Olasheyemi Egbeyemi is the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Golden Legacy Hotels & Services. A tourism expert and manager of hotels and tourist outlets, the author of many books has a media background with a wealth of knowledge in script writing. In this interview with Afolabi Idowu and Ebere Chibuzor, in Sango Ota, Ogun State, Egbeyemi speaks on the hospitality and tourism sector of the economy, saying that maintenance culture is an integral aspect of hotel management. Excerpts:
Assessment of hospitality in Nigeria We have very good hotels in Nigeria, but we have not got there yet. Some infrastructure are not available and that is not the fault of the hotels. It is the fault of the regulatory bodies.
We don’t have standards as in regulations. Standard should start from even the ordinary restaurants because there are no measures to say that one could call this a bukateria or a restaurant. Things must be done properly. But talking about hotel management, we have very good hotels in Nigeria which are doing well and being managed by very good experts.
However, you can’t compare our tourism with some other tourist economies in the world, probably because of the security challenge Nigeria is facing.
Effects of poor regulation
The government believes more in taxing hotels than putting proper regulations in place. Every state has a Ministry of Culture and Tourism but these states don’t do proper regulation. The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) has put in a lot since the days of Segun Runsewe up to the current Director General, Sally Mbanefo. But I believe the agency should go beyond trying.
Every Dick, Tom, and Harry wakes up and opens a hotel without following the due process of what it should be. The designs do not match safety measures. A kitchen in the wrong place, no walkway for staff, no staff bays. There are hotels in five-storey buildings without safety measures for fire incidents. From inception, there must be regulation in the construction of a hotel.
The difference is very clear. There are hotels, motels, brothels, and guest houses. The history of hotels started in this country as a government guest house
A motel is a stopover for people travelling. A guest house is a place where you reside as a guest and are served as a guest.
A hotel is a large place with facilities – swimming pool, bar, garden et cetera. The facilities for leisure must be in a hotel, and of course properly trained staff to handle the things you need as a guest in a hotel.
Most people go into hotel business for the purpose of making money; they don’t look at the standards or maintenance culture. I was in one hotel recently in Ibadan and I told the owner that when I come back here in six months’ time your lavatory will not be good for anybody to use because the housekeeper is not trained properly on how to handle it. Also, the edges of that hotel were decaying yet it is a new hotel that is not up to a year old. Maintenance culture must be a key factor in hotel management; when this is not taken into cognizance the facilities gradually deteriorate and the owners start looking for remedy.
When people call us for intervention, we do proper intervention and assess what the problems are and advise and give the terms of engagement. We have done that for a couple of hotels with six months or one year intervention programmes.
We standardise and come back to check if standard is being followed. We retrain their staff, we kit them, and inculcate serious maintenance culture into their system. We also ask them to touch their structure in terms of painting. And their environment must be clean and very inviting. When you have an environment that is not inviting and also staff that are not courteous enough and very friendly and amiable, you will lose customers. When you have rooms that are decaying and smelling you will lose customers. All these, put together make a hotel go down. When we come in we resuscitate these hotels and add value, which eventually push traffic to the business.
Reviving ailing hotels
The survival rate is very high. We have done well for very many but most of them are struggling because of the uncooperative attitude of some owners.
We also do proper assessment of both the hotel and the person involved; we want to understand why the hotel crashed. After the assessment we allow the owner to run it and we give him guidelines. We train owners because some want to stay by their business; we can’t blame them. Some take training quite well and it affects their business positively.
We have 36 states in Nigeria and I have visited all as a broadcaster and a media person. I love travel, and when I travel I have to lodge in hotels hence I have been to so many hotels around Nigeria and also outside the shores of this country, therefore I must have garnered a lot of experience.
I have also done a lot of research in tourism. Apart from that, my parents were caterers and I grew up knowing how to bake cakes, so hospitality is a natural thing in my home and that became a part of me. I have attended courses in Nigeria, South Africa, and other parts of the world. These I did diligently because I wanted to learn, I wanted to know more about tourism; and to God be the glory, every day of my life I explore something new about tourism and leisure.
When we need to train, I am not the only person who handles it. There are other experts, people who studied hospitality science and culinary science. We bring them together depending on the area these hotels want them to handle. For instance, I am a specialist in environmental rejuvenation and values; I love room decorations and I love housekeeping.
Business summit in Sango Ota
Sango is a commercial hub of Ogun State. It is very close to one of our major borders in this country, the popular Idi Iroko. Sango is a few kilometres to Agbara Industrial Estate, a few kilometres to Badagry, and even the second major border, Seme. Sango is home to many barracks. There is no other part of this country that has as much concentration of military presence as Sango. Sango is the border town between Lagos and Ogun States; it is the gateway to other cities in Ogun like Ilaro, Abeokuta, and of course Ayetoro.
So, the Sango business summit exhibition is to highlight the industrial, agricultural, and tourism potential of one of the key commercial centres in Ogun State.
Sango has a unique commercial value. The old Gateway Hotel was in Sango, we have very good universities like BELL and Covenant.
Every day Sango receives visitors but it needs something to highlight its potential, and that thing is the Sango business summit and exhibition; a forum where the captains of industry come together and share and cross-fertilise ideas that will add value to their businesses.
Sango business summit and exhibition has the support of the Ogun State government and a lot of infrastructure is being built in Sango Ota.
An annual forum like Sango business summit and exhibition will shed more global light on the potential of the city. The name does not say that we are going to limit the focus to the location. It is just to bring the core of businesses to Sango.
It is like the country hosting the World Cup in Calabar or Kaduna. The intention of accepting to host is to let people come and see what the city has but it is not only the people of that area that will play football. Sango business summit is open to all businesses across Nigeria, the focus will not only be on Sango’s industrial agricultural and tourism potential even though a special emphasis will be on Sango. Need for regional business summit
I support regional business summit. I am a consultant to the Community Newspaper Publishers Association of Nigeria and I have discovered that community-based papers do concrete reporting that affects the people.
Sango business summit is about the economy generally but with a focus on the happenings in Sango, so the regional thing about the summit is that all the kinds of businesses found everywhere are in Sango.
They are internationally based and have their international outlets everywhere, so that will attract them to Sango. Sango deserves more focus than it is getting at the moment.
The city is close to Lagos and Ogun and businesses in these two states can derive a lot of values from Sango if the potential is properly placed. We will not move the summit from city to city because it is a Sango-based summit. Place in Sango in Nat Infrastructure for economic development is the theme of this particular edition.
We want to highlight infrastructure as it affects Sango. We are not talking of roads alone, we are talking of electricity and so many other things, and how they affect the economic growth of a state.
If you take Sango out of Ogun State, the revenue that will be lost will be colossal, so Ogun cannot afford to ignore Sango. Also, stakeholders must come together and contribute to its infrastructural growth.
Issues that need to be discussed at the summit include the role of the government, manufactures, corporate organisations in infrastructural development, and how to separate tax payment from social responsibility. I will say without exaggeration that Sango contributes about 25 per cent to the economy of Ogun State.
Almost every major manufacturing firm is situated in Sango and that tells a lot about the economic importance of the city. It takes a visionary leader to identify potential; Sango deserves more than it is getting at the moment. For the first time in the history of Ogun State, good roads have sprung up in Sango, and that is the beginning. One of the reasons why the summit is important is that it will enable Sango to get its share of development
– Stories: Ebere Chibuzor