Danny Kioupouroglou, the General Manager, Eko Hotel & Suites and largest in West Africa, in a one on one interaction with Lucky Onoriode George, African Travel Times Editor, explains why his hotel with 824 rooms in 3 Star Eko Garden to Eko Main Building, offering 4 Star accommodation to Eko Suites, a 5 Star facility to the ultimate, Eko Signature a 5 Star Plus accommodation, is the pace setter in the region.
Eko Hotel & Suites is the largest hotel in West Africa-does it also mean your hotel is also the best?
The biggest is not always the best. However, the various units of this magnificent property speak volumes.
To better put it, the biggest has some advantages that are not there in the smaller hotels. What I mean by the aforementioned is that, we have variety of rooms, 824 in total spread across four buildings offering different types of accommodations [sizes and classes] to hotel users.
The Eko Garden offers a 3 Star plus accommodation, the main Building provides a 4 Star accommodation, Eko Suites offers a 5 Star accommodation and Eko Signature provides 5 Star Plus accommodations.
The larger you are the bigger your challenges, what are the disadvantages?
Absolutely! From the marketing point of view, you have a bigger facility to fill, especially in the period of economic down turn. It has also becomes much more difficult to sustain-where variables remains same.
Like we say in Greece, ‘the bigger the ship, the bigger the waves’, and it’s exactly same in hotels.
You have the biggest event venue in West Africa, how has this impacted positively on your sales and marketing efforts?
Without doubt, it’s extremely very important and I can say it was a very smart move by our owners. We opened the EkoConvention Centre in 2010 and I can confirm to you that it has been a fantastic investment and a beautiful contribution to our revenue.
The convention centre in the last six years has been the focal point of events in Nigeria and West Africa since it was opened.
It’s overwhelmingly true that a sizeable percentage of hotel workers in Nigeria are not trained and as such, getting the right worker to fit a particular jog is difficult unlike Europe and America, how much of a problem is this to you here?
It is a concern, but you also have other advantages on the challenges posed by the issues you raised because when you recruits someone, and having at the back of your mind that the market is not a mobile one, you will be ready to train such a worker, knowing fully that he or she will remain loyal for a certain period of time.
With that in mind, we here in Nigeria don’t suffer from frequent job mobility or workers as we see in Europe and America.
In Nigeria, it is much more possible to have such trained staff staying for as long as 10 -15 years with you, though not on same job, but within the organisation.
Again, there are peculiarities that will force you to do things that you will not necessary do in America and Europe; such as employing your security, maintenance team and training programmes through which staff that have no previous hospitality training can be brushed up to international standard, to be able to function because it’s not just issues of capability alone, but that of mind-set.
How many restaurants do you have in the hotel?
We have seven different restaurants. The Steak House at the Eko Suites, Italian Restaurant at the Signature, Lagoon Breeze a barbeque like setting by the swimming pool, Sky restaurant, a fusion of Asian and international menu, a Chinese restaurant called the RED and Casa Chiate also an Italian Restaurant.
The Sky Restaurant has a prestigious reputation, what makes it so special?
It’s a unique restaurant and it’s both location; seating on the pent house that offers a spectacular view of the Ocean and Victoria Island with the kitchen offering Asian fusion of cuisine which we are very proud of.
The main building part of the hotel is old, how much of a headache does it give you?
We put in a significant effort and resources in order to maintain the standard of our different facilities. Last year, we had a complete close down of Eko Suites for a total renovation of the place and as you know, the Signature is a new place.
As for Eko Garden, it was also closed down two and half years ago for renovation and it’s now top class facility. Whereas, the main building has in place a constant soft renovation plan to keep the facility in top shape.
What is the hotel doing to attract more leisure travellers?
Just like most part of the world, hotels like ours focus more on the business community week days and at weekends who in most cases dwell on leisure users which we also do here.
Here at Eko Hotel & Suites, we have flexible rates with which we lure locals and non –business community that pay less to enjoy our fantastic facilities. That said, during tough economic environment, people don’t have disposable income to spend on leisure activities and as such, our target for the leisure market are never met.
Like you can see that there are facilities such as lawn tennis courts, volley ball, handball, decent swimming pool that can keep our guests busy during their stay.
There was a time that the hotel was taking guests to a private beach weekends, what happened to that programme?
That project because it was not sustained due to cost of transportation; mainly boat for moving people and to do so, you must have a nice boat for their safety.
Again, it became too expensive, hence we abandoned it. I missed it myself!
It’s been said in several gatherings that the influx of international hotel chains has helped standardised the sector, how true is this?
That is true! Just as you are also aware, Eko Hotel pioneered all that. Every year and then, we try to introduce something new to challenge the status quo-in the areas of restaurant, convention centre and new hotel among others.
Just like there is no hotel like the Signature anywhere in Nigeria, and no convention centre like ours too.
Succinctly put, we try all the time to be ahead of the competition, but when the international brands are coming, we have the experience and expertise which also help raise the bar based on what we have achieved for the good of everyone.
Operation-wise, how difficult is it for an old hotel with huge numbers of people on your pension list, how are you coping?
You are right that we have quite a sizeable pensioners list. But the good news is that, this hotel is blessed and privileged to have good management and owners that work hand in hand not to carry over or postpone solutions that would become issues in future.
Issues, such as you have risen are never in the backburner of our operations and decisions. Today, I can confirm to you that we never had issue with the benefit of a voluntary or involuntary retired staff that has left the hotel.
We have always been part of labour and industrial relations negotiations over the years and have always played by the rules and standard agreed.
Electricity rate was hiked recently, how much of a problem is this to you?
We never had problem with electricity rates; because we are always prepared to pay our bills if PHCN will supply us with electricity. Unfortunately, this is not always the issue.
How many hours of power do you get a day?
It’s not very pleasant.
Security is an issue in this part of the world, how much of a challenge is this to you?
Here in the hotel, we never had issue and we hope it would remain so. In view of the above, we are not in any way complacent and we keep working and deploying technology to fortified and put in place watertight security to protect our legion of foreign clients and Nigerians alike.
You are a Nigerian now, what is your impression of our hospitality industry?
We Nigerians complain a lot. When I first came here years ago, there were only three hotels in Victoria Island; Eko Hotel, Federal Palace and Moore House. Today, there are several international brands all over now and several other locally managed hotels.
However, there are things that are still needed to be done. We must as a nation address the issue of infrastructure deficit and security that we are faced with now.
What do you want to see in the next five years?
To see the sector continuing to generates revenue to the government and creates more jobs.