Q&A: Taking on West Africa

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Besides the Penthouse By America’s Best, what other Nigerian properties are in your portfolio?

We are currently managing the Citipark Luxury Hotel in Enugu and the Tinapa Lakeside in Calabar. In the next few months we should have the Westpoint in Abuja, and Savannah Suites, also in Abuja, re-opened on the first of September. We are also involved in the Lekki Oxford Hotel, which is due to open soon, and then there’s the Beck Suite, which is in Ikeja. So, we are very much involved in Nigeria’s hospitality market, whilst outside Nigeria, we have a property in Accra, Ghana and two hotels in South Africa. There are about six hotels in the development stage, from the Nigerian perspective in Warri in Nigeria, to a hotel in Cape Town and a few properties spread in between. Suffice to say that I spend most of my time on a plane!

What motivates your interest in Nigeria?

Nigeria is one of the most exciting hospitality markets and because some of the markets are under-developed, it presents opportunities to us as a management company to make an impact. I also feel that the team that works with me and works with Thornberry is very much into training and developing people, and Nigeria is one of the countries that offers that job opportunity. A country of 160 million people with diverse cultures and backgrounds makes it an exciting place to work in.

What’s your assessment of the current state of the Nigerian hospitality industry?

It’s definitely in a growth phase. I think a few years ago there was a lot of demand and no supply in places like Lagos. This is now changing. Standards are very high now, competing with other parts of the world. If you look at West Africa as a whole, Nigeria is probably one of the most exciting destinations to look at in terms of hospitality growth. South Africa is a beautiful country, but from a hospitality growth perspective, West Africa is the best place to be at the moment.

What makes Thornberry unique?

We are a little more flexible than others and from a product point of view, each one of our products is completely unique and individual. We also have a very simple philosophy – we want to become Africa’s premier hospitality management company. We also have a vision and it’s a very simple one – we want our guests to know us as value for money, and we want them to stay for the exceptional service. From an ownership point of view, we have a unique and interactive system of operating with them, so there’s not ‘you must buy this, or you must do this or that’. We like to take what’s on their minds and try and turn it into a reality, make it happen and grow with them.

What would you like to see happen in the West African hospitality industry, over the next five years?

I’d be very keen to see more training institutions in West Africa, to develop West Africans to run hospitality businesses. I believe also that from an internal travel point of view, I’d love to see Nigerians able to travel in their own country, like the Ghanaians and people from Sierra Leone. It’s fantastic that we see more international travel coming into West Africa. South Africa has proved the point that you can change, and I think other countries need to follow it. I think, from a tourism point of view, West Africa probably has some of the most unique, beautiful and interesting destinations anywhere in the world.

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