Repositioning of the IBOM ICON hotel as a world-class tourist attraction

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Oudom Emmanuel

It has been a year since Icon Hotels and Resorts Nigeria was appointed as the new Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort management company by the Akwa Ibom State Government, Kayode Tokede is evaluating the course so far and how current management repositioned the premier resort into a profitable business and world-class leisure center

October 2020 marked the formal takeover of hotel management by Icon Hotels and Resorts Nigeria, the Nigerian subsidiary of Icon Hotel Group Africa (IHGA) based in Kenya to manage the 5 star Ibom Icon Hotels and Resorts hotels.

The objective was to reposition the hotel, to grow its fortune and to project the tourist and hotel potential of the State.

The hotel began operations in September 2007 as Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, and is managed by Starwood, an international hotel brand.

However, the relationship between the state government and Starwood ended in September 2017 and with the exit of Starwood, the hotel name was changed to Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort in the same year to reflect its full ownership by the government.

As a result of the unsatisfactory performance of hotel managers over the years, the state government found it necessary to engage the services of reputable and professional hotel managers, not only staffed with a proven track record in performance, but also respected in the international hospitality industry.

The imperative to have such a manager with these credentials stems from the fact that the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel built Akwa Ibom State as an industrial, economic and tourism hub in southern Guinea and not only in Nigeria.

IBOM ICON Hotel and Golf Resort’s status as a symbol and flagship of Akwa Ibom’s hospitality industry implies that the state needed a manager with the capacity and expertise to transform the hotel brand without losing its cultural essence by making it the pride of the people as well as the State.

It is important to mention that in finding managers who would suit the bill, the state government prioritized an indigenous brand with deep knowledge and experience of traditional African hospitality, which they wanted. infuse local culture into service delivery while maintaining international appeal.

The fate fell on ICON Hotels and Resorts Nigeria, a subsidiary of a hotel group that has carved out a prominent place as the most sought after hotel brand of African origin on the continent by stakeholders, including governments, individuals, investors and organizations wishing to gradually turn around their existing hotel facilities or create new ones.

The ICON Hotel Group is a fast growing, end-to-end, Africa-grown hotel cluster that serves as a resource base for various core hotel skills across Africa and beyond.

Providing top-notch hotel management and consulting solutions to multiple clients across Africa, ICON Hotel Group is an industry leader in the conceptualization, actualization and management of successful hotel projects across Africa. .

Since the takeover of the hotel and the complexes, the developments relating to the Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort in one year have justified the government’s decision to entrust the management of the hotel industry to the third manager.

ICON Hotel and Resorts Nigeria has applied its well-known expertise in merging local cultures in service delivery on the African continent to introduce new initiatives in one year that have impacted revenue generation and the quality of services provided to new and existing customers.

One year later

First, current management has reshaped hotel service delivery and equipped staff with new hospitality knowledge and skills, setting quality standards that others are trying to emulate.

There is some consensus that if ICON Hotel and Resort Nigeria could achieve the level of success it has achieved in one year of running the Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, then more years in the saddle could transform considerably the fortune of the hotel and also help boost the economy of Akwa Ibom State.

A one-year contract renewal by the government to allow more years of stewardship by current managers would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Reporting to his leadership, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of IBOM ICON Hotel & Golf Resort, Mr. Udeme Ufot said that the IBOM ICON Hotel and Golf Resort over the past year has been a benchmark in terms of level of service delivery and clientele. Satisfaction.

He argued that the ongoing transformation in the hotel has further improved the hotel industry in Akwa Ibom, making the hotel a role model for others.

Ufot argued that the year has been a very trying time for the global tourism industry, Nigeria included, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which has wreaked havoc in the industry, literally grounding them. activities and causing unquantifiable losses during the period of the various confinements around the world.

He noted that during the difficult time of the pandemic, IBOM ICON Hotel and Golf Resort demonstrated resilience and the ability to not only weather the storm, but adapted well to what is now known as the new normal. in its operations.

According to him: “The hotel has managed to maintain the delicate balance between the optimal functioning of the company while ensuring public safety.

“We have specially trained our staff to be able to provide the usual services in the midst of a pandemic of the magnitude and scale of COVID-19, which has remained a mystery even to experts until now. The hotel introduced contactless services which allowed staff to serve guests without bodily contact. This innovation has earned the hotel high praise from our guests.

He said the current hotel management is happy with the progress made in one year and is currently negotiating with the state government for a contract extension.

He further explained: “I cannot be precise on the conditions of extension but it will certainly be a contract of more than five years to manage the hotel.”

He was optimistic about the future of a new IBOM ICON Hotel and Golf Resorts, saying everything was in place to ensure a five-star experience for new and existing customers who visit throughout the year.

Likewise, Ufot praised the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, for his tireless efforts to bring peace to the state. He noted that peace in Akwa Ibom is a factor that has made a state a major destination for business and leisure.

“Let us give honor to whom this is due. People want to visit Akwa Ibom because there are certain elements that make the state attractive and also easy to visit. To date, Uyois is probably the easiest place to visit from Abuja and Lagos, thanks to Ibom Air ”

“Why do people want to visit Awka Ibom? The reason is that they can come here and feel safe. Thank you to our governor for making the state peaceful, safe to go for conferences and relax with family members. We might have a great hotel and golf course, but if people don’t feel safe they won’t come, ”he added.

Renovations

The Hotel over the years has not experienced any major renovations in terms of painting, transformation of interior furnishings and some other infrastructure to accommodate its 5-5 status.

The chairman of the hotel board, Udeme Ufot, noted that there are plans for the renovation and facelift of the hotel’s structures and facilities. The goal is to improve service delivery and improve the customer experience.

To corroborate this, the Managing Director of ICON Hotels and Resorts Nigeria, Adetope Kayode, further explained: Operations needed to finance the hotel renovation.

“We have been busy with engineers, technicians and other teams looking for ways to optimally renovate assets. We have taken an entrepreneurial approach to renovating the hotel for the benefit of the people of Akwa Ibom State. To ensure efficiency are made in the process.

“We expect that in the first quarter of 2022, full activities of the renovation effort will begin. Our intention is to complete the renovation in 12 months.

Relationship with host communities

ICON Hotels and Resorts Nigeria last year launched an intensive one-year human capital development program at IBOM ICON Hotel and Golf Resort, aimed at converting semi-skilled people into skilled personnel who can seize opportunities in the hospitality and operate at management levels anywhere in the world.

The management training program, with the aim of ensuring a continuous supply of future talented leaders for sustainable growth in the hospitality industry, has its interns drawn from the hotel’s host communities, ICON employees and new graduates with leadership qualities, good communication skills, a caring attitude and a track record of hard work.

Commenting on the program to develop indigenous talents and prepare them to seize opportunities across the world, CEO of ICON Hotel and Resorts Nigeria, Mr. Adetope Kayode noted that the hotel has launched the development program of the management as a means of giving young people in the state, especially those from host communities, an opportunity to learn and grow in highly specialized hospitality activities.

According to him, “It’s about exposing them to best practices, training them on the job over an intense one-year period and giving them the opportunity to gain a foothold in the industry.

“When we talk about employment prospects, ICON Hotel group Africa in all of its managed properties across the continent offers various employment opportunities for good students in this program which is merit based and subject to performance.

“The idea is to encourage them to give their best and, as they felt they had played at the end of the program, gives them opportunities both in IBOM ICON Hotel & Golf Resort and also in other areas. other properties managed by ICON and other properties with other hotels. managers in East Africa, Nigeria and across the continent who are ICON partners.

“There are many opportunities in terms of what we can bring to graduates of this program and this hotel certainly has opportunities for graduates of this program.”

The State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mr. Orman Esin welcomed the fact that the management of the Hotel had taken the initiative to train young people from the host communities, stressing that the State would benefit from the development program.


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