Southern Sun Ikoyi, held a press briefing with their General Manager, Mr. Mark Loxley on Nelson Mandela International day. This upscale South African owned hotel has graced the Ikoyi landscape for almost a decade, catering to the needs of business and leisure travelers alike. Their Sunday brunch is still a favorite go to for a lot of the Island’s populist.
We were super excited when we got the call to cover the event alongside travel/tourism writers from traditional news outlets such as the Guardian, Business Day and Vanguard to mention a few. The goal has always been for the site to serve as an information repository for everything Nigerian Tourism so it’s cool to be part of a press thing and doing some “reporting.” Hotels and hospitality are a major part of a tourism ecosystem, so it’s important to know what’s happening in this space.
The state of the hospitality business in Nigeria was one of the major highlights and how the hotel has navigated its way through the realities of the economy for the past 18 months. The GM provided a lot of insights on how the hotel has worked to stay competitive in the present economic climate. Managing their costs and expenses without losing the high quality of service that the hotel is known for. Keeping the moral of their staff high and offering consistent training hence maintaining the reputation of the hotel. They have had to adjust some of their marketing and sales strategy to protect their market share and are focused on supporting local businesses for hotel procurement as a response to the scarcity of forex. Mr. Loxley noted that the hotel has seen an uptick in business in the last 2-3 months and credited some of it to some good fiscal and monetary policy from the government an example being the unpegging of the Naira.
The discussion then swung to tourism with Unravelling Nigeria leading the way. We got our chance to play new reporter and fired away with our question. See transcribed below the question asked and the answer we got.
UnravellingNigeria: I have a two-part question. Part of your pre-ample was about the diversification of the economy and one of the points has been tourism. Tourism has been a big part of people thoughts on a way to diversify the economy. So, I don’t know if you guys have statistics for how many people come in for just leisure versus business. I know most hotels its mostly business people but the hotel itself do you guys have a program or work with people that come in to promote tourism and get them to go see Lagos. Do you guys have a plan around that and promote tourism?
SSI GM Mr. Mark Loxley: I think to answer your question the bulk or the multitude of people that do come to Lagos obviously as we know it is a business destination. What we have done again within the last year, year and a half is to try and promote as much of the local tourist attraction as possible. So, whether it’s a market or whether it’s the Lagos water festival. We keep information pamphlets, we allow certain identities to promote local tourism. If you are a guest staying at the hotel and you are a long stay guest which refers to seven days or more, you might be staying two or three weeks on project work etcetera. On weekends, our staff have the ability to refer you to local touristic destinations, whether it’s a beach house down at Ibeshe, maybe it’s a local market, maybe it’s a sporting facility, could be a Spa facility. We have a working relationship with Oasis Spa, so all the recreational and touristic activities that exist and there are many of them as we all know. We create awareness amongst the guest that are staying especially the foreigners so we can recommend and refer them to go out and hence we would then in turn support local tourist identities. A lot of people do like to go out, Lagos can be a very user-friendly place. For a lot of guest sometimes they don’t know that and the sad thing a lot of guest who come into the country they go through the airport they get the taxis the transport to hotel wherever they staying they go to a local office for 3, 4 days they might go one night out with a local colleague to a restaurant that’s it and then they leave the country. So, some of them come in and out some people have been coming in and out of the country for 5, 8, 10, 15 years and they have never done more than the airport, transport, hotel or the office. They don’t see the activities out there. Whether its deep-sea fishing, sporting activities, local touristic attractions, the museum, the market. Off Fiki marine you can go on a boat and circumnavigate the Island, we have done that for some of our guests. We have referred people to the Ikoyi club in terms of sporting activities. There is a lot of activity that can be done. We also have the Ikoyi car hire our local partner that has the ability to take out guest directly from the hotel, they are here 24hrs a day. We also have Aviator Travel and Tours maybe to answer your point as well so we have an onsite travel agency that can do flight bookings and also can promote all the local activities.
A follow-up question was asked by The Nation newspaper writer, who asked the GM if he was a tour operator in Lagos and with his 9-year experience working and residing in Lagos what tourist attraction would he highlight. Mr. Loxley mentioned that the best way to see and experience Lagos is by water. In an hour and a half, you can go around the Island of Ikoyi by boat from Fiki marine. The Nature reserve (The Lekki Conservation Center), Bars and restaurants such as the Yellow Chili and the local markets were some of his recommendation. In terms of beaches, Tarkwa Bay and Whispering palms are great selections he believes and with Whispering palms proximity to Badagry places like the Point of No Return and museum become destination sites. So, within a day there is so much u can see and do in Lagos.
The conversation transitioned into what private and public sector can do to further boost tourism. Creating awareness is a major key by all parties and he mentioned that there are some user-friendly changes that are being made at the airport which would aid tourism. The use of scanners at the airports hence no longer hand searching luggage, the visa on arrival program and the functionality of the airport; which has improved in the last 5-8 years are steps forward in making Nigeria a destination.
The GM didn’t fail to mention some of the corporate social responsibility initiatives undertaken by the hotel. Number one on the list is the adoption of The Arrows of God Orphanage in Oke ira nla, Ajah, partnership with the Special Olympics Nigeria and Nigerian Sickle Cell foundation to name a few from the long list of initiatives the hotel is a part of.
It turned out to be a very engaging, informative and interactive press session. We plan on checking out the Southern Sun Ikoyi experience and hopefully watch out for a future feature on it on the site.