GET TO KNOW: Geri Wessels, Director Development SSA Hilton Hotels
Geri Wessels joined Hilton in June 2013 as part of the development team on the African continent. Prior to her return to South Africa, Geri was based in the United Arab Emirates for five years.
Geri is a panelist at The Hospitality Leadership Forum 2018, on Day 2, the morning session: Development and investment: The new look properties entering Africa, which will examine the expansion opportunities and the increase in multiple use developments already seen in Europe the US and UAE.
H&R Magazine: What do you believe has been the key change in the hospitality sector over the past five years?
GW: I believe that globally we are in a golden age of travel right now and that applies to the sector in Africa as well. Demand for international travel into Africa has never been higher than today. We see that through changing perceptions of the continent as a place to do business or go on holiday and in the infrastructure that is being put in place to support that.
H&R Magazine: Where do you see the three key challenges in the industry over the next five years?
GW: We’re seeing so much demand for new hotels and keeping pace with that will prove to be a challenge. When you look at the process of taking a hotel from signing to opening on schedule, we still see a number of projects subject to delays. This, along with keeping pace with continuous changes in trends and advancements in technology, as well as educating both investors and consumers around the proliferation of brand choice are areas I would highlight.
H&R Magazine: You are a panelist at this year’s Hospitality Leadership Forum on the session ‘Development and investment: The new look properties entering Africa’. What are you most looking forward to discussing?
GW: I’m excited to talk about our incredible plans for growth in sub-Saharan Africa, which involves our Hilton Africa Growth Initiative – a fund of $50m we have allocated towards assisting owners with costs associated with converting hotels into Hilton branded properties. I am also keen to discuss the trends which are impacting the market when it comes to investment in the industry. Hilton is more than doubling its presence in the region over the coming years – including five hotels opening in four new markets between now and the end of the year.
H&R Magazine: The hospitality sector is undergoing huge change. What are the three tips you would give for success in the coming five years.
GW: Choose to work with the right partners, ensure you have the right brand fit for a particular location and employ the right people. As the industry begins to mature and the competition continues to grow, you need to be certain that your product is positioned correctly within the market, that you have the vision at strategic level to invest where necessary to follow this up and finally the talent to deliver exceptional guest experiences time after time.
H&R Magazine: And are there any specific areas in the (sub-Saharan) African hospitality market that you believe are unique?
GW: This is a region with such rich cultural diversity that everywhere has its own unique characteristics. We try to ensure that the experiences we are creating under our brands in each one of our hotels are customised to offer distinctly local hospitality.
H&R Magazine: Which type of people do you believe would gain the most from attending your session this year?
GW: Owners and investors, particularly those used to working with independently owned hotels – who might want to gain a greater understanding of our various operating models, how we structure them and the benefits of joining Hilton.
The Hospitality Leadership Forum runs from June 24-26 2018 at The Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg
10.45am DAY 2 Development and investment: The new look properties entering Africa.
Super builds are coming to Africa – the large, mixed-use multiple accommodation complexes usually seen in Dubai, USA and Europe have arrived and this is your chance to hear from the management team of the newest development. And it doesn’t stop here, leading hotel brands are building or planning expansion across the continent. Dsicover why Africa is hot property for hospitality development and investment?