Against the backdrop of clamour by sections of the hospitality industry in the country for a harmonized hotel classification and grading system, Area Manager (West Africa) for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., and General Manager, Sheraton Lagos Hotels, Mr. Alex Gassauer, has maintained that the process remains subjective and dependant on the guest.
Gassauer was addressing a media conference inside the Four Points by Sheraton, Lekki, Lagos, to formally announce the signing of an agreement for a new hotel in Benin City, the Edo State capital to be flagged by Starwood under its Four Points by Sheraton brand.
Starwood currently operates five hotels in Nigeria, including Le Méridien Ogeyi Place, Le Méridien Ibom Hotel & Golf Resort, Sheraton Lagos, Sheraton Abuja and Four Points by Sheraton Lagos. Le Méridien Ikoyi Towers will open in December 2013.
The event also served as platform to officially introduce the newly-appointed General Manager of the Four Points, Lekki, Austrian-born Mr. Christian Tomandl, who replaces the pioneer General Manager, Mr. Peer-Christian Fritz, the Swiss national who had served since the hotel’s opening in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Maintaining that the regulation and grading may still be necessary, Gassauer stressed that present economics of hotel administration relies strongly on guests’ opinion and grading, as, according, to him, it is the guest who ultimately decides if a hotel’s grading is appropriate.
“This is my personal opinion, the whole practice of grading and classification in today’s hotel business seems no longer necessary because it is now the guests who decide if a hotel is truly what it claims to be in terms of its rating. If you say your hotel is 5-star and the guests come and don’t get a 5-star treatment, then expect that they’ll take to the social media and run you down. And it is so because the social media today is a strong influence in business in the hospitality industry,” said Gassauer.
Advising the country’s tourism regulators to focus mainly on Diaspora and MICE tourism, the Starwood chief said these represented areas where Nigeria had a comparative advantage over most other players in the industry at the global level, just as he equally decried the huge operating costs incurred by hoteliers in the country.
“If you look at the continent of Africa, only South Africa and Egypt can pose competition for Nigeria in the area of conference tourism, but on the West African sub-region, this is where we have the strongest advantage and where we should focus on because the country possesses facilities to effectively corner that market.
“Also, the Diaspora tourism or what I’ll call the homesick tourism where Nigerians abroad come in regularly with their families to spend time at home with other members of their extended families, is another market waiting to be tapped. And as each aircraft lands you’ll see the bright faces of the children glowing in expectancy as they look forward to seeing their grand-parents. These are the aspects of tourism we have advantages over most other players on the globe,” Gassauer stressed.
Scheduled to open in 2015, the proposed Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Benin City, is the result of an agreement between the United States-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., and the Nigerian-owned S&F Panoramic Tourist Limited.
Situated in the heart of Benin City and a short five-minute drive from the airport, the hotel will feature 194 rooms, an all-day dining restaurant, sports bar, pool bar, café, fitness centre, spa and outdoor pool. The hotel will also offer 980 square metres of conference facilities and a business centre.
“We are delighted to partner with S&F Panoramic Touristas we open our first Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Benin City,” said Roeland Vos, President, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Europe, Africa and Middle East. “Africa is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, attracting a growing number of business and leisure travellers to key destinations such as Nigeria. The opening of the new Four Points by Sheraton Benin City will offer visitors comfort and great service, all at an affordable price.”
Chief S. O. Agbareh, Chairman of S & F Panoramic Tourist Limited said that the pace of development in Edo State in recent years made the conceptualisation of a Four Points by Sheraton in Benin City an imperative. “Locals and visitors to Edo State deserve a world-class hotel comparable to what is available in other big cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. This will reinforce the Government’s effort to provide infrastructure and other basic amenities that were clearly lacking in the state.”
Four Points by Sheraton provides an uncomplicated environment, with a simple yet straight-forward approach to hospitality and service – all at a great value. The Four Points by Sheraton Benin City will feature the brand’s defining elements, including the signature Four Points by Sheraton Four Comfort bed and free Wi-Fi in all public areas, reflecting the brand’s promise and insight into the needs of today’s traveller.
Four Points by Sheraton Benin City will also offer the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) programme, which made headlines when it launched in 1999 with a breakthrough policy of no blackout dates on Free Night Awards. SPG offers members the ability to redeem awards at more resorts, more luxury properties, more European hotels and more golf properties than any other hotel programme.
Located in southern Nigeria, Benin City is the capital of Edo State, one of the country’s nine oil-producing states. The city boasts a population of over three million people and is also a major commercial and industrial hub in Nigeria, hosting a range of industries including petroleum, agricultural processing and construction.
The newly-appointed General Manager, Tomandl, who grew up in different parts of the world, such as South Africa, Middle East and Nigeria, began his career with Sheraton in 1995 as Management Trainee and left 1998 to explore some other hospitality companies.
He came back almost 10 years later to Starwood Hotels & Resorts, as Deputy General Manager of the Sheraton Abuja Hotel for between 2007 and 2008. From there his journey with Starwood Hotels & Resorts took him to Casablanca in Morocco, Oran in Algeria and then in December 2012 back to Nigeria as General Manager of the Four Points by Sheraton Lagos.