Chike Ogeah is the Managing Director of Mac-Folly Hospitality Limited, the hospitality subsidiary of SIFAX Group, and the owners of Lagos Marriott Hotel, Ikeja, a 10-minutes drive from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. Ogeah is also the Vice-Chairman, Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL).
In this Interview with Nairametrics, he outlines why the management of the hotel is commissioning a facility, which is worth about N45 billion, at a time when existing hotels are still counting losses incurred from the pandemic.
How will you assess the hospitality industry in Nigeria considering the new normal?
It is one of the most severely impacted because people are not moving around and of course, travel was restricted, so the hospitality sector took the first hit along with the airlines. It has been a very challenging time but we thank God for the cargo line of business because that’s what kept us going. Passenger travel was greatly impaired and it adversely impacted hospitality.
It is at this challenging time that we are coming into the market but we are hoping that things will get better and life can return to normal.
What are the gaps you want to fill in the industry and your environment?
Considering all the operations we have at the airport, we knew that we needed a hotel of this brand that would be located 10 minutes from the premises of the airport, which can give the value obtainable across other Marriott hotels around the world.
We observed that there were some good hotels around but we also needed something premium here, which is why we did not go to the Island. We might do that when we want to expand, but we thought it was important to start from here.
The whole idea is to give utmost comfort to the major international airlines at a short distance of 10 minutes from the airport under maximum security.
But there are some hotels around Ikeja. What are you doing differently?
The Marriott brand is an international brand that is known across the globe and this is the biggest in the country. The brand has many unique selling points like exceptional care and pampering of guests, variety of facilities, and luxury, among others. We make this a one-stop place where you can get every comfort you can’t get elsewhere.
Some hotels have adopted other related businesses as a survival strategy since the lockdown was eased. What are your plans in this regard?
We just want to get going against the challenges as I said, but we are supposed to have a mall next door. For instance, in Dubai you don’t have to leave the airport facility because everything is there; that is part of what we intend to do. We want to have a cinema and a mall but those will come in the second phase of the development, so we can be a more comprehensive brand to our customers.
There are some ongoing construction works around your facility. Is this an effect of your presence?
Yes, most of them started when they found that we were building a premium hotel here. Many of them are hotels too.
For them, it’s a win-win situation. With our presence, they realized they needed to build smaller hotels to cater to delegates, assistants, and aides of our guests. If the MD and the Chairman will be here, then the SAs and Directors can go to other hotels around. Their security agents can also find a hotel for N10,000 or less in this neighborhood, and by this, we are even helping the hotels in this neighborhood. That is the reason you notice some of the building up, so they can get the spinoff of what comes from here.
What is the value of the facility?
It is worth about N45 billion, and that is because we have not finished the total modification as some work is still in process. We are still expecting some things from South Africa.
How much local content are you taking?
As many as we can, because our first loyalty is to Nigeria; that’s why you see all our employees are Nigerians.
Marriott has sent the Directors who will do the training, and when they are done, they will return while Nigerians take over. We are committed to Nigerians.
What is your expected turnover?
This hotel has just been completed at the back of the pandemic. Right now, we have not gone into the stage of what our turnover will be. It is obviously dependent on when the world gets to reset itself and passengers get to move freely again. It’s quite obvious that in Nigeria, people always want to visit on weekends and although the bulk of expected guests are travelers from abroad, we still have a fair share of locals. Some locals will come to spend some quality time here while others will come to work in a quiet atmosphere.
Maybe when we open for about 3 weeks or a month, we can begin to access what the expected turnover is in terms of volume of expected guests and compliance in terms of dollars.