Episode 71: Stephane Sebah, VP Development GTAF & East Africa, Louvre Hotels

Published: 16 May 2023

Listen to Stephane Sebah, VP of Development at Golden Tulip, as we delve into Africa's hospitality investment landscape. Gain valuable insights from his 20 years in the financial market, specializing in analysis, risk management, and investment strategies. Discover how his expertise seamlessly transitions into the hospitality industry, bridging the gap between investors and the sector.

Stephane shares exciting updates about Golden Tulip, currently operating 11 hotels with 900 rooms across East Africa and the West Coast. Explore their ambitious growth plans, including four upcoming hotel constructions and discussions for potential partnerships in the pipeline. With a focus on local sourcing, sustainability, and empowering local communities, Golden Tulip is shaping the future of hospitality in Africa.

Matthew Weihs: Hello everyone and uh, welcome to another Africa Hospitality Investment Forum podcast, the AIF podcast that looks to spread a little, uh, Insight into everything investment wise into the African continent. Um, I'm here today with Stephan Siba, the vice President of development of the Golden Tulip, uh, brand in Francophone, uh, Africa, and uh, also East Africa.

So welcome step.

Stephane Sebah: Thank you. Thank you.

Matthew Weihs: Now, uh, for many in the network, uh, I think you'll be a relatively new face, uh, by all accounts and certainly a new face to, to itself. So, uh, why don't you explain, um, initially a little bit about your history and, and how you've come to, to work for the, uh, the operator.

Stephane Sebah: Sure. Um, I'm coming. I've been working for more than 20 years in the financial market. Um, I had different focus and, uh, different, uh, job in the, in the financial area. I was, uh, an investment advisor for several years in London. Uh, specialize in financial analysis, risk management, and investment strategies.

Uh, I've been, uh, on the market, uh, trading as well. Different, uh, different products. Uh, and after several years I wanted to, uh, develop. And, uh, more be focused on different things. Uh, so I went to, uh, in being in charge of developing, uh, the brand of Golden Julip in Africa, in, uh, in Suba countries and in Eastern Africa.

Uh, I joined, uh, the company, uh, three months ago now, and I expect, uh, to expand the, the portfolio and the trend, uh, for, for a long time. How do you think, um, this isn't a job interview by the way. I'm, uh, but how do you think that experience will help? Um, the position, all those skills can be applied to hospitality industry, I believe.

Um, the investment process is, uh, very important. When, uh, you talk to investors, uh, they're looking for returns. On investment, uh, every, every investors are, uh, very keen to understand the product that they're buying or building. And I will probably the link between the partnership, uh, of, uh, the industry, the hospitality industry, and the financial world. That's my belief. Okay.

Matthew Weihs: And you're obviously coming in specifically to help the golden SCH brand within Africa. Uh, what's the current, um, state, I guess, um, of the brand in Africa? How many rooms do you have? Where are they? Um, are there any particular, uh, regions that, uh, you farewell?

Stephane Sebah
: We are currently in, uh, we are currently, uh, running 11 hotels in Africa. It's about, uh, 900 rooms. Uh, basically, uh, currently we have, uh, major hotels are in East Africa, uh, between Ethiopia down to Tanzania. Um, we have hotels in the West coast as well, in, uh, in Benin, uh, in koan. And with that's, In total. So that's 11, uh, hotels. And, uh, we are currently have, uh, four, uh, hotels under constructions, which will open, let's be, uh, around 2024 and 25.

Um, and, uh, we are currently with a lot of discussions, uh, in the pipe. With around, uh, five or six different hotels, um, which could be signed this year by the end of the year.

Matthew Weihs: So, so what would that, what would that, what would that leave in total for a sort of pipeline for the next few years? For the next, uh, months, let's say, let's talk in months.

Stephane Sebah: Okay. And for the next month, let's, uh, let's, uh, uh, in a native manner, we will sign around, uh, uh, at least five, five or 10. So we expect to, uh, to grow rapidly the brands and, uh, and surely and, uh, we, we try to, um, to, to, uh, implement like more than partnership with the, the investors. And, uh, uh, we want to, we want to be part of this, uh, this continent, which is a very gross, uh, Contrary.

Matthew Weihs: Um, for those, those that don't know the Golden Chett brand, how would you, um, explain it? What, explain the proposition. Uh, what is it, what, where's the customer? Um, Coming from for, for such a brand. And why is it so good specifically for the African continent?

Stephane Sebah:
Uh, golden Chip is a very old brand, uh, coming from Holland. Uh, and, uh, it's, it was, uh, basically the brand of klm. Uh, and, uh, in 2015, uh, the hotel. Took part, uh, took the, the Golden Chili brand. And, uh, we since that time, trying to, uh, improve the brand itself and try to, um, to expand the, the, the number of hotels, uh, of Golden Chili. Uh, the Golden Chili brand is more a. For business travelers in Africa. I mean, it's form of, uh, business travelers. Yeah. Uh, around the world. We have like, uh, leisures, uh, hotels, uh, on uh, different areas and, um, tho this brand is, uh, very well known in, in Europe. And, uh, it's, uh, being, uh, now and for sure, uh, Being known everywhere, and that's the future for this brand and that future.

Matthew Weihs: Then where does this lead you in the next five years? What are the ambitions? Uh, what's, uh, is there a goal of how many hotels you would like to have? Uh, are you aiming to be in every country? What's the, what's the sort of ambitions?

Stephane Sebah: The, the, uh, in the African region, we, we expect to double this, uh, numbers by the. Within three years at least. And, um, we expect, uh, to have like a, um, let's say a hotel in all major, all major, um, African countries. Um, We are very, very flexible, so, and proactive to found, to found new, new project, new partnership. And, uh, but of course we're trying to focus on as well on different market, uh, like, uh, countries which are really pushing on the tourism, uh, which are really open to, uh, expand the number of rooms.

Uh, for instance, uh, if you take Benin, you have like, The, the, the goal of the country is very important, uh, in putting the, the tourism inside the budget of the government. So in some countries, they are really improving the number of rooms just by, uh, acting p they are being proactive with the different, uh, hospitality, uh, uh, brands that they can found.

Matthew Weihs: And you are specifically looking for, um, management contracts or franchise deals. What's the sort of mix that you are looking for? We have a mix of it. We have a, we are looking for a mix. Uh, we definitely want to, um, to have like franchise everywhere, but, um, if the, if the investor is not, um, let's say, um, An ex, uh, hotel owner.

Stephane Sebah: We try to, uh, to help him for the, for the good. And, uh, we try to, um, to, to, let's say propose, um, A manage a manager hotel, which is more, uh, for, for, um, uh, to let him understand how the, the, the hospitality business is. It's a completely different business, uh, from what they maybe had in the past. Yeah, we had investors coming from diverse, diverse, uh, sectors.

So, It's a business that you need to understand and that you need to, to learn. It's not something that, um, you can discover and start an hotel from scratch. So we try, if we put a franchise, it's because we know that the, the, the owner has everything in his hand. Otherwise, we try to manage it with him and for sure.

Matthew Weihs: Well, obviously it's gonna be quite, Um, quite, um, quite a, a pleasure to, to meet you for the first time in a month or so in, uh, in, in aif uh, the first time that we'll actually meet. And one of the, the session that you'll be addressing at the event is around local and regional sourcing. Uh, the title of which is a bit longer looking at tariffs and sustainability and y yada, yada yada.But the reality there is about sourcing and, um, This is a big issue, uh, or has been a big issue for the continent. Um, what is your perception of sourcing to date? Has it improved and are we actually seeing, uh, the hospitality, um, industry improving in the way that it is sourcing, especially locally?

Stephane Sebah: Uh, honestly, I really, really hope that this is gonna improve because it's coming from, from very far, uh, countries new for me and I know that, um, they need to leverage, uh, the local. Sourcing sourcing, and it's very important. They, they need to reduce, um, the, the, the, the important goods for sure. Uh, they need to, to reduce, um, and to support, actually to support the process, uh, where they, they, they employ, uh, local people. I think it's very important. They need to learn. They need to, to teach.

Everybody locally and not, uh, they don't, they don't need to go. Uh, in Europe just to learn for this, the hospitality and everything. They need schools, they need university and, and, and degrees locally around maybe in the region. Uh, they, it's very important to increase the local force. Um, this is more for the work, uh, the work, uh, the workforce.

And, uh, in terms of, um, Of good. It's very important to, uh, to have the supply locally. Uh, the transport is, is a nightmare. Uh, it has been a nightmare. After covid, uh, the cost of, uh, of transportation have been, uh, Completely crazy in some areas. Uh, the price of, uh, uh, to get, uh, to get goods from China, from Europe have been very, very expensive.

And, uh, in Africa you need to build and to, um, it need to be, to be done locally and in the region. It's very important for me. Um, Uh, and for sure if you, if you, it's gonna be, it's gonna help the, to reduce the, the, the car, the carbon footprint, which is, uh, uh, now a big subject everywhere. So we need many thing to, to be done in Africa.

Some countries are already pushing on it. And, um, so you see some industry, uh, taking place. Who's, who's doing, who's doing that? Well then at the moment, who's, You have like many countries, they, they trying, they try to put some industries everywhere. Uh, if you, if you go in West Africa that you have like local countries, local industries for, uh, like even pasta, uh, some, some countries are imparting a hundred percent of pasta, which is nothing to do.

Pasta is something very easy to do. Uh, they need to produce it locally. It's, it's not, it's not like something special. We're not talking about nuclear, uh, nuclear, uh, uh, physician. And we, we need to, we need to do it inside the region. Yeah, it's, uh, for import tax, you will avoid import tax, which are sometimes crazy in different countries.

Um, It needs, uh, it needs to be improved and we need to help the industry. The hospitality industry has a major, major goal to improve this with the, the local government. All the, the development, uh, uh, institution, uh, all the local institution need to, um, to point the finger on it. It's very important. You will increase definitely employment as well, but just by doing this.

Matthew Weihs: Well, exactly. Um, well look, the, the debate will go on and on as we get closer to, to af And um, Stephan, thank you for joining us today for the podcast and, um, genuinely, really looking forward to meeting you in less than a month now. Uh, before we all get, uh, together, no. So thank thanks for joining us today and, uh, thank you much.

Stephane Sebah: Thank you very much. Take care. Bye-bye.