Since opening-up its first hotel in 2001, Protea Hotels has been one of the most successful foreign investors in Nigeria. Jaco Maritz speaks to Pieter Bekker, the group's director for West Africa.
Give us a brief overview of Protea Hotels' Nigerian operation.
Protea Hotels has been operating in Nigeria for around seven years having entered the market with one hotel in 2001. We currently operate eleven hotels with two more scheduled for opening before the end of 2008, five scheduled for opening during 2009 and further expansion during 2010 and beyond.
How has business been going?
Our operation in Nigeria has thus far been highly successful, not only from a results point of view but also in respect of our progress in the development of Nigerian management and staff. Our contribution to the raising of industry standards to internationally acceptable levels has also been good.
What are the greatest challenges you face in doing business in Nigeria?
With more than seven years of Nigerian experience under our belt I believe that we are today able to operate in Nigeria without exceptional challenges.
Who are your main competitors in Nigeria, and how do you aim to stay ahead of the pack?
We welcome the arrival of groups such as Southern Sun and Sun International, and rather than view them as competitors, believe that they will contribute towards some of our ultimate goals with the emphasis on human resources development and growth and the improvement of industry standards.
In what direction do you think is Nigeria’s tourism/hospitality industry going?
The Nigerian hospitality industry is vibrant and will improve and grow to normal international levels within the medium term resulting in an improvement in quality service standards. Tourism is in its infancy and has huge growth potential during the medium to long term.
Who are your typical guests and where do they come from?
Our guest profile varies from location to location but reflects strong support from both the domestic and international markets. The domestic market is particularly strong in the corporate and conference segments. Internationally the South African, USA and Western European markets are equally important but not exclusive in the sense that we regularly accommodate guests from as far and wide as China, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and other destinations - not forgetting the importance of our neighbours Ghana, Benin, Cameroon, Senegal and Cote d' Ivoire.
|'The Nigerian hospitality industry is vibrant and will improve and grow to international levels. Tourism is also in its infancy with huge growth potential.'|
Which part of the business keeps you awake at night?
Nothing! I sleep very soundly thank you. As far as worrying about our business in Nigeria it is no different to anywhere else in the world in the sense that it is a continuous journey of ensuring that we always adhere to the core principals of Protea Hotels.
How do you decide on where to open-up new hotels?
The decision of Protea Hotels to open new hotels is in principle based upon geographic location, physical product, potential relationships vis-a-vis investors and other stake holders and our potential to add value to the particular project.
What advice would you give to other investors looking to invest in Nigeria?
Select the correct local partner bearing in mind that this relationship will most likely ultimately be the primary driving force towards success or failure.
If you had to single out one of your Nigerian hotels as a favourite, which one would it be?
My favourite Protea Hotel in Nigeria? There are a few but with admitted prejudice I have to admit to a soft spot for Protea Hotel Oakwood Park in Lekki, Lagos as I have had the privilege of opening this hotel and personally managing it for four years.