In this interview with some tourism Journalists in Calabar, the general manager of Tinapa Lake Side Hotel Calabar, Michael Idakwo speaks on the challenges of growing the hotel considering its distance from town, it’s competitive edge above competitors, surpassing expectations despite daunting challenges, vision for the hotel, achievements among others.
What months are your peak period here?
Here in Tinapa Lake Side Hotel, we don’t believe in seasons and off seasons, the business has to be there all season so that we can pay our bills, and attend to customers, that is what our goals are.
The Tinapa Business Resort is not moving as expected, most of the facilities are not working, still you have high level of patronage here, at the hotel, why?
This is because of our competitive advantage, emotional service, review of value chain for optimum productivity, team work, ingenuity, clarity of vision, sincerity of purpose, these are the reasons why we are where we are today. Competitive advantage is what gives you advantage over your competitors and for us we call it emotional service in Tinapa Lake side hotel. I am an incurable advocate of emotional service, this when a service provider deposits extra emotions in the customers emotional bank account, that is the kind of service where the hotel looks beyound, feeding the stomach of the customers, but feeding the sole, That is the kind of service that guarantees repeat business, is just like a customer is eating at the restaurant and me as the general manager of the hotel comes in at the restaurant to ask you how you are felling, whether you enjoyed the meals or not, with a disarming smile. We have smiles and disarming smiles, these are all parts of emotional service. We try to go beyound the norm to satisfy and wow the customer. We do not just satisfy the customers at Tinapa Lake side Resort, we celebrate our customers. I remember no none goes to places where he is tolerated, but will always like to go to places where he would be celebrated. Emotional service don’t even give the customer the choice not to come back, once you offer it, the customer is bound to come back because our motto in this hotel is the difference you desire, we stand to bridge the lacuna between customers expectations and customers experience. A lot of customers have visited many places , yet they were not fully satisfied, because there is something that wasn’t right. Here we try to offer that holistic service, we try to bridge that lacuna, we try to give that wholesome experience that will guarantee repeat business.
I must at this point appreciate the effort of his Excellency, Senator Professor Ben Ayade, the Governor of Cross River State for giving us two brand new generators between the months of December and January, he has given us brand new generators and that inevitably will crash our cost of production, the cost of production in Tanapa has been so high. And as you know, the hotel is a subset of Tinapa as a whole, so whatever affects the entire Tinapa as a whole affects the hotel. But with the procurement of these generators, it has inevitably crashed our cost of production and that means our profit margin will be enhanced.
Filling the hotel rooms
We still need more business, because we have got 242 rooms, the task before us is fill these rooms on a daily basis, that is our goal, that is our objective, to have these rooms filled on a daily basis. That is not being achieved yet, sometimes we have the rooms filled up five times in a month, some times four times, sometimes seven times in a month, but we want these rooms to be filled up on a daily basis. The room occupancy rate is 30 percent, as at January, we did less than 30 percent, it has picked now, December was full capacity. Usually June, to December is always our peak period. But again in the last four years, we have recorded our highest revenue in the month of May, contrary to the myth of December breakthrough. What we did was to break this jinx of waiting for November, December before you have this volume of traffic, we chose not to wait for that period. When I took over the mantle of leadership in this hotel, I sold my philosophy to the management of the hotel on the way forward. Later, even there was an outburst of business to the extent that we started distributing businesses to other hotels in Cross River State. And remember, we are still the best hotel in Cross River State as it were, so from Tripadvisor before you travel to a place, you go there to check, everyone is attracted to the best, some people are attracted here and when they come here, they see what they were promised. We tried to keep our promise and the customer is excited and guarantees repeat business.
Despite your location far away from town, your are still making it, what is your magic wand?
Most fundamentally, I cannot take the place of God Almighty, God has been involved and you know, you cannot travel with God and arrive as a late comer. The grace of God is here, that is number one, number two is I don’t know if you can explain how ants are attracted to sugar, that is the same way guest are attracted to good service, how they will arrive, you don’t need to bother about that, do your part and repeat businesses will be guaranteed. And I believe there is no excuse in customer service. Is emotional service that gives us hat competitive advantage. We have also adopted what Michael Porter called Hybrid Strategy, is also working for us, you know the hybrid strategy, the overall cost leadership, product differentiation and focus strategy. These were the strategies we adopted, even when things were very difficult for us in 2015, it was a nightmare, we still went outside the box to make sure that the hotel continues. What did we do, we skipped the inventory and started doing what I call the JIT philosophy, Just in Time Philosophy, when you no longer keep inventory, here you skip inventory, do direct purchase, keep the business flowing, that is what we did. So for every problems there are solutions and man is born to solve problems
How is it that the Hotel is still doing well despite the failure of the business arm
What’s happening in Tinapa today is a paradox, the hotel was built to complement the business aspect of Tinapa, but it has been the hotel that has been driving the business aspect, the water parks and for us, we are running and as long as the guests keep coming here the water parks will be busy and they still purchase items from the shopping malls. So we are not dependent on the shopping malls, rather they are dependent on our guests, though some of the shopping malls have been closed down for some reasons, but when you talk about the distance of the hotel from the city, our selling point is full inclusivity, what is the point staying in a hotel and the car horn on the road troubles your ears, that is not right, you have to re-examine where you are, whether you are in a hotel or garage. While here, there is full concentration, as a matter of fact, before you get out of this place, you would have checked to review your programmes. If you are coming here for a programme, for a seminar, retreat, you are sure your participants will concentrate fully, there is no distraction here, so that is our major selling point here, not only that, the space we have here, no other hotel in the country has that kind of space not even Hilton, not even Transcorp has that kind of space.
Achievements as GM of the Hotel
When I resumed here, I wanted to be referred to as a peculiar general manager, a different GM and by the grace of God as far as Cross River State is concerned today, I think that has been achieved. I took over the mantle of leadership here in 2012, in April 2012, I was privileged to have sat with the them managing director of Tinapa, and I told him sir, that am confident this hotel can attain a monthly revenue of N100million and the man screamed Michael, until I see it, because to him then, it was out of this world to think that way looking at the history of business in the place and where the hotel is coming from, but I wish to state here that in May 2013, this hotel recorded a revenue of over a N100million, the first in Cross River State and between 2012 till date no hotel in Cross River State has beaten our revenue record. I say this without any fear of contradiction, not because of the size of our rooms nor the number of our rooms, but because of our competitive advantage.
Vision for this hotel in the next five years
My Vision for this hotel in the next five years is for this hotel to become the best hotel in Nigeria, I believe is possible, the force that took us from number three in Cross River to number one in less than one year, that force will take us to the height of becoming the best hotel in Nigeria, it is possible.
It is a myth that after carnival, business crashes in Cross River State, that is a myth, we have never recorded our highest revenue in Cross River State in November or December since I resumed here in 2012, we have recorded our highest revenue in the month of May 2013. That is what emotional service can do, emotional service is recession proof, it beats whatever happens in the economy because is recession proof. Even the few events that will take place in this country, some will be taking place in Tinapa Lake hotel and with that, we still sustain, we still pay our bills and remain active in business.
Some hotels are talking about down sizing, we are even talking about employing at the moment.
Yearly occupancy rate
We have been doing yearly occupancy level of 30 to 35 percent, that could be low, but when you look at the volume of rooms, 30 percent occupancy rate in a hotel of 242 rooms is different from 30 percent occupancy in a hotel of 100 rooms. If a hotel of 242 rooms is doing 30 to 35 percent occupancy, is still high because you still attains N80million in a month with 30 percent and again, we do not only rely on rooms, that is why we have introduced theme nights like what you are witnessing now, that is Calabar nights every Friday, it has become a major attraction, a cynosure of all eyes in Cross River State. And it is well attended, we even got a report that people even travel all the way from Lagos to attend the calabar night. People travel from North, South East and West to attend our famous Calabar nights. I think is better experienced than explained, there now you will see the band and the best dancer in Cross River State dancing here every Friday night.
For us here, we have the capacity, that is why we believe so much in training and re-training. The trainings are systematic processes that enable the staff to acquire skills, knowledge and attitude required for their present and future task. For us in this hotel, he have the capacity and that is why we believe in training and retraining that will help us handle the over flow from the, the Calabar International Conference Centre, CICC. They are already aware right from the time the idea was conceived and we have been enhancing the capacity of our staff.
Here we have hundred staff and 15 ad hoc staff