|The 108-room Hotel Onomo Dakar Senegal opened in 2010.
GLOBAL REPORT—There were a lot of “Afro-pessimists” in the hotel industry when Christian Mure and Philippe Colleu started their Onomo Hotel brand in 2008. The sentiment at the time seemed to be that the African continent didn’t show much promise at all for the hotel industry.
Mure remembers typing the words “Africa brand” into Google and not getting any results.
“In the beginning there was nothing, really,” Mure said of African hotel development.
Now four years into the brand’s development, the pair is trying to show that the hotel industry can thrive in Africa.
“We fight to change the spirit for Africa and say there are good reasons to be Afro-optimists,” Mure said.
Onomo, which owns and operates its assets, has two properties open in the pipeline with a robust pipeline behind it, with 13 hotels planned comprising 1,579 rooms. The 13 properties put it in the No. 3 position in terms of number of properties in the pipeline, behind Ibis and Radisson Blu, according to a recent report issued by Lagos, Nigeria-based W Hospitality Group. And the 1,579 rooms puts Onomo in the No. 7 position on W Hospitality’s ranking of total pipeline rooms.
The pipeline ramp up happened suddenly; Onomo did not appear in W Hospitality’s top 10 in pipeline rooms for 2011.
Onomo-branded hotels that are open are the 108-room Hotel Onomo Dakar Senegal, which opened in 2010, and the 118-room Hotel Onomo Libreville in Libreville, Gabon. A third property, the 118-room Hotel Abidjan Airport in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, is scheduled to open in October, and a fourth property in Mali is planned to open at the end of 2013, Mure said.
The company has other projects in the works as well, including in Togo where Onomo has signed a long-term lease; construction is expected to begin in 2013. Also, a joint-venture partnership for an Onomo hotel in Lagos, Nigeria, is in the offing with construction scheduled to begin next year.
Beginning in 2013, Onomo, co-headquartered in Paris and Dakar, Senegal, has plans to begin opening between four and eight hotels a year in Africa. Within three to four years, the company hopes to have between 15 to 20 hotels in operation.
“We think there is room for any major city in Africa to get one, two or three Onomos,” said Mure, who formerly oversaw development in Asia for Accor. Colleu is also a former Accor executive and was responsible for African development.
In North and Sub Saharan Africa, there are 208 hotels comprising 38,074 rooms, according to W Hospitality. Further, there are 495 properties comprising 125,481 rooms overall in the Middle East/Africa pipeline, according to STR Global, sister company of HotelNewsNow.com.
Focus on business travel
The growth of the African middle class is a reason to be optimistic about development on the continent, Mure said.
Much of the company’s base business is comprised of business travelers, Mure said. As such, the company tends to look for sites near airports or economic zones within the African cities.
“There is very good demand today in Africa” from business travelers, Mure said.
The company intends to focus its efforts on Africa in developing full-service, 3-star properties. Much of the development is expected to occur outside of the more mature markets of South Africa, Morocco and Eastern Africa, Mure said.
“It’s time to consider (Africa) as a market like any other,” Mure said.
Though Onomo has received inquiries from potential development partners in the Middle East and South America, Mure said the company intends to remain committed to Africa, fearing that biting off too much too soon would be detrimental to Onomo.
Still, Mure said that once Onomo has its footing more solidly entrenched in the African market, the company could be willing to expand to other global regions. Joint ventures could be one avenue for which to grow the Onomo brand, Mure said.
“We are just at the beginning,” he said.