Roman Krabel, General Manager, Accra City Hotel, Accra, Ghana is young, sophisticated and bold. In this interview, he shares his story on how he found himself in West Africa. Excerpts:
You have been in West Africa now for close to a decade; can you take us down memory lane?
Origin from Germany, I started my career in culinary arts; I was a Chef for many years. In 2000, I made career switch to Sales & Marketing, HR and F&B Management and eventually, this led me to become a successful GM. My culinary art and F&B background gave me self-discipline and the mentality for attention to details.
The foundation of my success in West Africa [Nigeria and Ghana] lies in my attention to detail, and as a highly motivated person, I always work hard to ensure that all processes are efficient. In every hotel that I have worked in West Africa, I not only bring new energy, fresh ideas and a different way of thinking, but also help fellow work colleagues to achieve their full potential.
What was it like the first time?
Like a dream came true…
Where was your first point in West Africa?
I opened the prestige 5-Star Lagos Oriental Hotel / VI in 2008 as Food & Beverage Manager.
How much information do you have about Nigeria and anxiety that follows then?
To be honest, I just informed myself online about Nigeria and Lagos after I received the Job offer and I loved all Information’s I found.
What was your first place of work and the environment?
My Chef Education and Certification I did in South of Germany in Bavaria, famous for the Alps, Beer, Football, Cars and Tourism.
How long were you there before moving on to another job?
The Job Education in Germany is regularly for 3 Years and after the Certification I went to the German Federal Armed Forces before I moved to Namibia for an NGO position as Chef.
At what point did you move from Nigeria to Ghana and how was the switch?
I was asked in 2012 to open a new Luxury Hotel & Resort as General Manager near Akosombo /Ghana. And to move from a World Metropole like Lagos to a small town next to the Volta Dam was not a big change, I still worked and lived in West Africa with fantastic people, and this was important for me.
Skilled workers are a major issue in the hospitality industry, how bad was it when you arrived?
To be a hotel with a heart you have to manage the pulse [Team]. Creating a happy motivated and knowledgeable team by effective management, delivering our ‘Yes I Can’ philosophy. The results are achieved through recruiting people with positive attitude, ensuring that they have the training and knowledge to perform, supporting opportunities of development and growth through managers who are empowered with 100 per cent ownership for the business and Team. Creating an environment of engagement and desire to deliver customer service [Yes I Can].
Between Nigeria and Ghana where is the lack of skilled workers more problematic?
To be frank, there is no lack! My philosophy lies in teamwork. Good managers are judged not only according by their personal success, but also by the level of their team’s success. The stronger the team players, the better the managers perform and are able to take care of the details that make all the difference.
Recruiting is crucial, but training is even more important. According to my philosophy and when I am looking for new people to work with, I look for professionals who have a vision, who share my ideas about what hospitality is all about, and who want to be part of a team that will constantly evolve in order to offer an exclusive and personalised service that will exceed the guests’ expectations, bringing it to the next level.
In Nigeria, power is a major issue, how much of a relief is it here in Ghana where power is fairly stable?
The electricity supply in Ghana improved over the last years, but the charges are not in favour to hotel operators. For a full-service hotel, energy costs are usually between 4 to 6 per cent of revenue, but properties in Ghana may see energy costs exceeding 10 per cent. For hotels, electricity prices have been increasing almost every year in Ghana.
Electricity accounts for approximately 45 per cent of total utility costs in a typical hotel. On average, hotels in Ghana spend approximately 70 per cent. It means that the first 20 days of a month, you are working only for the electricity bill.
No doubt, Nigeria is a business destination and Ghana is gradually assuming the MICE capital of West Africa, how true is this?
I like to acknowledge that Ghana is the Meeting – Incentives – Conventions and Exhibition Country in West Africa, which is a fantastic opportunity for all Ghanaians to do business with and the country itself.
How would you rate general tourism in both countries?
Nigeria has huge tourism potential and a very diverse ethnic culture of over 360 ethnic groups. It is the second largest economy in Africa and Lagos will be the “Miami” of Nigeria, the number 1 City to be and to visit in whole of Africa in some Years.
Ghana so-called “Africa for Beginners”—West Africa’s richest, most-English speaking country, with highly varied landscapes, a few off-the-beaten-path beach getaways, and the solemn, imposing slave castles of the coast west of Accra are also a Tourism Magnet.
However, I believe to attract more tourism, both countries should change their visa processes and adopt the system of Southern African Country’s to make travelling easier.
What do you think can be done to address the issue of skilled workers in the sector?
Hospitality business in general is full of professional hands-on work, specific details and genuine jargon. To understand the hospitality as a business, culture and way of life, it is definitely helpful to have a designated degree on topic.
However, in my opinion, hospitality degree is not a must to become highly successful in the business. More important are the open-minded attitude, personality, interest in hospitality and a constant will as well as ability to learn and to develop oneself.
Nigeria and Ghana have witnessed more international brands in the hospitality sector, how much of a help is this to the sector at large?
I don’t think international brands will drive more traffic in to the country. We should not look at the name on the rooftop and focus more on the service and standards each individual hotel has to offer.
More and more local properties are going alone instead of the usual franchise, how advantageous is this?
The franchise or management brand does not pay off, because you would be working for them rather than working for yourself. Many hotels do, as well as independents, and some do not. It requires hard work.
Rather than having to deal with all the layers of bureaucracy often needed in international companies, you have a direct relationship with the owners, which makes decision making faster and the work more efficient. Things happen quickly and that gives fabulous opportunities to impact business.
What makes your current organisation different from the previous one?
No limits. It’s varied. Impossible is possible here. Taking guest feedback into account and constantly innovating – a true Hospitality philosophy we live by.
You should visit me and spend some time in my hotel to explore the fine service we offer to all our guests inclusive: free Mini Bar, the new handy device in all guestrooms with free international calls, the press reader app with which you enjoy free daily newspapers and magazines from all over the world and much more.
How would you rate the two communities [Ghana and Nigeria] that you have worked?
I love Africa and I am blessed to work and live in Nigeria and Ghana with wonderful memories and hope that many more years are coming.
Your favorite food?
I’m a real lover of meat.
The one item of technology you can’t live without?
As with most people, I can imagine, it has to be my iPhone.
What is the most important life lesson you’ve learnt?
Every day you have a choice; do something with the day or don’t; I always do.