The Meridien hotel group is the largest hotel group in Africa, operating over 30 hotels and resorts throughout Africa and the Indian Ocean. Le Meridien President--located at Pointe des Almadies outside Dakar, Senegal--incorporates one of West Africa's largest and most important conference centres. Stephen Williams interviewed Le Meridien President's general manager, Marc Devroye, about this flagship hotel.
African Business: Firstly, Mr Devroye, can I ask about your own background?
Marc Devroye: Most of my working life as an hotelier has been spent abroad and mainly in Africa. I'm Belgian, and after my first ten years working in Belgium I went overseas in 1981, working for nearly eight years for the Intercontinental Hotels group, starting in Gabon, then moving to Saudi Arabia before returning to Africa, to Mombasa, Kenya. In 1988 I joined the Meridien Hotels and Resorts group, working in Nigeria for the first time. After four years I moved on to Cameroon, then to Congo-Brazzaville, before returning to Nigeria for another five and a half years. That was before taking up my post here at Senegal's Meridien Presidential last June.
African Business: What is the history of the Meridien President complex? How and when did it come to be built?
Marc Devroye: This hotel and conference centre, known formally as 'The King Fahd Complex' was offered to the government of Senegal by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to host the Organisation Conference Islamic (OCI) in 1991. The Meridien Group then took on the management contract of this hotel, for which we are reporting monthly to the Senegalese government. I might add that at the end of last year it was formally confirmed that the 2006 OCI will be held here, which is very good news for Senegal. President Wade lobbied extremely well for the 2006 OCI at last October's OCI conference in Malaysia, and he was able to make that announcement shortly after his return. This might mean that we will build a new 150 room extension.
African Business: Currently, how many rooms are there in this hotel?
Marc Devroye: At the moment we have 360 rooms, including 64 suites and eight presidential suites. If the government approves the building of an extension that will add 50% more capacity. We are waiting for their decision which they will need to make very soon in order to be ready in just two years.
African Business: And do your current occupancy rates justify this proposed expansion?