Hotels Are Actually Municipals On Their Own

Kevin Kamau – Radisson Hotel Group District Director Nigeria/ General Manager Radisson Blu, Anchorage Hotel.

IWA: Going by your pedigree in the hospitality industry, can you please tell us the position hotels occupy in the hospitality industry globally?

Kevin: Simply put, hotels the world over drive business activities as they serve as catalyst to making their location, commercial hubs. Let’s take the tourism industry as our first example,anLS THE WORLD OVER, GENERALLY there is no doubt that the development of the tourism industry in any society comes with so much opportunities, but it is also clear that the industry cannot thrive without the availability of good and affordable hotels. For instance, one of the primary factors anyone coming from a place like Abidjan or Congo Brazzaville into Lagos would first consider is accommodation, how good and how expensive the hotels he or she would be staying are. I am sure you will agree with me that to stay in a good hotel in Lagos is very expensive at least when compared to a place like London, Dubai or even South Africa. Unfortunately, this is a major disincentive to the growth of the tourism industry in Nigeria. Therefore, it must be clearly stated that for tourism to really flourish in Nigeria, the government must ensure that there are enough hotels and they must be very competitive in terms of their rates and quality.  

Moving away from tourism, lets us examine the impact of hotels on the corporate segment by way of meetings, incentive, convention and events, what is commonly known as MICE. The more hotels and the more rooms there are in a society, the easier it is to bid for huge MICE events. Lagos for example does not have enough capacity to bid to host African Union events; the number of rooms available now is simply not enough to cope with the demands of such events. In addition, Lagos lack convention facilities, as we speak there is almost no internationally acceptable convention facility in Lagos. Incidentally, hosting of these kinds of events have a massive positive spill over effect on the commercial activities of countries. One country that comes to mind that is reaping the gains of its government’s understanding of the tremendous opportunities inherent in having enough good and affordable hotels in their country is Rwanda.

Now, what naturally happens is that, the more hotels in a country, the more competitive they become. Customers are able to get very good hotels for cheaper rates and they are able to attract more visitors. I must say that the lack of competition breeds complacency. If we have a bit of more competition, Hoteliers will become more creative with their offerings. I guess it is safe to say that more hotels and other hospitality products have entered more into this market in the last 3 years when compared to the last 6 years when I came into the market.

IWA: So how would you describe the hospitality industry in Nigeria now?

Kevin: In general, I would say the industry is growing and beginning to boom. The crux of the matter in my opinion is that Nigeria, like most other African countries, was not traditionally a service oriented country; the focus in the early 80s and 90s for most African countries was more for commercial and manufacturing activities, there were little or no emphasis on hospitality. The truth is, it wasn’t until after 2010 that we sort of started seeing the opportunity in hospitality. However, it is gratifying that the youths are now going to school to study and say they want to develop a career working in a hotel and not the usual I want to be a doctor or banker. It may be slow, but we are moving in the right direction. Six years ago, there was probably only one school offering hospitality related courses in Lagos, now we have the likes of Lagos Business School (LBS), offering courses in hospitality. It is important to note that a hotel is not just about accommodation, what people fail to realize is that a hotel is like a municipal on its own; it must provide its own power, water, food, waste management, financial management, operations management and so on. All these perhaps go to show that there’s a lot more that goes into running an hotel. I am therefore glad that the hospitality industry is fast growing in Nigeria. I am particularly happy with the introduction of more schools, and we partnering with some of them to train and pull the right capacity of human capital from them.

IWA: What are the core competitive strengths of Radisson Blu and how have they worked for you as regards the brand in Nigeria?

Kevin: I would like to say that Radisson is a Nigerian brand, and I will explain why I said so, when Radisson as a brand came into Africa, one of the first two markets we opened in was Nigeria and South Africa. So this hotel is actually one of the first learning points for the brand in Africa. For me, the journey through these years is our biggest strength in this market. We may have originated from Switzerland, but we’re still very much African. At the 5 and 4 star levels, we got the Radisson, Radisson Park inn and the Radisson collection, and these 3 brands are growing at almost twice the rate of any other major brand in Africa.

The truth is, we understand Africa; we have an African headquarters’ situated in South Africa, so we say we run out of Africa. There is no other international brand that can boost of having a headquarters in Africa, this tells you how serious we are about Africa. The second strength that I can possibly flag is that the brands we have are very suited to this market, if you tell someone Radisson Blu, they can relate to what it means; It is a high end brand and they know that, if you tell someone Park inn, they know that is targeted at the middle class of the market. I must say that we have really done well in mastering our craft with these two initial brands that we introduced into this market.  

Therefore, with the successes and strengths we have built over time in running the Radisson Blu and the Radisson Park inn brands in this market, we were able to open the Radisson which is our third brand this year. We are also ready to, within the next 6 to 12 months open the Radisson collections. That shows you the confidence we have in the market. This is good for both the owners and customers as well as the staff because it gives room for more development opportunities. The other big strength is diversity. I haven’t seen any other brand that focuses on diversity and development of local content as much as we do. For example, we train and develop Africans to take up the traditionally expatriate jobs. We are the only Nigerian brand with a female general manager and that just stands us out. I am an African and we hope that when I eventually leave, I will be replaced with a Nigerian general manager someday. We also move our people around for exposure, currently a Nigerian Sous Chef is serving in one of our hotels in Sierra Leone and our hope is that when he would be returning back to Nigeria he would have been ripe enough to return as the executive chef. So we look at everything holistically as work-in-progress for the brand. If we have the right people, then we are able to serve the customers right.

IWA: What is the Radisson Blu average occupancy rate and what are the factors responsible for it?

Kevin: We are doing well in the market, particularly in the Nigerian market. The economy seems stable, not minding the fact that the general election was held this year, everything seems to have gone quite peacefully. The government seem to be putting policies that help support and stabilise the economy in place and I must say that is good.  If I should speak a little more about the government policies, I am happy about their focus on encouraging a lot more locally produced products. This really helps our business to be able to sustain the rates. In addition to that, internally we also try to think outside the box. For instance, our chef, the house keeper and the head gardener, have said that we can’t keep importing some of the spices we use, and they went ahead to create a garden for such supplies. Such small things help us grow our capacity. You can see a lot of emphasis on the local farming and agriculture.

IWA: What would you describe as your most memorable moments in Radisson Blu since you became the general manager?

Kevin: There have been very many memorable moments for me, but probably the biggest ones are when I walk into other branches of Radisson and I see the different heads of department whom we first employed as cleaners or waiters, for me you can’t beat that, it makes you feel proud. There’s an excitement in the fact that I am able to be part of changing and transforming lives and that stirs up some good memories in me. Someone gave me a chance at some point, so I am happy that like them I am able to also give chances to other members of the team. So perhaps those are the memories that puts a smile on my face the most.

IWA: Are you comfortable working in Nigeria and what Nigerian Food do you love most and what are the parts of Nigerian culture that you like the most?

Kevin: Let me start with the people, Nigerians are very friendly. My wife says that each time she travels out of Nigeria the thing she misses the most is the warmth of Nigerians. The average Nigerian is constantly asking about your wellbeing; the truth is that they have a particular greeting for almost every situation. It is in Nigeria that people will ask you and say Sir, how was your weekend or how was yesterday? It is also here that find people saying, Sir, how has your day been or hope you are well? The truth is that it is possible to take that for granted here because it’s part of the people’s culture but you don’t find it everywhere, so for me this is one of the things I love the most about the Nigerian culture. I also love the weather, I know that there are challenges here like there are everywhere else in the world, but with those challenges come very many opportunities. It’s been very exciting for me living here, and I have actually been for 6 wonderful years. I have even had some of my children here; so, it’s truly been a fruitful experience for me.

IWA: You made a mention of opportunities, can you please specifically highlight these opportunities, particularly the ones that directly impact on your industry?

Kevin: One of those areas is Agriculture, there are massive opportunities in Agriculture for Nigeria to explore.     Recently, I had a chat with someone who is into the production of milk and he told been that the milk that is being currently produced in Nigeria cannot even cater to 10% of the local population. So investment can be made into rearing more dairy cattle. I am a strong believer in getting things done indigenously, so we are presently working with some communities in Nigeria for beef production; we want to rear the cattle in a way that we will not only get sufficient beef but we also get the right quality. Note that the cattle they have in Denmark, Nairobi, Durban or Cape Town are most likely to be same like the ones here in Nigeria, they only have different processes of feeding, and rearing.

However, I am glad that looking back at the way things were 6 years ago, there has been a lot of improvement regarding the level of imports into Nigeria, but I must say that we certainly can do a lot better than how we are now in terms of the level of imports into Nigeria. I can’t wait for when what Dangote group and Honeywell flour mills are doing with pasta or flour, will be replicated with rice and other essential produce in Nigeria.

IWA: What does one need to succeed in the tourism industry?

Kevin: The most important qualification for success in my opinion is passion, I don’t think you can be successful at anything without having passion for that thing. Everyone that I know that has succeeded in what they do, are people with genuine passion for what they do. Passion breeds a staying spirit that nothing else can give one. I usually tell departmental heads not to hire anyone only for that person’s experience, we will rather hire a person with passion but without experience since we can train him or her to become an expert on the job, but we can’t force that person to be passionate about the job, it’s something that comes from within.  

IWA: This is usually my last question, what is that thing that you would like to tell Africans?

Kevin: I think we haven’t realised yet that Africa is the next or new frontier, it is why all the Chinese, Americans and European firms are investing here. You are talking about a population of over 1.4 billion, the market is here, so the opportunity is not coming, it is already here. We should believe in Africa, rather than always wanting to go and seek for greener pastures out there, let’s look inward and contribute our own quota to making Africa better than it is now.

IWA: Do you have any other thing to say?

Kevin: The Radisson group is a growing brand, we’ve got 5 key brands that are really going to grow in this market; Radisson Collection – which is our luxury brand, Radisson Blu – we all know as our upscale brand, and the Radisson Park Inn – for the middle class. The latest in our collection is the Radisson Red, which is designed to be very engaging because it is targeted at the millennials.

Summer Holiday Experience with Toke Makinwa, Bonang Matheba, Mai Atafo, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Ameyaw Debra, Folu Storms, Sister Deborah In South Africa!

Our favourite influencers are having the time of their lives right now enjoying the amazing scenery, culture, adventures and thrills of the rainbow nation this Summer season in the Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal province of South Africa. From Power Boat rides on the Knysna Lagoon to Lunch at the Vintage Cargo Hold Restaurant, the trip will be an activity-filled and memorable one.

Sensational South African media personality Bonang Matheba in collaboration with South Africa Tourism is hosting guests from Nigeria and Ghana to a fun-filled, eight-day summer experience focused on the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. The guests present on the trip are Radio Presenter and Media starlet Toke Makinwa, renowned fashion designer Mai Atafo, celebrity photographer Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Ghanian Writer and Blogger Ameyaw Debrah, Musician Sister Deborah, Chidera Mouka, Kola Oshalusi, Folu Storms and the MTV Base crew.

Sister Deborah and Toke Makinwa Quad biking
Group Quad biking at the Tsitsikanmi bay
Mai Atafo

Influencers arrived at Goerge Airport located in George, Western Cape South Africa after a 6 Hour flight from Nigeria and Ghana where they were transferred to the Ouibaai Hotel and Golf Resort known for its pristine beaches, indigenous forests and nature reserve, the Hotel is less than seven minutes drive from the George Airport Johannesburg. Our favourite influencers kicked off their summer holiday on day 2 with a powerboat cruise through the Knysna Lagoon enjoying wine and oysters on a relaxing boat cruise and taking in the magnificence of Knysna as the sun starts to set over the lagoon.

Shrimps and rice at the Fancourt hotel
Group quad Biking

It’s a week full of activities and adventure in South Africa, with the next stop being idyllic St. Francis Bay – touted as South Africa’s ‘Little Venice’ which is just 90 kilometres away from Port Elizabeth, and 1 hour 15 Mins from Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve where our Influencers will experience the adrenaline pumping adventures Quad Biking and Bungee Jumping of the cliff. An hour’s morning flight will bring them to Durban.

Group Photo at the Knysa Lagoon after the Boat ride

On arriving Durban the largest city in the Kwazulu-natal Province of South Africa, Bonang Matheba will play host to the West African guest at the famous shipwrecked Cargo Holds Restaurant for some ultimate nautical gourmet lunch experience. Lunch is a treat, ranging from Oysters and Seafood, and the finest wines – all affordable.

Power boat Ride at the Knysa Lagoon
Group Photo at the Knysa Lagoos after the Boat ride

The guests will also be attending the Durban July known as South Africa most prestigious horse race held at the Greyville Racecourse, Berea – South Africa with fashion, music, and horses as the main event for the full day ending itinerary with some Urban Jazz Experience.

Power Boat Ride at the Knysa lagoon

To book packages to South Africa this summer visit: www.southafrica.net.

For more on the trip Follow @travel2SA on Instagram

To book packages to South Africa this summer visit: www.southafrica.net.
For more on the trip Follow @travel2SA on Instagram

Mutual prosperity at the heart of the UK’s partnership with Africa

The United Kingdom continues to promote the merits of Nigeria and the broader African continent as an economic partner of choice ahead of the UK’s upcoming Africa Investment Summit taking place in London in January 2020. These comments were made by the UK High Commissioner for Nigeria, Catriona Lang at the 18th edition of the Nigeria Oil & Gas Conference in Abuja (NOG) on July 2nd, 2019.

The three-day conference themed “Promoting Investment & Collaboration in Nigeria’s Oil & Gas Industry” is one the most well-attended industry events in the country and was meeting place for senior decision makers from government and energy industry organisations in Nigeria.

The guest of honour, UK High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Lang, in her goodwill speech at the opening ceremony of the conference, acknowledged that a key focus of discussions at the conference centred  around increasing foreign direct invest into Nigeria. The Commissioner added that Nigeria’s FDI strategy was very much in line with the UK government’s trade and investment strategy of increasing investment opportunities into Nigeria and across the broader African continent to meet the ambition of making the UK the number one G7 investor on the African continent by 2022.

High Commissioner Lang said: “The City of London has unparalleled expertise in the services that enable companies to access capital, along with a range of specialist legal and professional services. The London Stock Exchange is home to 7 of the largest 10 listed oil & gas companies globally, and proud to say, home to quite a few Nigerians ones as well like Seplat and Vivo Energy.”

A spokesperson of the UK Department for International Trade, Nigeria noted that bilateral trade and investment between the UK and Nigeria had increased by nearly 40% from 2017, and was on course to double by 2030. “The UK already benefits from our strong connections – between families, governments and businesses – with African nations”, he said, “ and the Africa Investment Summit is intended to celebrate and build on these common links and forge new bonds.”

On 20th January 2020, the UK government would be hosting the Africa Investment Summit in London with the aim of bringing together businesses, governments and international institutionsto showcase and promote the breadth and quality of investment opportunities across Africa.

Delta to debut wholly reinvented international Main Cabin experience

First-of-its-kind service will launch for Main Cabin customers on international flights in November

Customers can expect to be impressed on board Delta’s international routes* starting this November when the airline debuts its industry-leading Main Cabin experience. Free “Welcome Aboard” cocktails featuring Bellinis to start, hot towel service and mix-and-match options for premium appetizers and larger entrees are just a few of the ways Delta is differentiating its international Main Cabin service.

“This is about investing in every single customer who chooses Delta, no matter where they sit on the plane,” said Allison Ausband, Delta’s S.V.P. — In-Flight Service. “The thoughtful touches we’re investing in throughout the new Main Cabin experience were designed by flight attendants with one goal in mind: delivering an exceptional experience that our customers will rave about and one that our team, the best in the business, is proud to deliver.”

Designed to delight and create “wow” moments that feel like dining in your favorite splurge restaurant, Delta’s reinvented Main Cabin experience has been met with high marks – with increased customer satisfaction scores on the more than 700 flights it’s been tested on between Portland and Tokyo (NRT) over the past year.

A Main Cabin experience designed by flight attendants, endorsed by customers

The experience launching in November isn’t the same service Delta started testing more than a year ago. Rigorous reviews of the service through nearly 14,000 hours of flight time, information from over 1,800 customer surveys, robust crew feedback and input from a design team made up of 24 flight attendants resulted in a number of changes to perfect the innovative service for Delta’s international flights.

“With this service, at the end of the flight I know I’ve made a difference in the customer’s journey,” said Michael Miller, a New York-based flight attendant and member of the design team behind the new experience. “I know I’ve had the opportunity to not only offer an exceptional onboard experience, but also to engage with customers and create special moments for them.”

Creating magical moments in-flight

In addition to these enhancements, over the past several months, Delta has provided specialized training to its team of more than 3,000 Pursers – the lead flight attendants on international flights. Responsible for the customer experience from nose to tail, the Purser role at Delta has been elevated to include pre-flight introductions in the gate house and personal greetings at the boarding door – just a few examples of the important connections between crew and customers that lead to memorable moments and a delightful experience all around.

Also, in addition to recently upgraded amenity kits, more international onboard enhancements are coming soon — like refreshed ear buds and headsets — to further demonstrate the airline’s commitment to creating a best-in-class experience all customers can look forward to.

Delta’s new international Main Cabin service is part of the airline’s multi-billion dollar investment in the overall customer experience. In the past several years, the airline has made significant enhancements to the Main Cabin experience including free Main Cabin meals on select domestic coast-to-coast routes, free mobile messaging, free in-flight entertainment, upgraded Main Cabin snacks, the addition of sparkling wine, access to Wi-Fi on nearly all flights and refreshed Flight Fuel food-for-purchase options. Recent upgrades to the Delta One in-flight experience include the introduction of seasonally rotating, chef-designed Delta One menus with the option to pre-select first choice of entree, an Alessi-designed collection of serviceware and more.