Managing Partner, Vertiline Synergy Limited, Adedoyin Fabikun, talks to EMMANUEL OJO on the hospitality business in Nigeria
Your firm is organising a two-day hospitality business summit. What’s the purpose of the summit?
It is to put a lot of focus on the hospitality industry and to show that it transcends owning a hotel or a restaurant; there’s the business arm of it and it’s so important in so many sectors. Part of the goal of the summit is to also create opportunities for networking, and from the public and private points of view, to highlight the challenges and opportunities in the hospitality industry for better investment. We are a hospitality solutions company and one of our major services is consulting, where we do pre-set-up and turnaround management services for businesses and hospitality industries. Also, we are going to launch a hospitality training school and a recruitment platform for hospitality businesses. By coming up with several solutions, I believe we are contributing at least one step at a time to the greatness that is in the hospitality industry in Nigeria
Again, one of our intended services is international business formation, which service was brought up because we found out that a lot of people are interested in investments in Africa and out of Africa, but there are really no middlemen for business set-up, feasibility studies and the likes. When some investors come to Nigeria, they have an issue of being defrauded or scammed. So, we can help to register businesses and ensure that your business plan is intact and functional and help out from construction to operations; so, our target is Africa and Africa-based investments.
What are you looking forward to in the business summit?
Honestly, I’m looking forward to the knowledge that will be shared. We have 100 people attending and at least 11 speakers that are top in their fields. So, I look forward to all the knowledge that will be shared on that day. I also look forward to the gala night, where we will have the MD/CEO of Landmark talk about hospitality as a way of revitalising urban areas. I look forward to that. I also look forward to people in the public sector talking about building an eco-friendly hospitality industry in Nigeria.
One of the topics to be discussed at the business summit is: ‘Hospitality investment – An integral part of boosting low-income economies’, in what ways will the hospitality business drive a growing economy like Nigeria?
Thank you for that. Firstly, I will say real estate development with the rise in hotels, short-lets, restaurants and the like. The second one is employment. The hospitality industry creates a lot of employment opportunities for people. The third one is in strengthening our agriculture. A lot of people use the ingredients that are produced in Nigeria from our crops, fruits and vegetables, and that will increase the involvement of agriculture.
Then, real estate development, investing in low-income economies and creating employment opportunities and taxes. As new businesses spring up, the government generates taxes one way or the other. The hospitality industry also gives room for other developments around it, opens up low-income areas to tourists, and provides employment, buildings, and so on.
It’s been observed that many Nigerians tend to patronise foreign hospitality facilities. For instance, a Chinese restaurant appears to be a preferred location for a date than an African restaurant. Why do you think this is so?
Well, to be quite fair, there are a lot of hospitality businesses being run by Nigerians, a whole lot; however, they are not having a lot of attention given to them because the average man who owns the business is going through a lot of challenges – trying to get power, trying to deal with human capital and other things involved – but these foreigners come with so much money to start big, whereas the average Nigerian man is trying to manage what he has. Also, we have something I wouldn’t know if it’s the colonisation mentality that’s making the foreigners to command more respect. I feel that because of the aesthetics they can also attract more people. Again, because of exposure and developments in those countries, that makes a restaurant that is basic over there (abroad) look like a big deal here because we don’t have a lot of it here. So, because of the scarcity of those things, it’s very easy to come and set up and settle in Nigeria.
Again, I think another challenge is that a lot of Nigerian investors who go into this business don’t have the proper knowledge of owning and running the business, for instance, a restaurant; so, it’s very difficult. There are a lot of infrastructure that needs to be done, and there are lot of developments that need to be done but as human beings, we also need to be more aware before setting up a business; we need to be more educated before setting up a business, do the proper training and ensure that the staff members do what they need to do.
Coming to Lagos, which is the commercial hub of the nation. With the level of growth of hospitality in Lagos, would you say that it has been able to attain the five-star hospitality status expected of a mega city?
We have a few things untapped but at the same time, we have seen a lot of developments also through and through. There are a lot of hotels that have been there from time memorial, which are five-star hotels in their own way; we feel the same sense of development. With respect to the five-star hospitality status of Lagos, in some ways, yes and in some ways, no. There are still a lot of things that have to be done with infrastructure, security, network of roads and infrastructure in general, but on one hand, we have been able to develop Lagos to be one of the most interesting tourist points to go to, especially for people who enjoy lifestyle.
What are the challenges that do not allow hospitality to thrive in Nigeria?
We have poor infrastructure taking the lead – poor road network, poor development, insecurity, poor welfare and also high taxation. Electricity is also a factor. Another challenge is lack of development from the government; human capital may also be a problem, but most importantly and at the fore is poor infrastructure.
Are there measures you are taking as a consultant in that field to make the government aware of the gains of a thriving hospitality industry in the country?
Well, the upcoming hospitality business summit is a start. We aim at bringing investors, leaders, and the public and private sectors to come together to talk about it from the private and the public points of view, from foreigners’ points of view, and from the local point of view. So, that’s the first step; we aim to do more brainstorming sessions and hopefully, it will go into policy-making and a system where we can contribute in a larger capacity by contributing to policies being made in the hospitality industry. Along the way, we are hoping to allow the government to hopefully come together to develop forward-moving modern hospitality solutions that can be owned by the government and managed by us.
To what extent have the country’s hospitality resources been tapped?
Well, I will say 30 per cent because when you look at our major tourist attractions, there are poor developments surrounding them; the Olumo Rock and the game reserves and Ikogosi (warm spring in Ekiti State). Yes, there is stuff being done there, but there is more that can be done in terms of hotels, building restaurants, food and beverage businesses, more leisure and tourism, and development.