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By NBF News
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• •Loxsley
The hospitality business in Nigeria is become an emerging one, with every player in the industry trying to make a statement through the level of service it can offer, especially when the fact is considered that over 1,000 bed spaces have been added to the existing hotel facilities in the Victoria Island, Ikoyi,Lagos axis alone in the last two years.

But one man is not really loosing sleep over this development. And he is the General Manager of Southern Sun Hotels, Ikoyi, Mr. Mark Loxsley, owners of the refurbished Ikoyi Hotel.

In this interview, Loxsley bares his mind on the operating business environment of hotels in Nigeria, submitting that hotel managers, irrespective of the challenges must keep up its social responsibility initiative, while also serving the business community in a responsible manner.

Hospitality business in Lagos Nigeria
When I came to Nigeria about two years ago, I noticed that hotels have room rates separate from other bills. For instance, when you take breakfast, it is charged separately and it goes for a small item as bottled water. You are charged separately for these services. All these we had to change when we came on board, realizing that the market has massive potentials. But these potentials can only be realized based on the kind of service you offer

Though, the reason for these extra costs can be attributed to the challenges associated with doing business in Nigeria. And this ranges from the challenge in providing security to electricity. Hotel rooms in Nigeria costs more than hotels in some countries of the world because of the comparatively higher cost of hotel operations in Nigeria.

A major cause of this high cost of operations is the lack of steady public electricity supply. Hotels have to resort to spending a lot of money on buying diesel and maintaining generators to generate electricity. While a standard hotel room in some countries, like Dubai, Kenya, South Africa, costs between $200 (N30, 000) and $250 (N37,500), the same room costs between $300 (N45,000) and $350 (N52,500) in Nigeria.

There is a lot of financial pressure out there. A guest that comes here knows in advance that he will be paying $380 for a room and at the same time, he knows that in Dubai the same room goes for $250 in a four-star hotel.

I will not be hesitant to say Lagos is probably the most expensive hotel destination in the world. I keep reminding the staff and management that when a customer gets in here, be kind, be nice, be helpful to the guest, make sure the service is done with a quick sense of urgency, make sure there is a decent breakfast, the room must be clean and in an hygienic condition. The facilities must work at all times and of course must be maintained as well, because there is a lot more pressure on the hotels here.

Raising the bar in hotel business
Like I said earlier, that Lagos is probably the most expensive hotel destination in the world. And as such, anyone paying that much for a hotel in Lagos, which, customers know for sure that, they can get same room for less in other parts of the world, deserves to get noting, but world class service akin to what they can get in any other destination around the world.

For us at Southern Sun Hotels, Ikoyi, we are constantly raising the bar to justify the money paid by our clients, realizing that we have so many competitors around us. We don't have a choice other than to provide world-class service, which we are doing through several means. We need business and professional etiquette. Certain Nigerian expressions are shut down here not because I don't like Nigerian expressions because I have equally learnt some expressions in a couple of countries.

You remember the phrase; how was your day, how was your night? I can't have a security guard or porter say that because it is just a blank expression. It is not wrong. And there is noting wrong with it. But within the context of international clientele coming here, whether the guest had a good night or bad night, it is of no consequence.  It is intrusive.

The guest, who is not familiar with the person in question, so why the intrusion, how was your day, how was your night first thing in the morning? It might be something small, but somebody can take offence with that.

So, there is a lot more expectation from the guest that comes into Lagos. Some times, people can't comprehend that and we have to keep reminding the management and ourselves that it is an ongoing exercise.

Capturing the market
For us, we provide a lot of complimentary services compared to other hotels around. We offer free parking lot for our guests. Access to the gymnasium with three full time fitness instructors on ground is also an added incentive, together with free 24-hours internet wi-fi.

We equally have a package called Frequent Guest (FG). Guests on this platform can accumulate points over a period of time, which can subsequently be redeemed. And one good thing about the FG is that, the points to be redeemed are not limited to our Lagos hotel. It can be redeemed in any of our hotels around the world. These are the added benefit that we have.

Again, we have two car hire service companies running 24-hours on site here as well as protocol service, laundry, kitchen, business center and in-room dinning. All these services run 24-hours a day. There is also a cocktail bar. So, returning to connect flights for our guest is as easy as that. Our hotel is just a one-stop shop, where everything can be arranged on site. All guests that are checked in, must be taken care of. The same sense of urgency must always be there and the service must be serious. Training is ongoing, even to a certain extent that in a month, we take certain group of staff, 20, and 25 and within a cycle of a year, we cover the entire contingent of the workforce.

The security concern in the country provides hotels with extra responsibility. And for us, there are two aspects we are looking at interms of improving on our existing security, beyond the CCTV cameras already in place and the guardrooms on every floor. And at the moment, we are also looking at bringing in bomb detection devise, which we are going to be using as a scanner.

So, when the cars are coming through the main gates, we have the ability to scan it before they come in. What people want is peace of mind in terms of certain security. Security is an issue everywhere in the world. If you have a secured hotel, it might bring you more new businesses.