BT Jan 2015
Travel around Europe and you’ll find that virtually every major and small town airport has a hotel right there on its door step. Travel around Africa and – well, outside of South Africa, there is a dearth of airport hotels.
Many airport hotels in Europe and elsewhere are not just located in close proximity, they are actually linked to the airport with under-cover walkways, or even direct entrances from the terminal. Nairobi and Johannesburg even have hotels embedded within the terminal (although in the case of the former, it is more of a hostel than a hotel, in contrast to Johannesburg’s Protea-branded hotel).
Airport hotels do really well, often outperforming their city centre counterparts, because of the captive markets they enjoy. Airlines love them for their proximity, lodging their crew there (pilots and cabin staff), without the hassle, cost and security of bussing them elsewhere. They also like them for when flights are delayed, so that they can accommodate the passengers very close by, for instant action when the flight is able to leave.
They are also very useful locations to hold conferences and other events involving travel – almost by definition airport hotels are easily accessible by road and of course by air, so for regional and international events, where delegates are “gathering”, they are ideal. For that reason developers of airport hotels typically include extensive MICE facilities, catering not just to the airport and airport-related markets, but also to the local community, for weddings and other events. In some instances, the airport hotels have the largest conference facilities in the city.
This goes back to the mid-1990s, and some time later the airport authorities declared AIC’s lease invalid. At the arbitration (which AIC won), the authorities claimed was that it was just not possible to have a hotel overlooking the runway, being a potential security risk, and that it wasn’t permitted anywhere in the world – I referred the tribunal to a website which identified the best hotels, and in some instances the best rooms in those hotels, for plane-spotting!Here in West Africa, developers have battled to get airport hotels off the ground at the region’s largest airport, Lagos. The first attempt was by AIC, who wanted to build a Hilton adjacent to the terminal.
Subsequently, plans to build a 300-room Holiday Inn at the international terminal, and a 250-room Crowne Plaza at the domestic terminal, also fell foul of the politics, and neither has ever been finished, the latter an embarrassing lump on the landscape, which had already been connected to MM2 by a bridge.
More recently another local developer, Hometel, is seeking to develop a Radisson Blu/Park Inn combo adjacent to the new terminal and car park under construction at international, and we wish them better luck than their predecessors. AeroMarine are also having a go, with a planned Hilton located a short distance from the international terminal (overlooking the runway!).
Elsewhere in West Africa, Cotonou has a Best Western hotel very close to the airport, and a Radisson Blu is under construction at Abidjan airport, where considerable commercial development is also anticipated as part of a new “aero-city”. Accra airport already has several hotels in close proximity, including the Holiday Inn, one of the most successful hotels in the city, and the relatively new Amber Hotel. Planned additions are the Marriott, which has been under construction for – well, ages! – a Radisson Blu at The Exchange, and potentially several other hotels, although like in Lagos there are “issues” with the land. Plans to move the airport will affect the dynamics there, but that’s a long way off. A more imminent move of airport is planned at Dakar, but the Onomo Hotel there will likely continue to thrive because of the commercial and diplomatic community in the area.
There are nascent plans to develop branded hotels at both Douala and Yaoundé airports in Cameroon. Freetown has a hotel at the airport in Lungi, serving not just the demand generated by the airport, but also those persons who need to fortify themselves for the river crossing to the city(!), and also those moving up to the mining areas in the north of the country. Developers were known to be looking at other hotels in the Lungi area before the Ebola outbreak.
Airport hotels are an important part of a city’s infrastructure. Not only do they cater to demand generated directly by the airport itself, but also to demand from the local business and residential community. In addition, airport hotels tend to create demand because they are there – passengers arriving late or departing early, who instead of braving the roads at night, prefer to stay in the hotel at the airport – for vacationers, this can be an “extension” to the holiday trip. Passengers in transit from one flight to another may also choose to spend the layover period in a proximate hotel, rather than uncomfortably on a bench in the terminal.
W Hospitality Group, Lagos