In their efforts to make a positive contribution towards tourism development and the growth of the hotel industry at large, BON Hotels, West Africa’s fastest-growing hospitality company, has announced their plans to partner with prominent Nigerians with strong roots in the hospitality industry to open a hotel school in Abuja early next year.
BON Hotels International West Africa will collaborate with Dewdrop Institute and Regent Hill Hospitality Limited, the owners of BON Hotel Abuja, as their strategic partners to set up the Hospitality Training Institute in Abuja, where Dewdrop Institute operates a City & Guilds-approved centre.
The founder of Dewdrop Institute, Mrs Agatha Nnaji, and the owners of Regent Hill Hospitality Ltd, represented by the Chukwueke family, are prominent Nigerians with strong roots in the hospitality industry whose primary focus is on the development of the hotel industry through capacity building and professional development of human resources at the hotel school.
Executive Director for BON Hotels International West Africa (BHIWA) Bernard Cassar, who has been involved in Nigeria from 1998 and who opened his first hotel in the region in 2001, soon recognised the necessity to adopt more formalised training. The early days saw management being sourced from South Africa or the UK, and staff members who showed potential were being fast-tracked through the ranks through focussed on-site training. Cassar says, “We saw the need to localise every aspect of management – from our board of directors right through to hotel management and staff – hence the dream to develop a legacy project that would provide excellent, accredited hospitality and specialised service training, in a hands-on, working environment.”
Located in the capital city of Abuja, the school will be run as an operating hotel attached to lecture rooms so that students will be simultaneously working and learning to achieve accredited diplomas and certification. Plans are afoot to expand to other areas in Nigeria in order to make the offering more accessible to others across the nation.
Chairperson of the hotel school, Mrs Agatha Nnaji, through her belief in the human spirit and in the youth of Nigeria together with her passion and drive for the industry with a focus on tourism, is the driving force behind this project, making this dream a reality. She believes that the hotel school will enhance the quality of service delivery and ensure the survival of the industry. “We share the BON group’s vision to localise, transform and uplift the local community and are committed to creating a centre of learning for the betterment of Nigerians, tourism and the economy that will serve as the leading ‘Hospitality Centre of Excellence’ in Nigeria, for the West African sub-regional market. “
One of the many local Nigerians who has been fast-tracked through the group’s localisation policy, Paul Umoh, Executive Director and shareholder at BHIWA, says that the challenge now will be in getting industry and Government on board. “We urge all international hotel groups, suppliers and the service industry operating in Nigeria to add value to this school, to make it their own, to get involved, offer bursaries and their time – localisation can no longer be ignored – instead of bringing in expatriates, we need to be sourcing, securing and nurturing top executive managers and hotel staff from our local talent whilst maintaining the excellent standards of service delivery that BON Hotels are known for.”
It’s befitting to note that BON Hotels International West Africa, who oversee the operations and management of 5 hotels in Nigeria, is partly Nigerian-owned – that their Directors and Executive management are substantially localised, their sales force is entirely Nigerian, as are most of their chefs. Deputy General Managers and middle management are from the region, and, perhaps most notably, 50% of their General Managers are Nigerian – clearly proof of ‘putting your money where your mouth is’ and fast-tracking a localisation process that works, that is morally correct and makes good business sense – the survival and success of Africa by Africans.
This hotel school project in Nigeria is indeed a dream realised.