Jonas Schwarz Lausten
Co- owner, Nordic Hotels
7 years industry experience
In a few words tell us about yourself.
I’m born and raised in Herning, right in the center of Denmark. Its known for it’s entrepreneurialism and its textile industry. My father was an entrepreneur and owned a few textile businesses and sat on various boards. He lived in Nigeria back in the 1970s for 7 years. My mother was a school teacher. When she was in her 50s she decided that she wasn’t done learning and took a Masters degree in speech therapy.
My parents are fantastic people who’ve inspired me to become who I am today. My brother is one of my partners. My sister is working in the space between digital and analogue helping businesses bridge the gap. She’s super creative and quite the entrepreneurial spirit too. I hold a Masters degree in Social Sciences and Business from Copenhagen Business School, Denmark and University of Stirling, Scotland.
What inspired your interest in the hospitality and tourism industry?
My partners, Collins, Anders and Christian and I started 7 years ago because we had a need for a hotel that offered value for money and internet (included in the room rate). That practically didn’t exist in Abuja 7 years ago.
We saw a gap in the market and we basically just went for it – we opened Nordic Villa without knowing what we were doing. We had no hotel background and no experience operating hotels. That turned out to be our advantage as we were free to think differently about the setup and operations.
We had all travelled the world so we had strong opinions on what service is and how it should be performed so we gathered a service guide from all our experience and trained our staff the way we wanted it to be done.
My partners had a consultancy working with digital branding and strategies and this has helped us a lot also. We’ve always been inspired by Ett Hem in Stockholm, Sweden. A small place with world class service and experience – it’s stunning.
What’s your vision for the hospitality & tourism industry?
To grow the Nigerian market and improve service here in general. We need to offer the best service in West Africa to be able to attract tourists – they’re demanding and with high hotel rates we need to offer them the best.
At Nordic Hotels we’re constantly working on improving our experience and service. By training our staff and by improving our interior and making it even more live-able so it in it self becomes an experience.
In what ways has your company contributed to the growth of the hospitality industry and it’s stakeholders?
I believe we’ve pushed the boundaries for how service is performed in Nigeria. When we started offering free wifi was not a thing at all – for us it was the most natural. 7 years ago nobody had seen the kind of welcome we did/do – a tray with a cold well scented cloth to wipe the sweat off your face with or clean your hands, a glass of juice and a big smile.
By constantly updating ourselves, our concept and experience has grown into the market – we see more and more hotels prioritizing this today.
Also prioritizing having a strong online presence was not something we saw 5-7 years ago. We were one of the first hotels in Abuja to do online booking. We also started from day one working strategically with social media as a means to drive bookings. We’d like to take a bit of credit for these things to have become the norm today for the good hotels.
What are your major challenges in your business?
In any business you’ll experience challenges. In our case we’re challenged to keep to our high standards – something we work hard on everyday. Maintaining our product and improving. We are also challenged by other hotels copying what we’re doing, but at the same time this tells we’re doing something right.
What are your thoughts on the state of the hospitality & tourism industry in Nigeria?
When we started 7 years ago nobody had seen the kind of welcome we do – a tray with a cold well scented cloth to wipe the sweat of your face with or clean your hands, a glass of juice and a big smile – this is not that foreign anymore.
Hospitality and service is changing and becoming better. These are elements of creating a better and stronger hospitality and tourism industry in Nigeria.
Further we see an increase in sights that are being developed – now where Nigerians are not traveling abroad as much as before Nigeria needs her own sights and entertainment and it’s coming.
How do you intend to join in the campaign of changing the game and perception of the hospitality & tourism industry in Nigeria?
I believe we already are. By proving that a no-brand hotel can in fact make it to the top in the Nigerian hospitality market is changing the perception for many new hotels.
We’ve proven that with a strong branding effort and conceptualization you can go very far! But we can all do better – we have to keep at it. I believe it’s super important to work on creating happiness at work. Happy staff – happy guests.
Words of wisdom for intending and current industry stakeholders.
Prioritizing staff well being is key to succeed in this game. If you’re staff is happy so will your guests be. We have integrated creativity as a part of our training because we believe that creativity will make better staff and a stronger team.
By being creative and having a creative space around you will put you in a position to make better decisions. More and more hotels are opening up and the standard is getting better. We see an interest in businessmen wanting to open hotels and making a great product and they’re also realizing that it takes hard work and resources to build and maintain.
The quality is defiantly growing which is good, but it’s important to know that operating hotels are time consuming and maintaining them are resourceful and necessary to stay on top of the game.