Please Mr Hotel Developer

I feel as if I have been spat out from the eye of a storm.

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, doing deals, learning about and discovering more of Africa. My recent expeditions have taken me to Namibia, Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, Mozambique and Nairobi. The hotel development arena is alive in Africa, friends … BUT there is this one glaring problem.

It seems the old poisoned apple of “I’ve stayed in hotels all over the world, I know how to build a hotel” has become an epidemic. Many projects I have investigated over the last few weeks have come from desperate hotel owners reaching out to BON Hotels to salvage their hotel project.

Here are some scenarios: Fraught with problems and on the brink of losing absolutely everything after the hallmark DIY steps have been exhausted on their hotel project; two or three trips to China’s ‘one-stop hotel design’ shops later; believing in the ‘hotel in a box’ concept; accepting designs, plans and concepts from architects and other professionals who have no hotel experience; proceeding without any cognisance of developing an operational hotel and the markets it will serve; a few too many plunges into one’s own pocket; funds having dried up; the project is only 30%  completed and is stalled; and the dream has become a nightmare.

I’m reluctant to mention this, but it has to be said. Underpinning all the above is a glimmer of short-sightedness from listening to your own propaganda. Posing the question, ‘Why have you not used hotel professionals or specialists to assist you with your gazillion dollar project?’ is still often met with ‘Well, I know hotels; I’ve stayed in hotels all my life – it’s not rocket science.’ The sad thing is, once I have agreed to meet with the suffering virgin hotelier, still exuding pride in his project after this site inspection, I often have to send Mr Hopeful Hotel Developer back to earth with the shake of my head. It is almost impossible to take on these kinds of hotels, which are, unfortunately, scattered over Africa almost a dime a dozen.

And here are a few reasons why:

  • Poorly designed spaces
  • No consideration of admin, staff office and storage space
  • A reception area that’s not receptive at all
  • No consideration to adequate parking and parking regulations
  • No electrical and systems planning
  • Multiple food and beverage facilities: roof bar, pool bar, coffee bar, cigar bar
  • An elevator that’s made in outer Mongolia and doesn’t give that OTIS feeling
  • Rooms blatantly disregarding hotel guest requirements
    • No sound-proofing
    • All-in-one perspex budget showers
    • Terrible lighting
    • No vanity slab
    • Rickety wooden furnishings
    • Non hotel-friendly imported televisions
    • Beds, pillows and linen that won’t last

And the list goes on…

My heart breaks. Invariably the hotel developer is on his financial knees and other than demolishing the entire building at whatever stage it’s in and starting again, we have to leave him dumb-founded and desperate, and we must walk away.

The bottom line: hotel management companies should be involved early, from conception, architectural planning, funding projections and feasibility. This can be as much as three years ahead of opening. Hotel projects can result in a handsome return on investment, but relying on personal or amateur hotel experience frequently leads to property collapse.

You have a piece of land. You’d like to put a hotel on this land. You want to know what the next step should be? Call a reputable hotel management company, like BON Hotels. We are there to help Mr Hotel Developer get it right.

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