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BusinessDay: Unlocking growth: how AI can revolutionise Africa’s hospitality sector

By Johan Steyn, 3 July 2024

Africa’s hospitality industry is poised for remarkable growth, projected to reach $73.14bn by 2032. This expansion presents a fertile ground for technological innovation, with artificial intelligence (AI) emerging as a transformative force that can reshape the sector.

As hotels in the continent prepare to capitalise on this growth, AI stands out as a key enabler of operational efficiency, personalised guest experiences and strategic decision-making.

Africa, and particularly SA, boasts excellent tourist infrastructure, offering diverse accommodations ranging from luxury game lodges to bed and breakfasts. The majority of tourists visiting SA this year were from the continent, with significant numbers from Europe and North America following suit.

I recently delivered a keynote presentation at the Africa Hospitality Investment Forum (AHIF) conference in Windhoek. Rated as the most prominent hospitality investment event in Africa, it was attended by more than 500 delegates from 40 countries. 

There was a great deal of interest in my talk and the subject. Most industry leaders that I spoke with said they were looking at ways to integrate AI platforms in their back- and front office operations. I highlighted to the audience that AI technology can offer their sector a vast number of benefits.

AI has a significant effect on visitor experiences, enabling hotels to provide personalised services on a large scale. AI algorithms can analyse visitor data to predict preferences, automate room settings, and provide personalised recommendations. In a competitive hospitality market, this level of customisation is essential in fostering loyalty and enhancing visitor satisfaction.

AI can have a significant effect on the optimisation of operational processes, including energy consumption, staff scheduling, and inventory management. Hotels can maintain high service standards, reduce waste and lower operational costs by using predictive analytics and automation to streamline workflows. 

Hotels are able to optimise revenue per available room by dynamically adjusting rates based on real-time market demand, competitor pricing and local events, thanks to AI-driven dynamic pricing models. These algorithms enable hotels to optimise pricing strategies, thereby guaranteeing profitability.

The integration of AI-powered virtual concierge services is a critical step in the transformation of visitor interactions within the hospitality industry. By providing personalised local recommendations with efficiency and accuracy, managing reservations seamlessly, and offering round-the-clock assistance, AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants have the potential to revolutionise customer support. Guests are provided with immediate responses to inquiries, prompt booking confirmations, and personalised recommendations that are based on their preferences and local activities.

The strategic planning of the African hospitality industry can be influenced by AI’s capacity to extract actionable insights from large amounts of data. To inform marketing strategies, service enhancements, and expansion plans, AI tools can analyse visitor behaviour patterns, market trends and competitive landscapes. In a dynamic industry environment, this data-driven approach enables hotels to anticipate market shifts, adapt offerings, and maintain a competitive edge.

At the AHIF conference I realised the vast potential for growth in the African hospitality sector. It is clear to me that industry leaders are keen to embrace AI technology, but many acknowledged that they do not know how to integrate it into their businesses. Technology experts and hospitality leaders should join hands and embark together on this exciting journey.


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