Bruce Porter, General Manager, Holiday Inn Accra Airport in Ghana spoke to Lucky Onoriode George African Travel Times Publisher/Editor on the progress made so far in the hospitality industry in Ghana. Excerpts:
The last time we spoke, we lamented the attack on a hotel in Bamako, Mali. Just recently again, hotels were attacked in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, how much of panic is this creating here in Ghana?
I don’t think the two incidents you referred to are threat to the travel and tourism industry as such, but for the fact that journalists or the media as a whole is broadcasting and writing about them; made a big deal of them. However, what we are doing to prevent similar attack is a security matter and cannot be discussed which I guess you fully understand.
Above all, security issues are left to the authority, which is the government. There is nothing any individual hotel owner can do, because we do not have the necessary intelligent and the capacity to deal with such.
As usual, we have strengthened our relationship with the relevant security agencies so that when we have any concern and suspicion, we can contact them.
How is business turning out, knowing fully that January is usually a dull period for the sector?
It’s been bouncing back since October-November. December was flat and I am happy that January has witnessed some bouncing back and February and March are showing some positive signs.
With the positive trends we are seeing, we hope it would continue till June and thereon too. Do not also forget that we are in election year; because it was moved forward to November and we are hoping that things will pan out beautifully.
Ebola is gone and we thank God that Zika did not begin from here again, how much of a relief is this to the industry?
It was first discovered in Uganda from what I have read in the media, but it also seems that the media is once again over-hyping the spread and health implication as such.
The last time we spoke, we talked about impeding competition from new hotels that were expected to open, what is it like now?
So far, only Kempinski Hotel opened last year here in Accra as a major addition and this year, we are also expecting Marriott to open after eight years. Besides that, we are not expecting any major opening soon.
Frankly speaking, Kempinski Hotel will make a difference because they will bring bigger business to town for conferences and seminars. At that, no hotel in Accra can accommodate a thousand people and that is where too hotels like ours will profit from their coming on board.
Though, more middle level hotels are opening all the time, and charge around $120.00, which in my view are needed, but the big 4 stars and 5stars will find their feet because of the quality services that they would be providing.
Again, there would be competition, but am also quite convinced it would be a healthy one because it would not get to panic level of saying God, how do we survive?
You are receiving African Travel Times Magazine 2015 Award for ‘Consistent Quality Service’, how have you been able to sustain consistency in your service?
It’s all about motivating the employees because they are the ones giving the service. My position as general manager is to orchestrate everyone to exercise the freedom to creative and express themselves in whatever they have to do.
One other thing that has helped us as a team is the family feel that we have and this include the owner Patrick Fares.
Maintaining consistence also involves training and retraining, how has this been involving?
We have a formal training process and it’s very much guided by IHG laid out standards as well as our monthly catch up sessions too.
What is the level of turn over now?
Still, we do not have high turn-over of staff, except for those who are going as a result of natural retirement, marriage or something related.
What else are you adding to up your game?
We are looking at customer service which is key in the hospitality business. Again, we are also going to be doing soft refurbishment because the hotel is almost 8 years now.
Changing of wardrobes, tables as well as pay per view television entertainment system. For food and beverage side, we are revitalising the menu because the competition in the industry now is not just on rooms alone, but restaurant too.
Within 10 to 15 minutes-walk, you have some decent eateries that guests that are not satisfied with our menu can stroll to and have decent meals, which is why we are also upgrading our menu and being creative with it too.
Also thinking ahead, we have add burger menu to our system so that you do not have to walk out of the premises to have a burger bite.
What has been the response of your guests so far?
Its normal for guests to have or develop a perception that the hotel has not changed much since they have been coming because there are others coming, knowing fully this property will be 8 years soon.
So, the regular customers know what they are going to see when they come and are happy for the transition that has been taking place gradually.
How far are you doing with the regional market?
The business from the regional market has dropped because of the downturn on the price of crude oil in the international market. However, there are other opportunities coming up with government of Ghana doing a lot renewable jobs. Google is also in town laying cables and the IT section also growing.
To catch new businesses, we need new companies to come before we can achieve that.
Word for your customers?
We are ever more prepared to welcome you back and make them feel more at home away from home.