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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

S/West Hoteliers will change the face of hospitality service —Jamiu Talabi by Wale Ojo lanre

S/West Hoteliers will change the face of hospitality service —Jamiu Talabi

October 21, 2015
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Mr Talabi  Bosede Jamiu the Public Relations Officer, (PRO) South-West Hoteliers Association is a thorough bred hotelier who is not only grounded in the business, but has exposed himself to the cosmopolitanism of service delivery in hospitality business . His two hotels, Onas Hotel and Bose Talabi Guest House, all in Lagos have been identified as centre of excellence in service delivery. Talabi in an interview with WALE OJO-LANRE laid bare some of the challenges facing hotel business in Nigeria at the maiden Retreat  of South West Hoteliers Association held in Abeokuta last week.
Programmes like these are designed for a purpose.  Can you tell us what you intend to achieve with the retreat organised for hoteliers in the Southwest?
One of the reasons we formed the association is to ensure unity of purpose, have a common vision and pursue the vision from a coordinated platform recognised by all.  Secondly, we believe having an association which is legally recognised in law and by law will provide and facilitate quick access to the government at all levels. You will agree with me that it will also earn   us the needed visibility which we needed to assert the association   as a strong player on the economic field of the nation. Most importantly is the fact that we are coming together to change the face of hospitality service in the South West.

Why the South West? 
The South west is the major gateway to Nigeria either by air, sea or land. After the plane and the taxi, the next connect of a visitor is the hotel. The hotel to us is the country’s first impression manager after the airport. The hotel tells it all. It tells the visitors what the country is without asking anybody. Thus we are emboldened not only to make more money, but to set the pace in service delivery and image improvement of the country.

Do you think you can achieve this?
Yes, we can  and we have started. Going by the turn out for this programme  which planning kicked off just a few weeks ago via a suggestion at a gathering , and the turnout is as populous as this? This is the maiden edition.  Even, going by the responses to posers on the frequency of such retreat, going by the presence of government officials from almost all the states in the South West, Lagos did not only come to warm the seats, but offered meaningful goodwill messages, all these are pointers to the fact that the association has come to stay.  You heard the response when the question was asked how often they want this retreat. Despite my personal belief that it should be once in two years, but the response was, no, it should not be once in a year, just to show the popularity of the retreat. It showed that despite the fact that it is a maiden edition; the majority has seen the import and usefulness of such an association and holding a retreat.
 It is also an indication that those that have attended the programme are going home more learned, more enlightened and of course they won’t go home the same and of course many of them won’t mind having this kind of event every month.

Don’t you think it is almost too late for you coming together now?
I don’t think so. Nothing is too late. It  is not that we do not have platform where we meet, we have this association in the states. But we believe we can achieve better having a regional platform and a powerful regional voice which can and should encourage regional integration, development and growth in the hospitality sector. It will also accentuate regional business networking and wealth. This is the time for us to pool our efforts together for sustainable growth.

But do you agree with the opinion that Nigerian hotels are sub-standard? 
I will shock you here, I am sure you are expecting me to say with anger or passion that yes it is true or false, far from this. However, I don’t want you to fall into the fallacy of generalisation and stigmatisation neither do I want you to go away with the notion of unbridled patriotism nor selfish economic patronage.  98.5 per cent hotels in Nigeria are run by Nigerians. Are you now telling me that all the hotels in Nigeria are sub-standard? All these depend on taste, perception, indoctrination and propaganda. I am a well travelled person and I stay in hotels for variety and experience. I have been to the four points, five stars, the rated and unrated just for me to feel the service and I came to the conclusion that Nigerian—run hotels are not on the lower part of the ladder. Yes. Though we are not just there yet, but we are not at the back seat. The problem that militated against us being there yet is infrastructure—sourcing for water, and security. Then, tell me why you will be in my hotel that I should ration supply of light or water? I am not saying that happens in my hotel, but I am telling you the rating indices adopted or assumed by the so called rating agency. Yet, we are not in the deep. I was in Ghana, and I slept in four hotels in two weeks and my experience is Nigerian hotels are not bad after all.  Yet I agree there is room for improvement. This is one of the reasons why we came up with this regional formation.

From observation some of the giants in the industry are not here, why? Are they not aware or they are not members of Hoteliers Association of Nigeria?
What do you mean by the giants? Let me first inform you that we have two associations. We have Hoteliers Association of Nigeria and Hotel Employers Association of Nigeria, the so called giants belong to that group. Obviously majority of us here considered ourselves to be medium and small scale hoteliers.

The issue of multiple taxation and other challenges facing hospitality sector were addressed at the conference and solutions are being proffered, how you will ensure that the resolutions not end on the paper?
Yes, we are going to come out with a communiqué that will be forwarded to all the state governors in the Southwest and luckily for us particularly those of us from Lagos State we had the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Arts Culture and Tourism here. In a couple of days apart from presenting the communiqué to the governor through her, we will pressurise her to look into the communiqué and see what they can do for us on multiple taxation and help the industry to grow.

We started barely two years ago, various states have started more than 10 years ago and we cannot just start one day and the following day we put up a programme. We need to take one step after the other and that is what we have done and thank God for the outcome of this event programme.

What is the membership strength of the southwest Hoteliers Association?
 The membership strength for now is over 10, 000, and we still have a whole lot outside the fence and I am sure by the time we have the outcome of this, many of those out there will start calling us.

What do you think will attract other people in the industry to join the association?
 The attraction is the fact we have been able to bring ourselves together which will attract those outside the fence. The fact that we are poise to enhance their service delivery and network business for them, bear part of their burden in respect of challenges, care and advocate for those values that will ensure them making more business in a less cumbersome way than before. The fact that they now belong to a regional association which they can cry to when depressed. The fact that there is an umbrella association where they can run to during rain and hotter sunshine, that South West Hoteliers Association is about their business growth, welfare and development on a practical mode will lure them. Hotel service and delivery in the South West is in for a revolution.