hotel Investment Forum as well as make the announcement regarding Ramada Addis. Capital’s Eskedar Kifle sat down with him to talk about the new hotel as well as the hotel investment atmosphere in Africa.
Capital: Tell me about Wyndham Hotel Group.
Bani Haddad: Wyndham Hotel Group is a U.S. based company and the largest hotel group in the world with 7,540 plus properties under 13 brands. They range from the five star, four star, three star to entire segments of the market classification. This gives us an advantage because we can focus on each market according to its needs. We can assess if the market has room for a low budget hotel, three star or a five star, extended stay, or more a entertainment based concept like Planet Hollywood for example.
In our philosophy, we can easily address the needs of the market. But by having these diversified products, we can also address the needs of the investors. Some of the investors have access to significant funds so they can build large five star resorts, and others are only interested in building relatively small budget hotels. That is really one of the major advantages our company has.
On top of that we are also in a position to offer both management and franchise opportunities. Under management contracts, we operate the hotel completely. On the franchise model, we are only giving the name, the brand standards and the systems to a local operator and developer who will operate and run the hotel on a daily basis according to our standards. We provide the training, we provide the systems, we provide the reservation networks, and then they do their daily jobs by themselves.
Capital: In case of a franchise agreement, what exactly happens if the local operator cannot maintain the standards you set?
Haddad: The agreements in the hotel world are done in a way that the owning company always has to set aside a certain amount of money to renovate the hotel and keep it up to standard. So that is dealt with from a contractual stand point. What we have to keep in mind is that it is a relationship between the hotel operator and the owner and most of the issues and challenges which both face are usually dealt with if there is a good relationship.
We don’t really think about what happens if the standards are not there. Instead we look at what needs to be done to assure the standards are there and if they aren’t we make sure the hotel gets back on track. You really have to look at it as a partnership because you know it is 15 to 20 years sometimes more. So you are not just there a few days a week and then you leave.
Capital: Tell us about the hotel you will be opening here.
Haddad: The hotel called Ramada Addis will have 136 rooms, has a really great location, very central on bole road, very close to the airport, less than five minutes I would say. It will have all the facilities which are expected from a four star full service hotel. It will have a nice lobby area where people can relax, coffee lounge, all day dining, full breakfast and a specialty restaurant. Our aim here is really to fill a segment which today is not really fulfilled within the market. You know not everyone can be here and can afford to pay 400 or 450 USD a night, so we would be looking into offering an amazing product, a great design, fresh, all the services you require but it is a midscale, four star Ramada, it is perfect for the business travelers, but given the room layout and functionality, we also think that even for leisure tourists and families, we are going to be able to address their needs as well.
Capital: Tell us about your presence in Africa, where do you have hotels?
Haddad: Currently we have different brand hotels in Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana and Nigeria. These are the currently operational ones. Since we started really looking seriously at having more hotels in Africa and developing all brands, we have signed a number of agreements, and so besides the one here in Addis, we have two hotels which are under development in Kenya; one in Nairobi which is also going to be a Ramada and another one we have signed on with last week which is a Wyndham, a five star resort.
We also have two hotels in Dar es Salaam under development and will open this year.
Capital: What are some of the things you look at before you get into a franchise or management deal, especially in a first time market like Ethiopia?
Haddad: The political stability or security is the number one consideration for us, both for our customers and our employees. Once we pass this, the second most important point is our relationship and our connection with owning company, like I said before, it is a partnership, it is a marriage, it is a catholic marriage, there is almost no way of getting out of it.
We can have all the contracts we want but if the relationship is not good, then we are going to go through 15 to 20 years of very hard times. So we need to show the owner our services, our culture and we want to make sure they understand what we can offer them. Respectively, it is very important for us to understand their back ground. So we really want to share the love, we want to make sure that it is a harmonious relationship and we share the same values, wheatear it comes to how we treat our employees, our customers, how we treat the property itself.
We are also very big on the environment; we have a big Wyndham Green program. This is something that the more we go forward; the more this issue is going to become important. We are putting more and more standards and specifications to make sure that our hotels are environmental friendly. So that is also one of the points we look at when we are talking to owners.