Dr. Davidson Akhimien has many parts combined into one successful personality. As a security practitioner, a retired military officer, pastor and an astute entrepreneur, he runs several companies that are playing well in the Nigeria’s economic space. He is also involved in the hospitality industry, security, food and beverages and in the logistics sector of the economy. In this interview with OLANIYI AKINBODE, the well vast business tycoon speaks on Eden Hotels, a household name located in Ota, Ogun State. He also discussed business in Nigeria, the challenges and how the status quo can be improved. Excerpts:
Please tell us exactly what Eden Hotels stands for in the hospitality industry?
Eden Hotels and Resorts is actually the flagship of a chain of hotels that were set up all over the country. For now, we have a small-size Eden Court in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. There is another 30-room Eden Hotel that is coming up in Central Ikeja in Lagos. That is how it dotes the entire landscape. We forecast that in the next 10 years, we should be able to have Eden Hotels in major cities in Nigeria. The whole idea is to see that Eden Hotels provide top-notch services in the hospitality industry. We want to bring into play, international best practices, so that we can at least have a brand that would be recognised as a local brand with international standards. That is what we are doing. If you look at the economy today, you will discover that an area of the economy that has not been tapped is the area where you are promoting and that is tourism. Nigeria has a lot of untapped tourism potentials. For us, we want to be the forerunners of the tourism industry in Nigeria; it is a very large industry encompassing logistics, hotels, catering and others.
What is the difference between a resort and a hotel?
There are differences. A boutique hotel for example, presents limited features, services but a resort goes beyond that. It goes beyond providing those limited services that you have in boutique hotels. It extends the frontiers of service to things like connecting man back to nature. It offers activities that will connect man to nature. For example, you have a lot of greenery in a resort. You have what you call open air sit-out. Here, you see animal holdings like mini zoos and the rest. A resort tries as much as possible, not to only provide boutique hotels services but to give extended services in the area of reconnecting man back to nature. That is the difference between the two.
Why did you decide to bring the Eden concept to Ota?
Inspiration. Divine inspiration. Everything here came about by inspiration. They were inspired by God Almighty to put this here. And we needed just that.
What are the challenges of running a hotel in Nigeria?
There are lots of challenges facing hoteliers in Nigeria. One is the power infrastructure which is so great that we run generators or diesel generators almost on 24/7 bases. This is because even if it is one customer that you have in the hotel, you must give him all the services. Running a 350kva generator for one lodging customer does not add up. If we could solve the power problem, it will go a long way to aiding hotels to thrive. A lot of hotels come up and die because the Return on Investment (RoI) is minimal, almost negligible as a result of the power infrastructure. That is one. Another challenge is what we call improper exposure of people who run hotels to international best practices. There are expectations from guests anytime they enter a hotel. If they are not met, you will find out that your patronage will drop. Training is the solution in that area because if there is no proper training of the staff, then, they are not abreast with developments in the hotel business. There is a lack of congruence between staff training and customers services. That brings what we call a bridge or conflict. More training is required. Nigerian hotels could have been experiencing more guest turnouts but because of the problems of insecurity, especially as it relates to kidnapping, terrorism and the rest. While we are trying to develop the tourism sector of the economy, there are also mitigating factors of insecurity. One major trust of countries where tourism thrives is security. A country like UAE, with Dubai specifically having oil like we do but tourism is a major earner for them and it will continue to be. When you bring people to your country, there is something they have come to see. They will expend cash in all sectors. That will reduce unemployment. Government should look at it very well and see how they will tackle the security sector but simultaneously see how to drive the tourism sector.
What are your USPs?
Eden hotels provides almost all of the services that you look for in a hotel. The only thing that we don’t have here is water-side in terms of natural water-side like a sea. The hotel is projected to be a 100-room hotel including suites. Eden Hotels has three restaurants which include Continental Restaurant, Chinese Restaurant and African Restaurant. The hotel has a night club and up to five lounges. It has a games arcade, a garden bar, mini museum and an art gallery. Eden Hotels also has a mini zoo, swimming pool, spar, gym, executive cinema, mini mart, beauty saloon, water fountain, etc. It is for every Nigerian who can afford to stay in any hotel. The whole idea for us is not so much to make it expensive but to bring international exposure here in Nigeria. If you cannot afford to take a holiday in the UAE, US, UK, what you can do there, you can do it here because it is affordable and that is why we call it the Gateway place in the Gateway state.