Mali Businesses See Drop in Activity After Radisson Attackby
Azalai Hotels says occupancy rate plunged to about 50%
Chamber of Commerce sees delays in trips, investments
Businesses in Mali, Africa’s third-largest gold producer, are seeing a drop in activity after militants linked to al-Qaeda killed at least 20 people at the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital last week.
Customers started canceling reservations at Azalai Hotels and occupancy plunged to about 40 percent to 50 percent after Friday’s attack, Chief Executive Officer Mossadeck Bally said by phone on Tuesday. Before Friday, the group’s three hotels had zero vacancy, he said. Bamako-based Azalai is the largest hostelry group in Mali and operates a total of seven hotels in West Africa.
“The month of November is the high season for us,” Bally said. “The attacks in Bamako are even more harmful to Mali, which was starting to stand back up again."
Companies are bracing for more cancellations and delayed investments as Mali works to assure investors that Islamist militants are unlikely to unravel the progress since a 2012 coup. The Radisson hotel had housed diplomats mediating talks between separatists and the government. A United Nations force is working with French and Dutch soldiers since 2013 in the north to expel militants linked to al-Qaeda.
French telecommunications company Orange SA, which operates in six West African countries, postponed meetings in Bamako, suspended local missions in or around the capital temporarily and reinforced security at its main office, a company spokesman said.
Last week’s raid is the biggest-ever attack on international interests in the West African nation. It’s also the biggest deadly assault in Bamako which, until this year, had largely escaped the violence. In March, a first attack in the city left five people dead in a restaurant.
The Radisson Blu hotel is Bamako’s top luxury hotel and is frequented by foreign businessmen. Three executives of China Railway Construction Corp. Ltd., in the city to discuss cooperation projects, and six Russians were among the victims of the attack. Air France-KLM and Turkish Airlines’ crews were also staying there between flights.
Non-governmental organizations and business travelers may likely delay some trips to Mali after the attack, Djibril Baba Taboure, a vice president at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Mali, said in an interview.
“It is obvious that things will not go back to what they used to be,” he said. “Work will need to be done to restore the image of the country and reassure. The atmosphere is a bit morose at the moment.”
Still, Azalai’s Bally said he’s planning to go ahead with the renovation and expansion of its Salam hotel, the group’s largest unit in Bamako. The works, estimated at more than 10 billion CFA Francs ($16.2 million), are set to start next month.
“Life has to go on,” he said. “This is the only way to face this unspeakable barbarism.”