Q&A: Focus on Skills Development

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The General Manager of the Protea Hotel Kuramo Waters, which is located on Victoria Island in Lagos, is Nyasha Muza, a Zimbabwean who sees the potential in the Nigerian hospitality sector, whilst cautioning against progress that doesn’t go hand in hand with skills development. He sat down with BTA.

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

A: Most parts of Africa are witnessing remarkable development of new infrastructure. These are prerequisites of a strong hospitality sector. Consequently, there is heightened interest by major international hotel groups to start or expand operations in Africa.  Nigeria is no exception and is already a host to several home-grown and international hotel brands.

Q: What, in your words, are the major challenges?

A: Issues relating to safety and security can potentially hamper growth of the hospitality sector, particularly leisure travel. In some instances, provision of seamless, quality service is curtailed by an absence or inadequacy of skilled personnel. Destination accessibility is another key challenge.  However, the launch of new routes in Africa by major airlines is a welcome development.

Q: How do you combat these challenges?

A: Resolution of conflict in most countries is a prerequisite to economic growth in general, and success of the hospitality industry in particular. The establishment of hospitality institutions has assisted tremendously in addressing the skills shortage. Most hotels are complementing the efforts of these institutions by having dedicated in-house trainers and programmes. It should be noted that hospitality is not just about aptitude but, more importantly, attitude and passion. It is crucial to recruit employees with the appropriate attitude, prior to fruitlessly investing a lot of money in training. The hospitality adage that you recruit for attitude and train for aptitude is still relevant.

Q: In your experience, what do business travellers look for in a hotel?

A: The discerning business traveller is basically looking for convenience, comfort and great, albeit discreet, service. So, apart from your basic three Bs of comfortable bed, great breakfast and functional bathroom, a work-friendly room with ample desk space and Internet access is a necessity. For the frequent traveller, an efficient loyalty programme is also a great incentive.

Q: How competitive is the Nigerian hospitality industry?

A: Extremely competitive, with a plethora of home-grown and international brands. The advent of new hotels, particularly in Lagos, augurs well for the industry, as competition compels industry players to focus more on service and rendering substantial value to guests.

Q: How is your hotel dealing with the vast competition that exists within your industry?

A: We are a 60-room hotel – our size enables us to readily offer attentive and responsive service. I speak to practically all our guests at check-in and check-out. That is something I never successfully accomplished when I worked for big hotels.

Q: Can you describe your clientele?

A: The clientele for Protea Hotel Kuramo Waters is predominantly business, with a significant contribution from the oil and gas sector. Given our excellent location – the hotel overlooks a lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean – our thrust this year is to grow the leisure, conference and incentive market segments.

Q: What are your views on areas that need to be strengthened or developed in the African hospitality industry?

A: Success will be predicated upon skills development. It is also important that Africa positions itself as a suitable host of, and destination for, important events, by leveraging on the success and lessons learnt from hosting the biggest sporting event in the world, the 2010 World Cup Soccer tournament in South Africa. Collaboration between different destinations is also fundamental. It is encouraging to note that my home country, Zimbabwe, will co-host the UNWTO General Assembly with Zambia in 2013.

Q: Is your hotel looking to any future developments?

A: Protea Hotel Kuramo Waters is looking at leveraging off Africa’s growing importance as a MICE destination, by increasing its conferencing and banqueting capacity by the end of 2012.

Q: How would you rate the Protea Brand and the competition with sister hotels?

A: Protea is a strong pan-African brand with a robust loyalty programme – the Prokard. It has been heartily received by the Nigerian market. Each property is unique – it therefore attracts and caters for specific market segments. This fosters collaboration rather than competition among sister hotels.

Q: What should be the big target or theme for the global hospitality industry in the year 2012?

A: Creating sustainable and real value for guests and other stakeholders should be the concern and fixation of all hospitality entities in 2012 and beyond.

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