In a few words tell us about yourself.
My family is very small just myself and brother. Married to hospitality and my family and children are every team that I have lead or had the privilege to been a part of. 43 years of age and loved every moment of my mad career. Had the privilege to study at the Johnson and Whales University in Miami Florida and the University of Salzburg in Austria. The perfect grounding for a passionate professional as myself.
It’s been an insane journey from restaurants, food production line, luxury yachts to cruise ships to building cruise ships to deploying systems across a fleet of cruise ships for Carnival Cruise Lines to large-scale hotels to boutique hotels and lifestyle hospitality models and now education base and development projects.
Been part of the start-up team for Burj Al Arab which was one hi-light in my career for what it showed me where we could be as an industry and in a sense opened my eyes and unlocked the door to where I am now. Working internationally now for the past 23 years and in and about 19 countries. I am a complete culture junky and love getting involved in the nuts of bolts of my staffs’ culture, food, religion, and philosophies. Spending 7 years across Asia with companies such Alila Hotels running Kemang Icon which we won “The most romantic Destination” award from Mr & Mrs. Smith in a city hotel like Jakarta was something special for me.
Moving across companies such Oriental & Occidental to which we were part of the Design Hotels collection of villa development, really triggered my love for design and architecture and the boutique model. Asiana again a hi-end development company to which develop some of the most amazing developments to date. Moving back to RSA to work with Extra-bold and Mountgrace Country House & Spa to get back into my first love of hospitality F&B which was great and really got me back into my wines and whiskeys and gastronomy. Moving from RSA into Lagos to work with Fahrenheit and set up a sustainable local brand that could compete with international brands to which I feel we have very successfully brought a new domination to the lifestyle hospitality model to which is very personal and works like a hand in a glove. Each time I feel that I cannot do more – the glass ceiling breaks and a whole new world in hospitality development or industry occurs as it has once again as I have been nominated to sit on the Governing Council for LSETF with UNDP for hospitality working with arch skills and Lagos State. Once again a huge privilege and accolade. New and exciting ventures on the horizon with ASMS.
Stay tuned. The industry has no bounds and is on a new journey to see how I can influence the industry from an education perspective and new concepts perspective. Exciting times ahead, none of this would have been possible without the teams that have supported and trusted me in my mad vision.
What inspired your interest in the hospitality and tourism industry?
There is no better feeling in the world to see or sense satisfaction, there is something very humbling in providing service and exceeding one’s expectations – that smile – that deep hearted warmth that exudes from someone who did not expect it. There is nothing better. as we all love to experience it. I love to provide an experience it when I travel or go out to a place. We are all experience and emotional junkies. My passion for tourism has come from travelling and wondering why there was always this huge difference from been at home with mom and dad nagging or doing homework and comparing it be on the beach or at a game park where there were no rules and I was let loose to wander around resorts and most of the time ended up at the back of house with the hotel employees listening to the politics, the complaining, and various conversations. As far back as I can remember I have gravitated to restaurant operations I loved the fact that one could just have random conversations and earn money while having fun. In fact, I don’t think there is an industry that allows you to earn while making people have fun or relax and having fun or relaxing. What triggered me into hospitality and tourism was the beauty of the location and the typical traveler’s appetite to experience everything. Very difficult when you don’t have a load of cash but there is no better way than to do it while traveling and you get paid for it. Tourism how can you not fall in love with it? We are dream weavers and deliverers. Our imaginations are the only constraints. It’s from your heart and there is no P&L line called heart and carries no cost just passion and energy. Two things that we have in abundance.
In what ways has your company contributed to the growth of the hospitality industry and its stakeholders?
Our group of companies has invested heavily in professionalism and the training trying to elevate the market. Showing that there is a new dimension of service style – we believe that there must be a heavy commitment to training and development from well beyond a tertiary level we need to start this from a school level. It is a simple philosophy, one must give the youth offer day a choice of book or education opposed to violence or extremism tolerance and respect must come to the fore and this something that I feel we have done very successfully. Service in hospitality is the basis of this formula. Our company has pushed the envelope with regard to F&B development and conceptual design and in turn, elevated the available staff pool into much more productive and inspiring level. Passion must be dictated via leadership and this is something that we are all about. We have open-end our doors to tertiary entities to run programs along with us for hotel school students and trainees to come and work at the hotels under a work while earn philosophy. This not only gives us the business an op to develop a qualified staffing pool but also gives the trainees and students a launch pad to progress from. Personally been involved LSETF with UNDP for hospitality o develop a market we all can benefit from and support touch support students and ignite a passion for the industry is a great initiative to be involved in to which our companies will continue to support.
What are your major challenges in your business?
At the moment the same inherent challenges that we face in the industry are very similar across all hotel types and that has to be a low educated and skill base for line staff to which are the most important employees in any hotel model. This can only be rectified by training and development. Secondly, I find that there is not enough support from financial institutions understanding that hotels run on a seasonality basis and some hotels types experience cashflow restrictions to which it is very difficult to get support short-term from institutional lenders. Pilferage and loss are a constant battle in a hotel and drains profitability from the hotel matrix.
Even though most hotels budget for some sort of loss it is still a loss directly off the bottom line. Communication can ally be improved upon and taking ownership of the guest experience is something that can only add value, however, this is something that restricts hotel performance with the mindset of it is not my job, it is all of our jobs to generate top quality guest experiences. OTA coms are a major issue as this creates a very small window of discounted value to the guests and restricts penetration to the corp. market. thins something that needs to change. Federal and state support of driving the industry is an opportunity which has not been maximized as of yet. Infrastructure and power supply pollution and waste management are major challenges to tourists and hospitality – this is a major challenge.
What are your thoughts on the state of the hospitality & tourism industry in Nigeria?
I Feel that this should be separated into segments: Hospitality: Hospitality in Nigeria is something that I find a natural with all Nigerian people. I Find that Nigerian cultures are exceptionally hospitable and this reflects in the natural delivery within the industry. this must be developed further. The sector of hospitality as a service delivery and hotel models in the main city centers are abundant but there are some very interesting and unique brands that are starting to merge that can only add value to already hi performing industry. This can definitely be enhanced with some diverse and unique hospitality models. Te more that the industry evolves and organizations sit up and take note of the performance figs and the profitability thereof areas out of the city centers will start to develop further hence offering employment and returns to investors. There are all of the major brands available and they will continue to come to Nigeria if the political environment and financial out look remains and forecast good returns. I feel that emergence of local brands that understand the local market with entertainment complexes attached to accommodation is a area that will definitely develop further. Tourism: This is an area that I personally feel that we do not expose enough at all. The beaches out of the city centres and the natural landscape are perfect for tourism hotspots with all of the activities that are available in Nigeria from a commerce perspective I forecast that tourism along with commerce will continue to grow. There needs to be touristic initiatives that are supported by the hotel groups, tourism agencies / federal and state agencies need to create an environment that is conducive to what the potential of what we all know could be incredibly lucrative. Tourism can only realistically be exposed once there is stability and safe and secure environment is guaranteed. this is possible and i am hoping that this becomes a priority for the future for the leadership and the youth of Nigeria.
How do you intend to join in the campaign of changing the game and perception of the hospitality & tourism industry in Nigeria?
Whatever I can do I will do. I firmly believe in the fact that it all begins with education and exposure. It is of an utmost importance that initiatives like LSETF with UNDP and Archskills continue to develop the industry. Hotel School synergies with operating hotels need to be developed further and the synergies of hotels themselves need to develop programs of training and development and cross-training departments to develop multi-skilled labor force. it is up to the industry itself to generate the passion and the leadership styles that will intern higher values of services and profits for owners.
The salary structures go hand in hand with delivery. High performance higher profits higher salaries it’s its like the old paradigm of what came first the chicken or the egg. It is up to all leaders in the industry to inspire and mentor the youth of the country to get involved in service delivery it is of utmost importance that every individual of the industry set the best possible standard for the upcoming service providers. The perception on an international stage can only be changed by higher amounts if leisure travelers or reviews it is imperative that as an industry we continue to place out best foot fwd and impress with the best to change the current perception. I feel that as a hospitality professional it is up to me impart as much knowledge as I can to secure the future of the ins that I love.
Words of wisdom for intending and current industry stakeholders.
I can only summarise this in five simple points: The guest is not always right but it’s your job to make the situation right. There is no easy money in hospitality it is a long road and a very fruitful journey. There is no better impression than the first impression and the last impression is one that lasts. Procedures are guidelines but your passion dictates. It is not easy so don’t do it if you don’t mean it.