PAMELA JONAH is the General Manager of Continent Hotel in Akure, Nigeria. In this interview with OMOLOLU OLUMUYIWA, speaks on her experience in the hospitality industry, highlighted some challenges in the hospitality sector and proffer solutions to overcome the problems. She shares what makes Continent Hotel stand out and why the first time guests will always want to come back again. Excerpts:
- CAN YOU SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY WITH US?
It Gives You Room to Grow. The hospitality industry allows you to develop yourself – professionally and as a person. Not only do you improve on the professional skills you already possess, but with time and commitment you learn others due to the variety of colleagues, clients and situations that will put you to the test.
Various characteristics are required for working in a hotel. These range from soft-skills such as organization, communicating or working in a team; to more technical competences such as serving, revenue management, accounting and facilities management.
Also, probably the most important matter is that you – literally – take care of people. This is debatable, but my experience tells me it takes empathy and commitment to put another person’s needs and desires ahead of your own – while keeping a smile on your face.
Customers come to hotels for various reasons, but in short, they want an experience. They want hotel employees and representatives to accord their time, care and attention. And just as people differ greatly, so does the care and commitment each hotelier exhibits to his/her clients.
Some may settle for meeting the basics, such as checking-in a family or serving beverages at the hotels bar, but others will take an extra step and not just meet their client’s demands, but also exceed them. (Selfless services).
With today’s fast-growing businesses, more and more focus is channeled towards making a profit, which is the main purpose of business in the first place; however, in hotels the products are not limited to events, meals, rooms or drinks – they extend to service and there is always a way to improve services and our service-industry skills.
It’s just awesome!
The reason why I love hospitality so much is simple: it’s fun – as in enjoyable. All the dynamics, all the shifting with different responsibilities and the feeling you have when you start training and end up in a managing position, it’s more than satisfactory at the end of the day.
And it does not stop with the customer-facing part of the hotel, you have the opportunity to meet and socialize with people representing a wide range of nationalities, in an even wider range of places all around the world.
In conclusion, the hospitality industry is a pretty interesting and pleasant domain to get involved As any other job, it has its ups and downs, and that’s the great part of it: there is always place for innovation and there will always be innovators.
- LOOKING AT THE HOTEL BUSINESS IN NIGERIA, WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES AND YOUR VIEWS ON THE WAY OUT?
More often than not, you find hotels in Nigeria going out of business.
This unfortunate circumstance is actually due to several mitigating factors that have seem to become the norm. Nonetheless there are various effective hospitality tips and tricks that can help in facilitating success in Nigerian hotels and the hospitality industry at large.
Some reports show that the Nigerian Hospitality Industry contributed about 4.8% of the country’s GDP, gross domestic product, and that by the end of 2021 the industry will be worth about $1.118 trillion.
Every street corner you find hotels, Air B&B, Guest Houses, and Residential apartments turning into hotels. Yet, as they are opening at such a fast rate, they close down even faster.
Owners Interference: “I am the Ex-CEO of a bank, I have run 5 companies, I am a financial wizard so what is so complicated in running a hotel?” Hmm… Stop right there.
Running a hotel in Nigeria is not the same as running a hotel in Europe; owner’s interference is the main reason why hotels in Nigeria fail. Hotel owners believe they know it all and know more than the hospitality expert. Hence, they open a hotel and after 6 months, they get to realize that it is not business as usual.
No Online Presence: 80% of hotels in Nigeria lack online presence and do not have a website. No website means a loss in up to 50% of your revenue. For as little as ₦70,000 you can have a website, an official email address and a Pay Direct button embed into your site, all handled by Horeca Cloud.
No Investment in Training: Its Monday, 9.00 am and your Waiter just quit. Then, by 3.00 pm you’ve already hired his replacement. Neither a prior background nor reference check was carried out. The new Waiter has no knowledge of the hotel facility, yet, you keep complaining that the service is bad and business is slow.
- HOW DO YOU FIX THIS?
Ensure on-boarding is done for New Hire Develop a train-the-trainer programme for each department. Increase in Taxes (VAT is Now 7.5 %). Let’s face it, the new VAT & CBN stamp put a damper on hotel revenue. It means more remittance and more Tax. Hello Mr. Hotel Owner, this does not solely affect you. Hotels that pay their staff service charge have seen over 70% increase in guest and employee satisfaction. Service charge is 10% in Nigeria and is also known as the staff tips paid in bulk.
Create a service charge culture in your hotel: Agree to a service charge sharing rota with finance Have a monthly staff meeting and pay service charge promptly at the 15th of every month High Theft
First, let’s create 3 relatable scenes:
- “Hello Madam this is Bello the Security guard, please Ma I found 100 USD in the waiter’s pocket when I searched him”
- “Oga 1 bottle of Hennessey is missing from the store I am suspecting Sule because he worked
- “Kola how come the goat meat I bought yesterday has finished and yet you said no sales?”
It’s safe to say a large number of those in the hospitality business have probably witnessed the instances above. Theft in the hotel industry in Nigeria is quite high. You hire today, you fire tomorrow, is there no end? Well, here is the good news, it does end.
Thanks to HORECA cloud, hotel owners can now spot theft a mile away and stop it. HORECA cloud is an online cloud-based property management software designed for Nigerian hotels. It has all you need and it being cloud-based means you can know what is happening in your hotel anywhere and anytime.
“My Brother is the GM and My Wife is the Procurement Officer & MD”
Before you hire your family member as the Manager of your hotel ensure that they have gotten the proper training and are equipped to run a hotel.
Disregarding Feedback: Most guests read online reviews of hotels before making a choice. Not paying attention to feedback from guests will negatively affect the online reservation stream. When negative reviews outweigh positive reviews without follow up responses by the hotel, online potential bookers become apprehensive and look for alternatives within the same star grade and pricing. Most hotels offer feedback forms either at check out or in the room.
Have a guest feedback form in your room; Send guest welcome and departure email with Horeca Cloud; Have one on one conversations with the guest to get tangible feedback
Poor Marketing; Many Hotels struggle with success due to the implementation of poor marketing. A hotel needs proper marketing tactics to stay competitive and relevant in the industry.
The reach of marketing cannot be underestimated. Hire Curzon Communications to boost your hotel’s visibility. It is the best go-to for the right marketing strategy for your hotel and hospitality business at large.
Seasonality; Most hotels/restaurants do not put into recognizance that the hospitality has its low and peak seasons. When the peak and low periods are established, it is always brilliant to plan ahead in order to sustain the business.
Poorly Serviced Room; Let’s create another instance here:
Guest to Receptionist: “Can I see your manager? I want a refund, the roof is leaking, the bedsheet is dirty, and there is no hot water in my room”
Receptionist to the Guest: “Hmm oga abeg no refund o, My MD has traveled but please Sir can I give you a bucket and boil hot water for you? We also have Fan as the AC is not working.”
The above dialogue is the norm in boutique hotels in Nigeria. Poorly cleaned and maintained rooms will cause dissatisfaction and affect repeat guests. When guests do not get value for their money, they make alternative plans. Air conditioning, hot water, water pressure, bad mattress, linens and towers, ambiance, poor TV signal are some of the major complaints about rooms. It is more frustrating for guests where they are moved to another room and they experience the same or even worse challenges than the previous room.
Staff welfare; One more scene, shall we?
“Oh God what kind of Job is this? It is the 15th of the month and I have not been paid, No staff meal, late payment of salary, no medicals, right infringement etc. “As simple as they may look or sound, they form the most important mind set of how staff will relate with the environment.
This is the cry of 70% of waiters in Nigeria; you owe them and yet you wonder why they steal?
Dear Hotel owner, the issue here is that business is down because you are not doing well. But guess what? If you did the right thing from the beginning business will be up.
- CONTINENT HOTEL IS A GLOBAL BRAND, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SUSTAIN THE EXPECTED STANDARD IN MEETING UP WITH THE CUSTOMERS EXPECTATIONS?
Customers always look forward to a friendly, proficient and consistent service when it comes to hotels and also look at the development of new technology, thereby creating a rise in their expectations. In this industry, the customer is king and the motive of the industry is to keep their customers happy. With the margins now decreasing rapidly in the changing times, it is challenging to keep up with the new trends, accept and implement the changes and be visible in the competition; simply keeping the customers happy is not enough anymore.
Customers want more efficient service than before and with consumer behavior changing constantly, businesses need to stay up-to-date with customer expectations.
Modern customers are mostly global travelers that include millennial’s, corporate and families.
They have much higher expectations, such as proactive service, tailored interactions and connected experiences across the hotel in all areas. Gone are the days when customers
expected basics, like quality service and fair pricing. In these modern times with so much exposure around, and the rise of digital and social media presence, customers expect hotels to understand their needs and expectations. What customers remember these days are the clean and comfortable rooms, prompt services but most importantly is the human touch. Customers
remember the people and the personalized services offered to them during their stay. They love to be called and remembered by name and not just their identity as a room number in the hotel.
These expectations are designed by customers’ prior experiences and the specific circumstances of their life situation.
At Continent, we believe in leaving no stone unturned in providing the personalized services. In the evening when the guests return back to their room, they see personalized amenities, their personal belongings organized as per their liking or any of their items getting over is often replenished with a new pack and a personalized note by housekeeping talent. We also have other small touches like their phone charger or other wires neatly wrapped in Continent Hotel branded Velcro, or the pillow of their preference pre placed in the room.
We have also often had cases of guests missing their loved ones or even pets back home and we try our best to ensure a smile on their face with simple things in their rooms like towel art or even stuffed toys.
- WHY DO YOU THINK THE FIRST TIME CUSTOMERS WILL SURELY WANT TO COME BACK TO CONTINENT HOTEL?
We offer a Guest Loyalty Program with Incentives Guest reward programs are a positive way to increase business and encourage patrons to become return customers at your hotel. Incentives like preferred discounts on local car rentals, flights, and restaurants are effective partnerships to establish. Perks that appeal to guests’ wallets, such as free high-speed Wi-Fi, drink vouchers, and discounts on room rates are effective ways to keep guests coming back to your hotel as well. A loyalty program shows guests appreciation for consistent business and rewards patrons for choosing to stay at your hotel.
We go above and beyond what’s expected by Guests The hospitality industry is all about quality customer service. Making the effort to go above and beyond customers’ expectations fosters a positive experience and encourages guests to become return customers at your hotel over others. Staying up-to-date on the latest hotel trends is also important. Remember, return customers come back because they want to repeat their amazing and memorable stay.
Sending out a timely “thank you” email or note to your guests is a personalized touch they will definitely remember. After guests leave your hotel, they’ll likely not expect to hear from you so soon. An immediate sense of recognition and appreciation for their business will help you stand out. Remember, if you want more return customers, you need to reach out and ensure they feel welcomed to return!
We cater more than one type of guest. Catering your hotel amenities and accommodations to more than one type of guest is key to attracting more returning customers to your hotel. From the single business class traveler to the couple on their honeymoon or large families with small children (and maybe pets), your hotel should be equipped to meet every patron’s needs. The greater the variety of customers you’re able to accommodate, the more you’ll see successful repeat business.
* IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS, WHERE DO YOU THINK CONTINENT HOTEL WILL BE IN NIGERIA HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY?
I have concrete reason to believe that in 5years time, we would have several hotels branches operating in Nigeria. So that will give us a beautiful network which will make us easily the number one operating hotel company in Nigeria.