Akpabio, Mbanefo Win African Travel Times Magazine Tourism Awards

African Travel Times, Nigeria and West Africa only monthly travel and tourism magazine has announced the institution of an annual award. According to its Publisher/Editor, Lucky Onoriode George, the award is to annually recognize ‘Excellence’ in the travel and tourism sector in Nigeria, saying that, a genuine and respected award in the industry was long overdue, especially in an industry that is service based.

He noted, “asking the travelling public that lack the technicality and experience of how the travel and tourism industry works to select the best hotel, restaurant and even the best airline in an operating environment annually is wrong”.

George posited that, it is the process that differentiates the new awards from others, as awardees will be selected by professionals in the various subsectors”.

For the 2014 and the inaugural edition, the magazine is recognizing organisations and individuals that made giant strides in the industry in the out-going year.

“Based on the decision of our panel industry experts, the following organizations and individuals emerged winners”.

God Is Good Motors – Best Emerging Transport Company in Nigeria.

Eko Hotel & Suites – Most Supportive Travel and Tourism Organization.

Carnival Calabar – Best Domestic Tourism Product.

ABC Transport Plc – Best Family Friendly Transport Company in Nigeria.

Other winners are:

Sally Mbanefo, Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC] – Tourism Personality of the Year.

Gov. Godswill Akpabio – For Transforming Akwa Ibom State into an emerging Destination In Nigeria.

Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt – Most Resilient Performance Award in the Hospitality Industry.

So far, some of the winners have received their awards in private while others have been notified and presentation will be done at a later date.

Meanwhile, Mr. George said that from this year, the awards ceremony will form part of his publication’s annual travel and tourism dinner, a special event to bring together industry practitioners, suppliers and related establishments.

African Travel Times hit the newsstand in 2011 and has grown to become the most widely and authoritative travel and tourism publication in Nigeria, with an online presence that can be access everywhere in the world.

African Travel Times apart from being a core travel and tourism industry magazine, the coverage also includes ‘Insider’ a destination piece written from a local or native point of view [can also be written ‘as told to], as well as fascinating people, an article profiling a person of interest in the industry in any part of Nigeria and Africa.

Starwood Hotels Finishes 2014 Strong With 74 Openings

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide today announced it opened 74 new hotels in 2014, representing approximately 15,000 rooms in 26 countries.  The company also signed 175 new hotel management and franchise agreements in 2014, a 15% increase over the prior year, marking the fifth consecutive year of increased signings and the most new deals in one year since 2007.  Starwood anticipates another year of solid growth in both mature and emerging markets in 2015, fueled by hotel openings and high-quality deal signings.

“With more than 1,200 hotels in 100 countries, we’re on the frontlines of global change and continue to see increasing demand for innovative, design-led brands, playing to Starwood’s strength,” said Frits van Paasschen, President and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.  “Our nine lifestyle brands continue to attract owners as does our loyalty program, Starwood Preferred Guest [SPG®], which brings high-value guests to our hotels from around the world, driving more than half of our occupancy on any given night.”

Hotel Opening Momentum Continues

Building on its strong signing year, Starwood continues to grow in all corners of the world across all of the segments where it operates with plans to reach the following milestones in 2015:

–              300th hotel in Asia Pacific and China

–              150th hotel in China (with all nine brands represented)

–              90th hotel in Africa and the Middle East

–              175th Luxury hotel

–              750th Upper Upscale hotel

–              300th Mid-Market hotel

“Our balanced growth approach continued in 2014 with consistent, organic signings across all nine of our brands,” said Simon Turner, President of Global Development for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.  “Looking ahead, emerging markets remain a focus for us, but recovering economic conditions and increased availability of financing have also led to strong growth in North America and Europe.”

Turner continued: “North America accounted for more than one third of our signings last year, and the availability of new construction lending resulted in a more than 50% increase in new-build hotel signings over the previous year.  Globally, we renewed or extended 76 of our existing agreements with owners in 2014, underscoring the strength of our brands, loyalty program, operating teams, and systems.  We remain focused on working with the right partners, on the right properties, in the right places, and our agile development approach allows us to adapt our growth strategies based on specific geographies and brand needs for both new development and conversion projects either managed or franchised.”

Starwood Widens its Lead in Luxury

With one of the fastest growing luxury portfolios under its St. Regis, The Luxury Collection and W brands, Starwood is lengthening its lead in luxury hospitality.  Building on its base of more than 170 of the world’s most beautiful and iconic hotel experiences, Starwood expects to open more than 25 luxury hotels over the next two years adding to the 12 new luxury hotels which debuted last year.  This pace continues to accelerate to meet increasing demand for luxury in all corners of the world.

In 2014, W Bogota marked the brand’s entry into Colombia, while The Luxury Collection brand added seven new hotels to its portfolio including La Posada de Santa Fe in New Mexico, Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan and The Castle Hotel in Dalian, China.  In 2015, Starwood is on track to add more than 10 luxury hotels to its portfolio, including St. Regis hotels in Istanbul, Macao, Dubai and Mumbai, The Luxury Collection properties in Nanjing, China; San Antonio, Texas; and Broumana, Lebanon, and W openings in Amsterdam, Netherlands and Goa, India.

Demand Accelerates for Upper Upscale Brands 

Starwood opened 27 hotels across its Sheraton, Le Méridien and Westin brands last year, with over 150 under active development.  The iconic Sheraton brand, on track to open its 500th hotel in 2016, continues to serve as a growth leader for Starwood and pave the way for the further development of all of Starwood’s brands in fast growing markets. This year, the brand will debut in Samoa and Romania and re-enter Iraq, following last year’s launch in Tajikistan. Sheraton accounts for nearly 40% of all Starwood hotels in Asia Pacific and is leading Starwood’s growth in Africa, where the brand will open six more hotels by 2018.

Le Méridien opened flagship hotels in Chicago – Oakbrook, Bahrain, and Bangkok in 2014, and signed 18 new deals, a meaningful increase over the previous year.  Building on this momentum, in 2015, the brand will open more new hotels than in any other year since Starwood acquired Le Méridien in 2005. The brand continues to expand in established markets primarily through conversions, while also extending its reach in emerging markets, with openings planned for India, Bangladesh and Bhutan this year.

Westin opened its 200th hotel worldwide in 2014 and demand continues to rise driven in part by the phenomenal success of its distinctive wellness positioning.  In 2015, Westin will open its 125th hotel in North America and its 50th hotel in Asia. The brand will also debut in Qatar with the opening of The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa – the brand’s fourth hotel in the Middle East.

Mid-Market Brands Drive Pipeline Growth 

Starwood’s mid-market segment continues to gain considerable momentum, with 35 openings and 100 new deals signed in 2014 across the Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft and Element brands.  The segment accounts for approximately 40% of Starwood’s global growth pipeline and will comprise nearly half of the company’s new hotel openings in 2015, amid rising demand for strong global brands at an affordable price point in both major metro and secondary markets around the world.

Four Points by Sheraton signed 50 new hotel deals in 2014, the most in company history, and will surpass 200 hotels in 2015, with more than 25 planned hotel openings this year.  The ‘best for business’ Four Points brand boasts Starwood’s second largest and fastest growing development pipeline, fueled by its widespread, global appeal to guests and flexible development options.

Aloft Hotels signed 31 new deals in 2014, the most signings in one year since 2008. Designed for the next generation of travelers, Aloft will cross the 100th hotel milestone in 2015 and expand its portfolio in Greater China to ten hotels by year end. Aloft will also enter numerous new markets this year, including both Munich and Stuttgart, Germany.

Starwood’s eco brand, Element Hotels, signed 19 deals in 2014 and is on track to triple its portfolio by 2017. On the heels of opening its first hotel outside of North America in Frankfurt, Germany, Element will open its first hotel in China in 2015 followed by new hotels in London, Amsterdam, Boston and Philadelphia, signifying the global appeal of this brand.

Africa Hotel Investment Forum Returns To Addis For 2015

Bench Events, the organiser of the Africa Hotel Investment Forum [AHIF] today announced that the conference will return to Addis Ababa in 2015. It will take place again at the Sheraton Hotel on September 30 October 1. There has been much speculation about location of the next AHIF, after more than a dozen governments sent delegations to last year’s conference and a variety of African tourism ministers made public statements about wanting to attract the event to their capital cities.

The appeal of AHIF is that it is attended by the highest calibre group of international hotel investors of any conference in Africa and that is an important audience for governments seeking inward investment to develop one of the most important economic sectors, Travel & Tourism. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, 8.5% of Africa’s GDP and 6.9% of jobs are attributable to Travel & Tourism and the industry is forecast to grow across Africa at 4.9% per annum for the whole of the coming decade.

Matthew Weihs, Managing Director, Bench Events, said: “AHIF 2014 was such a great success that we felt compelled to return. We were honoured by the presence of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister; we were inspired by the accomplishments of Haile Gebrselassie, one of the world’s greatest long distance runners; we were impressed by the media attendance [76 journalists on day one]; and we were delighted by the level of interest shown by the business community, with a record number of delegates, sponsors and many of the major global hotel brands announcing new initiatives and hotel openings.”

Addis Ababa is an appealing destination for commercial reasons too. The city has a shortage of internationally-branded hotel rooms (fewer than 1,000 according to W Hospitality) and increasing demand. Ethiopia’s economy is growing at more than 7% per year and is forecast to be the third largest economy in Africa by 2015. Addis Ababa now has the fourth largest international diplomatic community in the world, partly because it is the seat of the Africa Union, which was launched in 2002.

Samuel Tafese, President, Sunshine Business said: “Considering the considerable interest from other countries to host the Africa Hotel Investment Forum, to have secured the event for a second year is a huge opportunity for Ethiopia. Sunshine Business were delighted to sponsor the event last year and look forward to supporting again. To have the chance to welcome international money and expertise to our country should not be missed.”

AHIF is the premier hotel investment conference in Africa, attracting many prominent international hotel owners, investors, financiers, management companies and their advisers. It is organised by Bench Events [www.benchevents.com] which is known for producing, alongside Questex Travel + Hospitality and MEED Events, several top-level hotel conferences around the world including Berlin [IHIF], Dubai [AHIC], Istanbul [CATHIC] and Moscow [RHIC].

Sponsors of AHIF 2015 are: ACCOR, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Hilton Worldwide, Mangalis Hotel Group and Marriott International as Platinum Sponsors; Areen Hospitality Design, Colliers International, Hotel Partners Africa, HVS, Movenpick Hotels & Resorts, Starwood Hotels and Resorts International, STR Global and Wyndham Hotel Group as Gold Sponsors.