Hotel Designer Ronald Stilting says that hotels with truly African character would appeal to many Africans who are self-confident about their identity and also to foreign visitors who want to experience the reality and character of their destination, instead of a generic hotel experience

Following the successful Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF 2019) last September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, it is clear that hospitality in Africa is full of opportunities. At AHIF the focus was on hotel brands and chains, with little said about local operators who probably also have the same number of rooms planned in their investment pipelines.

Are there contemporary African hotels with strong African identities appealing to Millennials and beyond?

There are, mostly in the leisure segment, hotels and resorts designed in a traditional African or colonial style but most new business and city hotels do not go beyond the “alibi” Africa-elements.

The brands work with professional interior designer who to some extent will include some local content or art, but it remains an X-brand-style hotel.

African local owners will usually not engage an interior designer, as they often do not tend to work with architects who have experience in designing hotels. In a good number of cases personal taste prevails or the “Madam” decides, whilst ignoring target group and upcoming trends. This results in:

  • hotels without design, style, identity or atmosphere
  • Dubai-style hotels, as many hotel operators in Africa enjoy going to Dubai. Typically it shows container-loads of marble, brass and gold-plating.
  • Chinese style and material, as this is where most furniture and fittings are purchased. Besides often being of poor quality it has a somewhat dark and glossy appeal. The mixture of styles and materials          is sometimes horrific and awkward: At best it feels that the buyers were overwhelmed by the      enormous range of beautiful things being offered and different styles.
  • Hotels fitted with cheap locally purchased or produced furniture and fittings of low standard. Sometimes imported from China but never of a consistent design language.
  • Art is usually of the “art & craft” quality, which are often the lowest kind.

Let’s join hands and create a hotel with a real contemporary African identity!

I am a passionate hotelier with a great love for Africa but also a creative and photographer. I have for more than twenty (20) years been developing a vision of a medium size property that has a truly African identity. It would include large common spaces known as “Palava Huts” and other latest industry trends. It would also incorporate:

  • Artefacts representing Africa’s fascinating local cultures and history in a modern context.
  • Modern art installations made from local items, such as canoes, driftwood etc.
  • Use of local materials including bamboo mats, mud walls, zinc etc. in a “modern” way (though mostly decorative)
  • Creative photography the real life and beauty of the country as at
  • Real contemporary art from local artists
  • Use of stunning colourful fabrics such as “Ankara” and “Lappa”.


Ideally as much local content as possible would be included in all areas working with and in the hotel communities, despite the challenges this may bring. This would be recognized and appreciated by African and foreign guests alike.

The truly African character will appeal to many Africans who are increasingly self-confident about their identity and also to foreign visitors who want to experience something real from their destination, instead of a generic hotel experience. It also offers many opportunities to partner with society which will impact positively on the business.

As a visionary African Hotel investor, owner or brand, you could benefit from my experience of more than twenty years including many pre-openings and creativity. My expertise, besides pre-opening and operational management, ranges from creating and optimizing hotel lay-outs, project management and, partially in cooperation with interior designers, local artists, communities and craftsmen, the ability to create a contemporary African hotel.

Please  contact me if you would like to know more about making a contemporary hotel and I will offer support as consultant and project manager. We could start with a blank sheet of paper, empty plot, or existing build requiring conversion. Subsequent pre-opening and international standard operational management can also be provided. Let’s set a new standard and show Africans that they can be proud of their country, culture and heritage and enjoy unique modern African hotels.

Ronald Stilting

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