• «Algiers: A potential to be valued»
  • «Algiers: A potential to be valued»

«Algiers: A potential to be valued»

Sofitel Alger is one of the main and rare to date, high-end tourist institutions in the Algerian capital, with a majority of business customers. Jérôme Rotrou, the hotel’s operations manager, after experimenting other countries, including Morocco, confirms the trend: Algeria has a very strong potential, including tourism, but the sector, like others, is to be developed. Interview

 

Interview by Dounia Ben Mohamed

 

Remind us of the history of the Sofitel in Alger … Since when is the hotel operating in the country?

Sofitel Alger was created 25 years ago from a management contract between the Accor Group and EGT (Tourism Management Company), one of the branches of the Ministry of Tourism, in charge of Property and Management hotels. The hotel was built as a result of this agreement. Then, the group developed in other sites: in 2001, it took the management of the Mercury near the airport of Alger and from 2005, with the creation of Sieha (Editor’s note: Algerian hotel business), a joint venture with the Mehri group, to open other hotels in several major Algerian cities under the Ibis and Novotel brands, 5 hotels currently in operation (Ibis Alger, Ibis Oran, Ibis Tlemcen, Ibis and Novotel Constantine), awaiting Novotel and Ibis in Sétif. Lastly, in 2014, the group signed a contract with Mercure of Alger Congress Palace, to Aïn Benian, which is a management agreement with another private group owner and scheduled to open in 2018. We are the first Foreign hotel investor in Algeria.

It is therefore in full black decade that the group settled in Algeria. A risky bet?

The hotel itself, a downtown hotel, is more business oriented. This trend was confirmed with the black decade, though it had a strong impact on leisure activity. But we continued to function. It was not always easy but we stuck to it.

Precisely, this is your segment: the business customers?

Our segment mainly includes luxury and business. Indeed, 90% of our customers are business customers though we tend to develop a leisure activity because our hotel has assets at this level, a number of facilities, including an outdoor and indoor swimming pool, several terraces, complete restaurants, and we are currently developing wellness activities with a real spa, etc…

Through business customers, how do you measure the attractiveness of the Alger destination? Are you getting more investors? Which regions mainly?

Half of our customers is European, the other national, quasi-exclusive businessmen. When you look at the indicators, you see a slight downturn in petrochemical activity. Still, it is not quite the crisis as far as we are concerned. The occupancy rate remains stable despite the impact on the business segment specific to petrochemicals, offset by other segments, such as pharmaceuticals, banking, telecoms…

And on leisure activity, no shudder?

August 2015, there was a peak of activity in summer, but it was not confirmed this year. But at the same time, it is not easy to develop leisure activity. There is no attractiveness at this level on this destination, due to a lack of activity obvious in terms of leisure. There are few cultural activities but still a lot of things to be developed.

You work in Morocco, is there potential in Algeria in terms of leisure tourism? What are the barriers?

I am convinced that there is a great potential in Algeria, with sites like Tipaza. There are tourist circuits, mainly oriented towards the south. However, infrastructure, products and, above all, greater openness to international markets must be developed. Over the next five years, we will stay on business development. 

What are your future plans?

We are going to start a major renovation project. Today, the hotel is aging. More modern products are needed. Standards have evolved since the 1990s. In the spirit of development on leisure, through the So lounge project – which is not a discotheque in its own right but something more elitist and which corresponds to business customers aspiring to luxury amenities, as well as a greater opening on the city to attract good local customers. A medium-term project, by 2020. Beyond that, the hotel business is not only the walls, but also the art of serving. We will therefore develop the service, through in-house training, with products that will affect the customers much more emotionally. We will put emphasis at this level. Faced with the new global competition, and the growth of Airbnb, we must meet the customers’ expectations much faster, and anticipate. We are not the only to be concerned but all of the hotel industry stakeholders. Our profession, as it was known thirty years ago, is no longer the same. We question our approach to something less industrial, to a more individualized, more emotional service, including new technologies. This may seem counterintuitive but the ICTs offer us the ability to anticipate, with agents more mobile and less frozen behind a desk.


 

Author: Dounia Ben Mohamed // Photos: the big hotel brands to conquer Africa © DR

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