• Monday, May 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

“Nigeria’s ROI alluring to foreign hotel brands”

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Austin Eruotor, President White House Hotels said there is strong competition in Nigerian hospitality industry and this is intensifying as more hotels open for business. Eruotor who spoke to Daniel Obi understands that his employees are the biggest assets. He believes in succession plan by people who can build the business.

Africa is being regarded as the next frontier of global economy, how has this impacted on the hospitality industry in Nigeria?

If you look around today, there are several hotels springing up. On Joel Ogunaike Street at GRA Ikeja alone, there are about 14 hotels and another 4 are under construction. Nigeria is a big market and other international brands are coming into the country. International investment community has realized that Nigeria is a place to be, as other economies are going down, in spite of all the negative publicity Nigeria has. Nigeria compared to other countries has high return on investment. Unfortunately we in Nigeria don’t appreciate what we have in this country. But government needs to put some structures in place, reduce high interest rate for business to boom.

You complained of high interest rate. Earlier you said hotels are springing up. Where, therefore is the investment money in the hotels coming from?

It is coming from the private sector. It is coming from foreign brands moving in to Nigeria. They have realized that Nigeria is a gold mine. When you look at the average charges in hotel in Nigeria and compared to Europe, Nigeria’s hotels are expensive. It is expensive because there are no infrastructures. Some of the foreign hotels in Nigeria are low brands in their countries and when they get here, they become high brands. Hotels which are charging, for example $40 in Europe are charging N29,000 – N30,000 in Nigeria. All of them want to be in Nigeria because they cannot make that kind of money in their country.

Do you still hold the  view that Nigeria does not have a 5-Star hotel. How do you define a 5-Star Hotel?

We are talking of size. When you look at the hotels in Nigeria, is there any one that has more than 200 rooms in Lagos. What you see are small hotels and the owners are not getting support from especially banks. Most 5- Star hotels will be from 300 rooms.

How did the Ebola issue affect the occupancy rate in hotels?

We thank God that it was managed very well. The occupancy was down. I am quite pleased the way Lagos managed it. There was no politics about it and other states followed suit in managing it. But most businesses felt the effect of the Ebola disease. The restaurants had low business. But now there is return to full business.

White House is 10 years, how far so far

Our business has grown with the support of the media. It has been a long journey but we are grateful to God for 10 years in business which is marked with ups and downs. When you operate in country that is tough, with so many things against business but we are still going and have hope of continuous being in business. Within the 10 years, we have expanded. We got a lot of mileage from the entertainment sector.

What was the objective at inception of the business and how far have you realized the objective

When we started we had in mind to run entertainment and events. But today we have a full hospitality. We are not only on Toyin Street in Ikeja but in  GRA Ikeja. We are also planning to go further to other places. So far we are moving. Initially we operated without accommodation but now we have over 30 rooms at Toyin Street White House hotel. The GRA hotel is bigger than the one at Toyin Street where we have prestigious facilities.

We heard that you are celebrating charity as you mark 10 years, could you let us into it?

We are giving back to the society. We are all leaders as people look at us. If everybody gives a little something back, the society will be better for it.

Where is White House going in the next 10 years?

We still have a lot of strength and as Nigeria transforms the business will equally transform. I have the dream to make White House a five-star hotel in Nigeria and improve more on quality and service. What makes hospitality is quality and service.