Episode 77: Maya Ziadeh, Chief Development Officer, MEA & Turkey, Accor

Published: 11 June 2023

Tanja (00:00:02) - Good morning and welcome to our AIF podcast series Live, uh, from Narobi. We have today with us Maya Cade, the Chief Chief Development Officer, premium Midscale and Economy at ACCOR Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. Welcome Maya.

Maya (00:00:33) - Thank you, Tanya.

Tanja (00:00:36) - As we know, ACO owns managers and franchises, hotels, resorts, and vacation properties as the largest hospitality company in Europe, and the sixth largest hospitality company worldwide, aka operates in 5,300 locations in over 110 countries. Mya Euro is Chief Development Officer for premium Midscale and Economy for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey. So what does your role actually entail and which brands are included within your portfolio of responsibility?

Maya (00:01:09) - So, again, thank you Tanya, and happy to be with you. Um, I had development, uh, for a course, premium Midscale economy brands in Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. So my role is actually to expand and grow our brands in this region. Um, uh, and the premium Midscale economy brands are foundational to a course, so they present, uh, 90% of Edwards global portfolio and 70% around 70% of, uh, development signings. Um, the brands actually are, you know, the Swiss hotel, uh, Mok, uh, Pullman, uh, grammar, mercury, and we have the Novo Hotel, Ibis family, um, AK for extended stay and the newly launched brand handwritten collection among, uh, other brands as well.

Tanja (00:02:06) - Okay. And we'll come to the hundred, uh, collection, um, a collection for independent hotels a bit bit later in our podcast here, um, in, in looking at your, at Aqua Strategy for Africa. So what is your strategy when it comes to the African hospitality investment market?

Maya (00:02:24) - Um, Africa, you know, is a very promising market, and, um, it, it, it actually, it, it's very promising for hotel investment, of course, uh, especially in the long run, um, with having, uh, the world's youngest and fastest, uh, growing population. Um, the forecast is to have around 2.5 billion people by 2050. So, uh, you could tell the investment, uh, in this continent, uh, would be huge. Um, uh, and, and as you know, Africa is urbanizing, uh, faster than any other country. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, we have now Cairo and Lagos having 10 million people in terms of, uh, uh, population. And the forecast is to have actually 10 more, uh, cities following, uh, Lagos and Cairo. So the potential is huge, and Accord was one of the first movers, uh, to Africa, uh, with, with its brands. Uh, we had the Novotel Cairo, uh, Cairo Airport. Uh, in 19 opened in 1981. We have the Ibis, uh, ABI, which opened 1982. So the focus is there, and we keep on focusing on this continent, uh, in cities or in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, uh, Ghana, ivory cast, Senegal, uh, Egypt, uh, and Morocco among others in terms of, uh, business model, uh mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And alongside, um, the management model, we are also, uh, focusing on franchise, uh, especially in tier two and Tier T, tier three cities.

Tanja (00:04:12) - So, uh, what partners, as you have mentioned, franchise, what type of partners are you looking for in Africa?

Maya (00:04:19) - Um, we are actually looking, and we we're currently working with the different type of partners, uh, from Southern Funds to, um, uh, to private equity to local developers, ultra, uh, high net worth individuals, different type of partners. It depends, uh, what what we focus on is, um, of course, a partner who has knowledge of, uh, uh, regulatory requirements, uh, who has, uh, who's willing to adapt, uh, brand standards and, uh, operational practices, uh, and of course who has secured financing of the project. Now, uh, in terms of, of, uh, business model, uh, we work with owners who own the asset, and we manage, uh, we manage that asset and we work, sorry, we work with franchisees, uh, so, uh, franchisees who have expertise in, in operating, uh, hotels, uh, and have, uh, management capabilities. Uh, if not, uh, we also work with third party operators.

Tanja (00:05:26) - Fantastic. And looking how the market has actually changed over the last three, four years, what have you witnessed in the African hospitality market? How has it involved in the last 18 months, and what trends have you seen in the market?

Maya (00:05:41) - It has tremendously evolved. We've seen, you know, many trends and, and, and the African markets, um, especially after Covid, uh, people wanted to, uh, the leisure demand, uh, has increased, uh, hence, you know, the growth and the resort, uh, destination, uh, had increased as well. So we're seeing, uh, trends in, um, uh, we're seeing demand in resorts in places like, uh, um, uh, north Coast and Egypt. Uh, too many investment, uh, for resort. We are also, uh, you know, uh, we we're seeing trends in, uh, growth in conversions versus greenfield, specifically from private equity firms. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, we are seeing, uh, demand in branded residences, and this is to mitigate the investment, uh, risk. Uh, we're seeing, uh, huge demand in extended stay as well, and dual France. And this is with the rise of the, uh, African middle class and the, uh, intra regional, uh, market. So, yes, uh, again, especially Covered has, um, has played a big part on, on changing the trends in, in Africa. Mm-hmm.

Tanja (00:06:57) - <affirmative>. So you've mentioned you have seen a trend towards the leisure side. You have seen a trend in terms of long stay. So, you know, what's your brand strategy, uh, for Africa? Where, where do you see priorities in this market, and what brands are you planning on growing, uh, on the African continent?

Maya (00:07:15) - Um, ACOR is well established in Africa with around one 50 hotels, um, across, uh, north, uh, west Africa and, and sub-Saharan. So, uh, our priority is definitely to complete, uh, our existing network in, in, in key cities, uh, is to grow, um, our brands in tier two and tier three cities, uh, especially with franchise. And, uh, uh, going back to the trend, we would love to develop resort destinations like, uh, uh, in Senegal, in Ivory Coast, Egypt. Uh, this is in terms of, uh, of priorities. Now, in terms of brands, uh, it, it really depends. Um, it really depends on the location, on, on demand, drivers, on, uh, uh, budget, uh, for the owner, um, and many other factors. So these factors will determine what brand is suitable for this pro for any project. Um, and again, we need to take, uh, we need to take into consideration the return on investment, uh, for the owner.

Maya (00:08:24) - This is a very important factor as well, uh, prior to deciding on the brand. Having said that, we have brands in the premium, uh, segment such as Fulman mm-hmm. <affirmative> in the mid-scale segment, such as Novotel and the, um, uh, economy segment, uh, such as Ibis. Uh, so we have brands we have, uh, in, in every segment. Uh, so we can propose the right one, uh, for, for every project. Uh, uh, these brands are well established in Africa. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, and of course the PIC brand, uh, is, uh, has very strong, uh, recognition in Egypt, uh, because, uh, because of, uh, our existing in Egypt, uh, long time ago with the PIC resort in Aquae, uh, that has opened in the 1990s.

Tanja (00:09:17) - Fantastic. As you have mentioned, Aqua is actually well established in terms of brands, um, and has quite a good, uh, or a, a, a wide large portfolio of brands You've recently established, um, as you have mentioned before, the mid-scale brand handwritten, uh, for independent hotels. Um, would you see, or tell us a little bit more about the brand and would you see growth potential in Africa for lesser known ACO brands?

Maya (00:09:44) - Collection brands are very strong and they, uh, they actually represent one of the highest growth category in the hotel industry today. Uh, hence we launched the handwritten collection early 2023, uh, and it was designed with having the owner in mind, what does the owner want? The owner of an existing property wants to keep the identity, uh, of this property. Um, there is certain attachments, so they would love to keep the identity, they would love to keep this personality of the property, however, they would like to be pa part of a global portfolio to benefit from the scale of, um, uh, of the, uh, operator of the international operator.

Tanja (00:12:07) - So, and the distribution network, I guess will be important as well, too, uh, independent, uh, hotels joining, you know, let's say the handwritten collection.

Maya (00:12:16) - Exactly, exactly. So what we do is the target is to have, uh, uh, an asset with a against strong source, strong identity, strong personality. We put the name above the asset, uh, but we plug in our system. So the owner benefits from Accords sales, distribution, and loyalty platform. Uh, that's, uh, the, the intention of the brand. Um, this will benefit the owner as well, uh, to optimize cost and to maximize, uh, return on investment.

Tanja (00:12:54) - Thank you, Maya. So what advice would you give to young women wanting to start their career in the hospitality industry? Maya?

Maya (00:13:41) - Um, I actually don't believe in men and women in, in any industry. I believe in, uh, in a positive attitude, in, in a mindset that is open for challenges, for growth, for opportunities. Uh, I believe in winning spirit. This is what I believe in. And, you know, it's, if there is a challenge, we just need to take it. And once we take it, we think about strategizing, about planning, about growing our career, but let's take this challenge. And it, you know, I, I studied law, but hospitality was my choice. So I chose to be in hospitality. It was very difficult back then. 20 years ago was very difficult. It's not like nowadays, uh, much easier, especially in the, in, uh, in the Middle East region. So, uh, I chose hospitality. Uh, I started in f and b, I moved to front office and then moved to a corporate office. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I had challenges, yes, big time, but I enjoyed every bit of them. The experience was amazing. Uh, uh, the hospitality is an amazing industry. Uh, there is action, there is, you know, meeting people, meeting owners, meeting clients. This is like part of life as if, you know, we're interacting with each other. This human touch is amazing. So I would encourage everyone to be part of this hospitality journey. And if I may take Nike slogan, uh, I would say just do it.

Tanja (00:15:32) - Yeah. It, I find the industry very inspiring myself and, uh, I think it's one of the, um, you know, the industries with the widest opportunities, uh, uh, in, uh, to, to be in. So Maya, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. It was lovely speaking to you, and I'm sure to catch up with you personally, uh, at one of our events very soon.

Maya (00:16:41) - Thank you very much, Tanya, for having me.

Tanja (00:16:44) - Thank you.