As more and more travelers choose Africa as their next vacation or business destination, they’re often in search of the coolest and most luxurious hotels for their accommodation. AkanLux is one of the few companies that has made it their mission to help travelers locate the top luxury hotels in Africa.
Face2Face Africa reached out to the five year old company, which describes itself as the first digital platform specialized in luxury hotels in Africa, to learn more about the continent’s hospitality industry. Here is our conversation with the founder of AkanLux, Cindy Maleombho-Codo.
Face2face Africa: When did you start AkanLux and what inspired you to start?
Cindy Maleombho-Codo: AkanLux was founded in 2011 at a time when African tourism was non-existent online. African travel was mostly represented by safari retreats and articles. Nothing was showcasing the rest of the continent. Being from Africa, I knew there was much more to be shared. While getting my master’s degree in hospitality management, I decided to dive head first into this project.
The company started as a newsletter sharing curated African experiences to subscribers. I would select curated African itineraries, places, and share it with them. After a while I decided that I wanted to [be more] specialized, so with my deep love for hotels, I decided to launch a boutique hotel guide dedicated solely to independent African luxury hotels.
F2F Africa: What exactly does AkanLux do?
CMC: AkanLux is the first digital platform specialized in luxury hotels in Africa. Our aim is to develop the curiosity of this eclectic continent, promote African tourism, and showcase the sophisticated side of Africa to the World. We travel and scout the world to present readers with hotels, villas, and spas that stand out for their quality, their originality, and their authenticity. AkanLux also allows travelers to experience different regions of Africa and its various cultures and lifestyles. We hope that our refined selection will enable them to have some wonderful experiences on the continent.
F2F Africa: So far, what impact has AkanLux had on African tourism?
CMC: Akanlux is very specialized. That’s all we do, so when travelers are looking for a particular region or hotel, they can find it on the site. There is no need to browse the web for hours to find sophisticated and luxurious hotels in Africa. It’s a place where independent hotels, which may not necessarily have a website to market their products or services, get a platform to reach targeted customers. In a sense, we’re promoting African hotels and thus African tourism.
F2F Africa: How competitive is the African hospitality industry globally?
CMC: Africa is becoming the go-to place for global hospitality brands. For instance, in 2013 Marriott took over Protea, a group of 116 hotels spanning more than seven countries. Other international hotels groups are following the move and seeing the potential that Africa has to offer.
The relative political stability and economic growth also contributed to the rise of the African tourism industry. Because of this growth, the continent has seen a new wave of savvy middle class and business travelers looking to travel and explore Africa in a more meaningful way. Also, members of the diaspora return to the continent wanting to discover, and in some cases re-discover Africa.
The African hospitality industry is still significantly underserved so there is tremendous potential.
F2F Africa: What are the challenges that the African hospitality industry faces?
CMC: I believe 54 countries, different legal systems, and different languages can be an enormous challenge for global brands entering the African tourism market.
F2F Africa: Do Africans value what their continent has to offer in terms of hospitality and tourism?
CMC: Africans more than ever before are looking for ways to explore the continent. The increased popularity of digital platforms such as Akanlux, Tastemaker Africa, and Visiter L’Afrique are perfect examples of this [desire] for curated African travel. Also, the Africa’s economic growth positively impacted the transient tourism as more and more people are now traveling within Africa for leisure and business purposes.