Q and A: Filling the Gap

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There isn’t a shortage of international hotel brands with either an existing presence or plans for a future presence in Nigeria. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, as business travel interest in the country grows every day. But, the same can’t be said for home-grown hotel brands, although Seun Sule, the chairman of S&S Hotels & Suites is looking to change that.

Q: What is the S&S Hotels & Suites offering?

A: We offer our corporate clients various tailored solutions – lodging services, meeting rooms, office food catering, team building and retreat packages, for example.

Q: What are your thoughts on the current state of the African hospitality industry?

A: It has become the darling of major international players, particularly in Nigeria where over the last few years we have had an influx of a number of international hotel brands. This interest is because there is still a lot to do and the market is big. What I see in the African hospitality industry are huge opportunities to offer quality, personalised solutions to business and leisure travellers. The sky is the limit for players who understand the market, are willingly to innovate and are ready to deliver quality.

Q: How competitive is the Nigerian hospitality market?

A: Very. There are now more hotel rooms than ever before in the market, with a lot of small hotels springing up every day, along with the launching of a number of large hotel brands. The increased competition is good for the market, because it means customers will have various choices available to them, the focus on quality of service will increase, and operators will see the quality of the hospitality labour market improve.

Q: How do you deal with this increased competition?

A: It’s going to create winners and losers. The winners are the operations that identify their key customers and deliver exceptional service to them, and the losers will be the ones that get lost in the crowd. At S&S Hotels we have identified that our key customers are business travellers that want quality, privacy and a relaxed environment in which to rest and recharge after a long, busy day.

Q: What should be the target for the Nigerian hospitality industry?

A: The development of a robust leisure market that will cater to local, regional and international travellers. The partnership of government and the private sector is required for this to be achieved. We seem to be going in the right direction with Calabar City’s committed development to being a quality leisure destination. The industry needs more quality destinations that will be creative in offering unique attractions, and create the environment that will trigger serious growth in the hospitality sector.

Q: Can you describe your clientele?

A: A typical client is a business traveller in the service sector – finance, oil and gas, IT – visiting Lagos for meetings, conferences, training etc. We also have a small percentage of leisure travellers who stay with us while visiting family and friends in the city.

Q: Is S&S Hotels looking to any future development or expansion?

A: Yes. Our plan is to roll out small to mid-size boutique business hotels in key gateway centres across Africa. We believe there is a gap to fill in offering consistent, quality, personalised services to business travellers. In the process, we plan to create the first Nigerian hotel brand and hotel management group. Over the next three years, we plan to have a network of S&S Hotels and Suites, with a mixture of company-owned properties and franchises across Nigeria.

Q: What are your biggest challenges?

A: Infrastructure and people. The level of infrastructural development – power, Internet and transportation is still very low. With regards people, we find that there are not enough hospitality-trained and experienced personnel in the local labour market. Although, I strongly believe that as the industry continues to grow, this will improve and more people will go into hospitality vocational studies.

Q: Any proposed solutions to these challenges?

A: We have to provide alternatives. So, for infrastructure, I’m talking about generators, inverters, microwave Internet connection etc. As for people, we spend time looking for passionate people that we can train in-house and over time give them leadership opportunities, allowing them to enter the hospitality industry and build a career.