Marriott targets Africa with SA acquisition

11 November 2013

Marriott International, the largest publicly traded hotel chain in the United States, is set to acquire South Africa’s Protea Hotels, in a transaction that will make Marriott Africa’s biggest hotel company by number of rooms in operation or under construction.

Marriott announced on Thursday that it had signed a letter of intent to acquire Protea Hotels’ brands and its management business.

The South African group operates or franchises 116 hotels across three brands with 10 184 rooms in South Africa and six other sub-Saharan African countries. In addition to its industry-leading 80 hotels in South Africa, Protea Hotels has a significant presence in Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

“The transaction would nearly double Marriott’s distribution in Africa to more than 23 000 rooms, and would also provide Marriott with a proven operational platform and leadership team to accelerate Marriott’s expansion plans and solidify its leadership position in the dynamic and growing African hotel market,” Marriott said in a statement.

Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson said the African continnet “has significant untapped potential for travel and tourism, both as a destination and source of new global travellers.

“The continent’s GDP is anticipated to grow at over five percent annually over the next several years, which we expect will raise more people into the emerging middle class,” Sorenson said.

“With the Protea Hotels acquisition, our expanded footprint should allow us to become the first choice of Africa’s rapidly growing population of young, sophisticated travelers, and drive loyalty to our Marriott Rewards programme both within Africa and globally.”

Protea Hospitality Group CEO Arthur Gillis said Protea Hotels had “grown organically to become the largest and leading hotel group in sub-Saharan Africa … In Marriott we have found a perfect fit across culture, values and commitment to industry leadership which will ensure that we remain at the forefront of African hospitality”.

Marriott said the two companies expected to sign definitive agreements by the end of the year, and that the transaction could close in the first quarter of 2014.

SAinfo reporter