In Ethiopia Hilton becomes latest hotel chain to tap country's fast growth

"With new infrastructure, including a highway to Addis Ababa and an airport expected to begin operations in 2018, we certainly expect to see a tourism and travel boost to Awassa," said Selamawit Samuel

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An exterior shot of the Hilton Midtown in New York June 7, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly play An exterior shot of the Hilton Midtown in New York June 7, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (Reuters)
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Hilton will open its first hotel in Ethiopia in more than four decades, it said on Wednesday, following other international chains that seek to tap into rising business and tourism in the country.

The hotel, due to open in 2020, will be in Awassa, one of the country's fastest-growing cities, and the first venture by an international hotelier beyond the capital Addis Ababa.

Hilton will manage the hotel on behalf of its partner, Ethiopia's Sunshine Plc, which also opened the first Marriott-branded serviced apartments in Addis Ababa on Wednesday.

Sheraton, Radisson and Golden Tulip are among a handful of hotel chains that currently operate in the Horn of Africa country, but U.S. chain Best Western International Inc, France's AccorHotels and Ramada said they were also working on new projects there.

Construction on the 169-room Hilton Awassa Resort and Spa started last month, Hilton Worldwide said. Awassa is a lakeside city less than 300 kilometres from Addis Ababa and the hotel will be Hilton's first Ethiopia project since it opened a hotel in Addis Ababa in 1969.

"With new infrastructure, including a highway to Addis Ababa and an airport expected to begin operations in 2018, we certainly expect to see a tourism and travel boost to Awassa," said Selamawit Samuel, vice president and part owner of Sunshine.

Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous nation, has become one of the continent's fastest-growing economies, propelled by huge spending on infrastructure and an expansion of the services and agricultural sectors, although it is still one of the poorest. Visitor numbers have risen 12 percent a year for the past decade, albeit from a very low base.

Hotel chains join other recent foreign investors in the country, including clothes retailer Hennes and Mauritz which is starting to source supplies from Ethiopia, while consumer goods maker Unilever is building a factory, and Diageo and Heineken have bought breweries.

U.S.-clothing maker Phillips-Van Heusen Corp is also set to source garments from an industry zone in Awassa, Ethiopian government officials said.

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