Go West!

Published 10 years ago
Go West!

Accra has a lot to offer. From the warm Akwaaba that greets you at the capital city’s Kotoka International Airport, to the great service extended to visitors; hospitality is at the heart of Ghana. This realization didn’t escape Paul Ansah when he returned home a few years ago to expand the Marriott Hotel Group’s African presence.

After weeks of traveling across the continent and a few brief telephonic conversations, the well-spoken, Ivy league graduate welcomed me to his offices overlooking the city.

Paul Ansah is vice president in charge of international hotel development for the prestigious Marriott brand in Africa. The title carries more emphasis on delivery than his business card suggests. He afforded me clarity on how this came to be.

Born and bred in Accra, Ansah isn’t any less Ghanaian than he was before he left. He reminisces fondly about his formative years in Ghana, with a hint of an American accent. He moved to the States to pursue a qualification in civil engineering at the University of Maryland College Park. The innate business acumen within Ansah led him to pursue a Master’s in business administration, finance and real estate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

His career began in Washington D.C., where he spent a few years building mixed-use commercial real estate. He moved into hospitality when he joined Marriott as a senior financial analyst on development and asset management deals around the world, and subsequently rose through the company. This gained him a global perspective on the financial side of the business and on the company’s developmental efforts. After an extensive stay in the States, which he considers his second home, Ansah returned to Africa in 2010.

“The decision came naturally to me as I simply followed two of my passions—real estate and African development. I was determined to be physically located within my region in order to fully experience and understand its nuances. In order to provide successful business solutions to the abundant opportunities in Africa, it is essential to personally experience the attending challenges presented by living and working in today’s African environment.”

Upon his return, Ansah opened Marriott’s first development office in Africa and became in charge of the development of all Marriott Hotels in Africa.

Speaking on the regional growth of the industry, Ansah says: “The West African hotel landscape is in its nascent stages and is brimming with opportunity. The nature of each opportunity varies widely, depending on the country and city under consideration. The unifying theme across the region is the stark imbalance between demand and supply of quality international-standard hotel accommodations. Now is the time to be developing hotels in West Africa.”

With the recent emergence of finer hospitality institutions in West Africa and a growing demand for relative affordability, it is important to question whether or not international-standard hotel accommodation meets the demands of local clientele and if there is indeed room for prosperity in this industry. Whether the industry is lucrative, one can draw a conclusion by considering the challenges or ease of establishing and running hotels on the continent.

“Business development yields [in Sub-Saharan Africa] are particularly low and the gestation period on ultimately successful projects tends to be extraordinarily long. This translates to higher development costs that further aggravate the key problem of financing. It takes a well-resourced and skilled team to avoid the many pitfalls,” he says.

Despite the prevailing challenges, the Marriott team has recorded some great achievements.

“We most recently announced the signing of a multi-billion naira deal with Quantum Luxury Properties Limited, led by Jim Ovia, for the development of a 150-room, five-star Marriot hotel to be located in Lagos, Nigeria.”

While Ansah is responsible for the development of the brand on the continent, he is particularly focused on West, Central and Southern Africa.

“My goal is to make an indelible mark in the African built environment… African cities are experiencing a renaissance and in 10 years, our built environment will be leagues ahead of the status quo. I’m determined to be at the forefront of Africa’s development.”

The Marriott Hotel in Accra promises to be a pivotal impetus for increasing hospitality standards in Ghana.

Just like any hotel, Ansah isn’t about all work and no play. He describes himself as an “all-in” type of guy.

“I live my life with passion and I try to make every minute count.”

This is the kind of passion that, coupled with his first-hand experience of the region, will drive success and growth for Marriott.