When he started out his career some years ago, it was all about passion for excellence.
Then, as an operations and logistics officer for the Roads Authority in Freetown, love for his country overwhelmed him as his preoccupation was to contribute his quota in making Sierra Leone, his country, great.
That passion continued in the banking and insurance industries where he further honed his skills, and later to the hospitality industry which he now calls home.
Welcome to the world of Yusuf Sesay, the sales and marketing director, at Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Before taking up the new position in Lagos on January 3, 2023, Sesay, a Sierra Leonean-born hospitality executive, has proven himself in the hotel business, particularly with the Radisson brand.
The young Sesay joined Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel in Freetown as a sales manager, he grew to become senior sales manager and was later appointed director of sales and marketing; a role he served for three years before leaving for Nigeria.
He recalls his fast career growth at Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko with enthusiasm and hope for other indigenous and passionate staff members.
“I grew to become the senior sales manager and was the first indigene to be promoted to the position of director of sales of the hotel,” he enthuses.
The intrigue is that the Mammy Yoko Hotel was not making a profit then, but the Sesay-led team turned it around and it has been doing well since then.
He gives credit to the Radisson Hotel Group for the training and sustained support for staff members to excel on the job. For him, the support was the reason his team was able to change the narrative of the Mammy Yoko Hotel.
As well, that same support and enabling work environment are top among the reasons he accepted the Lagos offer.
Though he has been to Lagos before around 2018 under the late Kevin Kamau, who was the general manager then, and Wellington Mpofu, a Radisson Hotel Group executive, who he described as one of his mentors, this second coming is like a homecoming for him as he now leads a passionate and friendly team at Radisson Anchorage to achieve the hotel’s sales and marketing goals.
Again, his grandparents are from Abeokuta in Ogun State; so he is happy to be back home.
“It was a mixed feeling coming to Lagos. First, I knew I was coming to a new market, a challenging market and a very complex business environment.
“However, I know that it is a place that allows people to grow and you can fulfil your potential here. Also, my grandparents are from Abeokuta, Nigeria. So, it is also a homecoming for me”.
The people’s manager, as Sesay calls himself, his main task is to take care of his team, oversee revenue management, ensure optimal productivity, account management, talk to clients, online marketing and PR, among others.
Well, he is ready for more responsibilities considering that the Nigerian market is robust. But the huge size is also an advantage, he confesses.
“The Nigerian market is a little bit dynamic in the sense that it reacts sharper to shocks than most markets; like when there was an election everything dropped and when it is ready to pick up everything picks as if nothing happened,” he explains.
While in the seemingly new market, a challenging and very complex business environment, Sesay is already manoeuvring his way and achieving results.
What he does is simple. “I try to understand the nuances of the market, the culture, respect for elders, and being able to network in certain societies because of the demand that is here; big companies and big organisations will always come and you will always have demand, all you need is to carter for what the people are asking for”.
One of his achievements in less than six months as the sales and marketing director of Radisson Blu Anchorage Lagos is keeping the hotel profitable even during the low season occasioned by the political uncertainties of the February and March elections in Nigeria.
“One of the things we did was to adjust our strategies because when there are such changes, you have to offer what people are looking for and not set your bar high up there.
“With that, you have to adjust your rates; and have a flexible rate strategy and flexible payment for guests as well. In doing this, you carry along your loyal guests and reward them for their loyalty.
“In the low demand period our guests remained because of these strategies and services we render to them,” he says.
He is also elated that the hotel has been nominated for this year’s World Tourism Awards in three categories: Nigeria’s Leading Business Hotel; Nigeria’s Leading City Hotel and Nigeria’s Leading Hotel Suite.
Sesay is happy working for Radisson Hotel Group, which is doing well in the West African region and the continent as a whole.
“We are doing well as a hotel group because of the standards we have set for ourselves.
“One thing that Radisson does is to pick people that know a particular market to work there and they only sign owners that are willing to invest in their properties and build the hotel and the Radisson brand. That is what has helped the hotel group to grow here”.
Again, he attributes the growth to the fact that the owners take care of their staff in order for the staff to offer the guests the best experience.
“When you make your staff happy, they, in turn, keep the guests smiling. There is also regular training both local and foreign to upskill and update staff across the Radisson Hotel Group”.
Meanwhile, whenever duty calls for his service in other properties, he wants to leave a legacy for his Nigerian team.
“I want to train my staff to be the best and to be able to work in other Radisson brand hotels across the world. I also want to sustain the business profitability both for the owners and for us as a hotel so that we can build up and maintain the standards we set for ourselves,” he concludes.