This growth comes on a base of 14 hotels and 10,000 employees prior to the company’s acquisition of South Africa’s Protea Hotel Group in April. The Protea investment lifted Marriott into position as the largest hotel company in Africa, with the addition of 116 managed and franchised hotels, approximately 10,000 rooms and 15,000 employees across seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition to its recent Protea acquisition, Marriott International has plans to open nearly 40 additional hotels with more than 6,000 rooms, adding more than 10,000 employees, at both its managed and franchised hotels in the following 13 African countries by 2020: Algeria, Benin, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gabon, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zambia.
Sorenson discussed Marriott’s commitment to Africa and support of the growing travel industry by easing travel to and within the continent: “It’s a great time to do business in Africa and Marriott is at the table helping to lead the discussion on trade and investment across the continent. African leaders are looking at ways to spur economic growth by lowering barriers, such as onerous visa regimes. Travel is trade and the more Africa embraces Smart Travel policies that encourage the free flow of people, the quicker growth will come,” says Sorenson.
In Rwanda, Marriott has partnered with a vocational school, Akilah Institute for Women, to bring 41 women from the school to work and train in Marriott hotels in Dubai. The women are getting on-the-job skills, leadership training, and will be prepared after 18 months to return, as part of the management team, in 2016 to open the company’s first new-build Sub-Saharan Africa hotel – the Kigali Marriott Hotel.
“Africa is going through an economic transformation,” says Sorenson. “Coupled with that transformation is a mutual promise for opportunity that Africa holds—for us as a business and for the people who are hired, trained and work in hotels across our portfolio. For them, it is like hitting the lottery and shows what a powerfully good force travel can be in the world.”