The Ascott is entering Africa.
The serviced residence unit of CapitaLand has secured contracts to manage two properties in Accra, the capital of Ghana, in what has been a record year of growth as the company added 18 new cities across nine countries, and over 21,000 units to its portfolio.
Following the latest acquisition, it now has 69,464 units.
Africa was not the only continent that The Ascott entered for the first time this year. In April, it also advanced into South America with its first two franchise properties in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
In an interview with The Business Times, Mr Lee Chee Koon, The Ascott's longest-serving chief executive who will switch role to become CapitaLand's group chief investment officer position in January, said Africa was the "last missing piece".
While Africa is still considered new ground for many Singapore hospitality companies, several others are already dipping their toes into the hotel sector there.
Frasers Hospitality in March this year said it was planning to open properties in Nigeria and the Republic of Congo, also marking its first entry into the continent.
As for The Ascott, its 220-unit Ascott 1 Oxford Street Accra will open in phases from 2019, while the 40-unit Kwarleyz Residence will open in the fourth quarter of next year. Mr Lee said: "Africa itself has a population of a billion people. I think as the continent becomes affluent, there will be increasingly more domestic travel and people going into Africa for business as well, so it would be good to enter the market when it is still developing, to plant your flag, get yourself recognised, understand your operations, build your team and be ready when the market fully opens up."
Because of the limited hotel supply in Ghana, hotel rates are also generally quite good, going as high as US$200 (S$270) a night, he added.
The Ascott has been able to scale up its portfolio rapidly in recent years since it switched its business model to an asset-light one about four years ago.
The company used to own many of the properties that it operated, but this percentage has dwindled to less than a quarter of its overall portfolio today. Most of its properties are instead on management contracts, meaning that The Ascott is paid a fee by the building owner to run the serviced residence.