African Sun Targets Tourism Nigeria

NIGERIA by all account remains a bride to many international hospitality management brands even though its tourism industry may not be enjoying the best run as expected given the rich and diverse tourist assets of the country.


However, the hospitality sector, which over the years has witnessed some level of appreciable growth and patronage, has continued to attract the best global international brands. The list includes Holiday Inn, Le Meridien, Accor, Ibis and Sheraton (Starwood).

Now, African owned management chains are beginning to take over the market with Protea group (South Africa) leading the pack, which also has Sun International and Southern Sun (South Africa), the latest being African Sun Limited (Zimbabwe).

Two years into the market, the group now has four hotels with its signature. These are Obudu Mountain Resort, Utanga Lodge and Safari, Amber Tinapa (all in Cross River State) and Nike Lake Resort (Enugu State). The group is not done yet as the Regional Sales Manager, West Africa, Thamary Reppoh reveals plan by the group to spread its tentacles across the country while also speaking on the operations of African Sun Limited since it berthed in the Nigerian market.

On hosting of Obudu International Mountain Race

THIS would be our second time, the first time we were still new and we were just setting up base. This is a great event and it is an avenue for giving the public a vision of what can happen within Cross River State and Obudu.

We are capable of handling big events like this one, which include international people, people coming from all over the world. Looking at the event, the people coming from everywhere, the organisation and the co-ordination, I think it has been a brilliant show.

Cost to the hotel of hosting the event

It is an annual event but in terms of preparing for it, not much really in terms of finance from our side except making sure that the food is here, everybody has got a room and everybody’s room is up to standard.

The other cost is because we want to expose this event also to the rest of the company. We also brought in our colleagues – our operation director from Ghana, UK and South Africa and elsewhere are all here. Those are the major cost that we are looking at.

Gains of hosting the event

Definitely there are lots of gains to the hotel, as you can see that we have received people who have never been here before. So I think we are going to get a lot of mileage from this event and people would surely see what a wonderful place this is and they would definitely be back and enjoy the place.

Plans to actualize the perceived gains

What we are going to do after this event is what we call follow-ups. When people check out, we follow up with emails and we have got packages for Christmas, Easter and we would be sending those information to them on a regular basis and we do get referrals from them too.

People need to know what it is that you are offering for them to come back so we send them packages that we have created. And that has worked for us.

Challenges in the market

I think basically this had been good learning curve for us. Obudu Mountain Resort was the first property that we acquired in Nigeria. By learning how the business works in Nigeria, how the culture is, it then opened the doors for us to go into other areas to find property.

So in terms of learning, in terms of finding out about Nigeria, I think this was a great opportunity for us and we learnt it well. We learnt the culture; we learnt everything else and how to deal with the different markets.

We are coming from a different world, where we are coming from and Nigeria ways of doing business are a bit different but I think getting to Obudu gave us the opportunity to learn and map the way forward.

All in all, it has been worthwhile and we wouldn’t want to change it for anything. We would forge ahead and in terms of challenges, like the rest of Nigeria, it has to do with electricity and things like that but you learn how to manage those things and how to make money at the same time while managing them.

I think this property has taught us how to work around situations that might have been difficult but in the end you find a way.

On the future plan for the market

We are looking at driving more volume into this hotel (Obudu Mountain Resort). We feel this great potential. So on our part as an organisation, we already have partnership with transport companies, and we are also working on air transport companies so that we cater for the whole market.

We have big hope for this market and we are looking at occupancy around 70 – 80 percent. Also we are looking at driving business through conferences, we have got a world-class conference facility and we try to drive volume from it. We try to get people coming back for their honeymoons, we try to encourage the leisure market and grow it. Through those processes we try to partner with travel agencies, tour operators and event managers among others.

…. The company’s future

In terms of African Sun as a group, we are currently running four properties – Utanga, Obudu Mountain Resort, Nike Lake Resort, Enugu and Amber Tinapa, Calabar. We are presently working at opening properties at projects that are at different levels in Lagos, Abuja, Akwa Ibom, Ibadan and Port Harcourt.

We are hoping at having about 21 properties within Nigeria. We are looking at more properties in Ghana, the Gambia and the West Africa as a whole. So we are looking at maybe having about 64 properties within West Africa by 2012.

On Nigeria market

Nigeria market is an evolving market. I will say currently they are learning to get into the tourism and leisure market and we would want to be part of that ride by trying to get them to another level.

I am not saying that Nigerians don’t travel but they are travelling more outside the country. So we at Africa Sun we would like to bring that experience within Nigeria so that when they think of a holiday they would think of their country first rather than outside.

And in terms of conferences, we feel there is a market for that and we can actually capitalise on those conferences and we would like to grow it with the leisure market and present to them opportunities available within this market.

I mean if you look at a place like Obudu Mountain Resort, you can’t find a place like this in Ghana. You can’t find a place like this in other parts of the world to where they (Nigerians) are traveling. So we would like to grow the leisure market by telling them that Nigeria is a beautiful place.

Experience your country before you can go outside. Let’s give you (Nigerians) the option, what you see outside in terms of hotels, in terms of quality, you can also enjoy it here in Nigeria. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to do so.

On the reach and capacity of African Sun

I think we do have the reach and capacity to achieve this lofty goal. African Sun has been in the hospitality industry for more than 50 years and we have a picture of what tourism is all about. We know the processes because we have gone through the processes in the areas where we started.

We have got the standards. We have managed the biggest holiday in IHG Franchise in Africa and for you to be part of IHG you got to have the right standards. IHG is international standard. And if you are looking at things like standards, I think we can actually give those standards to the Nigerian market.

And with the expertise that we have on ground, we even have a school – Hospitality Tourism Academy (HTA), which trains people on hospitality and is not here in Nigeria and we are actually looking at bringing it into Nigeria and make it work.

… Partnerships

We have right now gotten Remlords Tours, we are working at offering favourable rates to our market. We are also talking with Broadlinks Travels. If we have other groups (partners) that want to come let them come to talk with us and we would give them favourable rate.

Next week (This was actually done last week) we are going to have a famarisation tour for about 37 travel agents that are coming from Lagos and Abuja. We are going to show them around the property at Obudu Mountain Resort and Amber Tinapa and create partnerships from this.

We are also talking with companies like Arik Air. So in terms of partnerships we are going all over and we are tying to close deals on all partnerships and more from there.

Occupancy rate of the hotels under the group

Presently, I think we have seen an improvement from the months of October up to this month. We want to continue at those paces where we would be looking at averaging over 40 percent for the month.

On target market

Each hotel has got a specific market but that is not to say that if you operate in a certain market you can’t come here (Obudu Mountain Resort) but if you look at a hotel like Obudu our market is for premium conferences. That is during weekdays and then leisure.

We are looking at people coming through for leisure – holidays during the weekends, during the public holidays and so forth. If you look at Amber Tinapa, it is a hotel, which caters for shoppers that are supposed to come through the complex, but once in a while we hold conferences but the major target market is not conferences.

If you look at Nike Lake, that is totally conferences hotel and if you are looking at Utanga, we are looking at it being an educational centre for students – be they secondary or tertiary.

We have specific market for each of our property.


Travel Brief

Christmas Offers At HBC Resort

WITH the Christmas bell gradually tolling, one of the resort enclaves in the country to visit for special offers is HBC Resort. At the Jos-based Plateau State resort located along the serene Vom Road, it is five days of excitements and fun-filled celebration beginning from December 24 – 28.

A 50 percent discounted room rate is on offer from December 23 to January 5, 2010 while the packed field leisure offers include breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, musical and cultural performances, barbeque and entertainment at the poolside, lakeside and orchard as well as football and volley competition between daddies and mummies while camping out option is also available.

Besides the adults’ package, the children are not also left out of the exciting treat as special events have also be designed for them. For non-resident adults, a day fee is put at N4, 500 while that of a child is put at N2, 500.

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