NAIROBI, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Hyatt Hotels Corp plans to more than double its hotels in Africa by 2020 to capitalise on improved travel links and robust economic growth that is boosting demand for rooms, the company's regional vice president said on Wednesday.
Hyatt currently has nine hotels in Africa but lags far behind rivals such as AccorHotels, which has more than 100 hotels in Africa and has earmarked $1 billion to invest in expansion on the continent.
Another rival Radisson has 86 hotels and almost 18,000 rooms in operation and under development after rapid Africa expansion. A senior Radisson executive for Africa told Reuters last year it planned to have 120 hotels by 2021.
"We are more than doubling our presence on the continent by 2020," Kurt Straub, Hyatt's vice president of operations for Middle East and Africa, told Reuters.
"Air travel has improved tremendously, it has become much more open, people are freer to travel. Hyatt is very keen to go where our customers want to go," said Straub, speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of an event in Nairobi to announce the opening of Hyatt's first hotel in Kenya in 2020.
Chicago-headquartered Hyatt's existing hotels in Africa include one in Senegal and South Africa, where it has the luxury Hyatt Regency brand in Johannesburg.
Straub said the new hotels would include a Hyatt Regency in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and another in Arusha, a northern Tanzanian city popular with holiday-makers and conference organisers.
The Hyatt hotel in Nairobi will have 233 rooms, including some under the Hyatt Place brand, aimed at shorter stays, and 60 Hyatt House apartment style suites for longer stays.
Straub did not say how much Hyatt was investing in the project, which is a partnership with a local company, only saying it was a "sizeable investment".
"We are very careful in how we grow. We don't want to grow for the sake of growing," said the 25-year Hyatt veteran, who took over his Dubai-based job in February.
"It is not about the quantity, it is about being in the right place at the right time with the right partner."
Other big international hotel groups, including Radisson, Kempinski and Marriott, are estimated to have about a third of the available room capacity on the continent. The rest are independently-run hotels.
Editing by Jane Merriman