After operating for 17 years as Victoria Crown Plaza Hotel, this January, the business/luxury hotel rebranded and opened its doors to the public as Swiss International Victoria Crown.
In this interview, Emeka Ofor, chairman of the hotel, speaks to Obinna Emelike on the reason and impact of the recent rebranding, improved facilities and offerings among other related issues.
What informed the rebranding of the hotel?
The whole idea is to provide better service, attract more clients and tap into Swiss International’s loyalty card, tapping into their services and expertise.
Having operated for 17 years, there was a need to bring freshness into the hotel by bringing the international brand, and by being part of the international community in terms of service delivery, support, marketing and also to improve our offerings to our clients.
That is why we decided to engage Swiss International, which is well-suited for the kind of market niche that we want to get for ourselves.
With the rebranding, is the focus still on luxury?
We are looking for luxury travelers who want a quiet environment for themselves, a place to have business meetings, and be able to reason and rest, that is where we are going. In order to do that, we have even improved more than what we used to have, as you can see in our rooms. Now we have upped our game and after we have crossed a few t’s and dot a few i’s that are outstanding, and now we are targeting the 1 percent of the 1 percent kind of clientele. We are a luxury/business hotel that caters to top clients, within the island, visitors to Lagos among others.
Again, our world-class furnishing at the restaurant, rooms, lounge, among others say it all.
Beyond the name, what value is Swiss International adding to your hotel?
Swiss International provided the technical advice for some of the improvements we have in the rooms, to bring them up to speed with modern standards. They are also supporting human capital development with a lot of training.
Also, all the management staff are expected to have weekly training provided by Swiss operational portal, they are also assisting in SOPs, they have brought a lot to ensure that service delivery is excellent and that once you come in here and pay the rate that we are giving you, you will be able to enjoy your stay.
So, Swiss coming has broadened our client base, we see people who say they stayed in our hotel in Port Harcourt and that they want to stay in our hotel in Victoria Island and all that. So, that has really brought a lot of improvement and clients to us.
After the renovation, we started in January and this is three months and the clients are picking up because they are satisfied with what they see.
How do you describe your hotel, luxury or business?
We are a mix of both because there are a lot of leisure travellers that come to Lagos and so also business travellers.
Most of the leisure travellers want to stay around activities such as cinemas, beaches, night clubs and these are more on the island and during weekends. Then, we have business people who come around for the meetings within the banks, and corporate organisations on the island.
So, we want to capture the two because most business hotels are empty during weekends because they are not prepared for leisure travellers.
So for us, we do both. During the weekdays we capture the business travellers and by weekends we capture the leisure travellers.
We even have more guests on weekends than weekdays.
What about your conference offerings?
Our conference facilities have improved also, the meeting rooms have been redesigned and renovated. We can seat up to 400 people for dinner and by this weekend, we are resuming the Swiss Brunch, which we will open to families within Victoria Island, Ikoyi, and Lekki.
We have also started having guests who spend up to two weeks doing meetings and a few people that come from within for lunch. We were closed for four months, and this is three months of our reopening, hence we have been talking with clients and we plan a Meet and Greet event soon to announce our opening and readiness to welcome clients for lunch and dinner.
Our poolside is beginning to be busy in the evening for clients who want to relax or wait for the traffic to ease off before going home.
Does that mean an upsurge of clients?
It is our prayer to have an upsurge of clients, we have signed up to the loyalty programme of Swiss International and that helps us in client retention. But the point is that we cannot have more than the 49 rooms we offer in the hotel and I do not think we are going to increase the floor; the best we can do is to put more rooms in the available space we have.
However, we will continue to manage our clientele with the number that we have and possibly refer them to our sister hotel, Swiss International the Vistana in Lekki.
Obviously, having a surge of clientele means we are doing something right, and we will continue to do that in order to retain the clients.
What offerings do you have for leisure guests?
To retain our leisure guests, on weekends we increase our entertainment packages. On Fridays, we have the one-man band at the poolside, there is Happy Hour where drinks are sold at 35 percent off the menu price, and on Saturdays, we have Cherokee at the Ted & Co Bar and on Sunday we have the family brunch to entertain our weekend guests.
How affordable is the hotel after the branding?
For the kind of client we are targeting, in the class we operate, we still remain the cheapest.
We are targeting the 1 percent of the 1 percent and even at that we are the cheapest of all of them and I am sure that a lot of people who will come here will discover that we are giving more for less. So, we are very affordable.
How has your occupancy been since reopening?
Anybody that has been here before will see the great difference when he/she visits now. Huge amounts and efforts have gone into this hotel to improve the facilities, and there are visible changes.
For occupancy, we have improved from between 5-8 guests in January to doing close to 60-85 percent. Our target is to remain 80 percent and 90 percent within the next three months.
In all, more than 95 percent of our guests always come back on their next trip. We also have a couple of corporate clients who have come to fall in love with our property and are ready to sign a corporate contract with us.
Again, the size of our room is not common on the island, we are giving more than a lot of hotels in our class are offering. There has been a steady increase in occupancy over the last three weeks when we started our media campaign.
Do you offer any of the Swiss loyalty programmes?
We have the Swiss Select and the Swiss Darling.
The Swiss Darling is for the corporate client while the Swiss Select is for individual guests. We have a lounge here for Swiss Select members, while there, you have a free cup of tea or coffee.
With your membership of the loyalty programme, you earn points you can redeem and use nationwide and worldwide. We want to encourage our prospective clients to start registering online for the Swiss Select programme so that when they come here they will start accumulating points.
What is the promise of the brand to the guests now?
For us at Swiss International Victoria Crown, Victoria Island, all we promise the clients is quality service, luxurious offerings, good entertainment, good rest in the rooms, luxury-in-room, Netflix in the room with over 80 channels streaming, high speed internet, good food courtesy of one of the best chefs in Lagos, value for money and security all assured.