Chief Crescent Attama is the chief executive officer of the Tamara Guest Inn, Wuse Zone 3, Abuja. In this interview with GRACE AZUBIKE, he speaks on the challenges in the hospitality industry and offers useful advice to hoteliers.
People will like to know who you are.
My name is Chief Crescent Attama, from Igbo Etiti, local government area of Enugu State. I came to Abuja in the year 1979 after my primary and secondary school days.
Here in Abuja, after about six to seven years in business, I decided to further my education. Consequently, I obtained a HND in Business Administration from the Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa State.
Is your profession related to what you studied in the university?
Yes, am really in the very business that I studied. I majored in tourism and I represented the whole hotels in Abuja in 2008 at the Essence Centre, London.
How does your business affect the Nigerian economy?
The hotel industry is a very lucrative one and that is why we the owners of hotels are appealing to the federal government to look into the sector because it is one of the major economic boosters of the economy. Many people patronise the industry—they use the buildings for programmes, weddings and other functions.
It is a business capable of employing a large number of labour. Most hotels employ more than 20 workers. The Tamara Hotel has 120 workers, with both graduates and school certificate holders working here. In fact no hotel in Abuja is small, that is why government should really pay serious attention to the industry by supporting players in the hospitality business.
Most graduates now are in the hotel and tourism businesses. Here in Abuja, we suffer from lot of challenges ranging from heavy taxation to the lack of power supply. Those are the major problems we are facing. The simple fact that the hotel industry is helping so much in provision of employment to the unemployed youths in the country is enough reason why government should come to our aid.
Can you share your experience on the job?
Yes, we have gotten a lot of experiences; in the area of security we assist the government to identify criminals. We make sure that our hotels are not places where criminals can hide; we do our best to fish them out. For example, last week somebody checked into our hotel with a bullet wound immediately we finished checking him in, we reported to the police. It was later found out that he got the wound in Borno State where he was attacked by Boko Haram and was running for his life.
The matter was taken to the extent that the DPO of Wuse made some calls and confirmed his story before he was released. We are very vigilant about security, no criminal can go to any hotel and hide in Abuja here without being caught. We are well trained because every two weeks the SSS must call all the prospectors and give us lectures that last for hours on security situations and how to handle them and we are following their instructions.
How much is required to invest in the hotel business?
It is a very capital intensive business. As far as you have what is involved, which is money, you are already there in the business. The rooms have to be well furnished so that everything people use in their homes is also in the hotel.
Also, you have to maintain the rooms and buildings to look attractive for customers and guests who patronise you on daily basis. In addition, you always make changes of things which may go bad, so you can see that it is very capital intensive even to maintain, but as far as you have the money one can fit in.
What are the risks in the business?
There are very high risks because at times someone can check in, who may have taken excess drugs and may die. That is also a very big risk, where you start explaining what you don’t know. That is the reason why before you check someone in you get the original address of your guest, even though at times they give fake addresses.
Notwithstanding, we take even pictures with CCTV to check and monitor their activities. There are bound to be problems every minute of the day but God is our protection.
How does the hotel industry generate employment?
Hotel industry is full of services and training because the staff are always trained to boost their skills. For instance, you arrive a place you don’t know, the staff will take you into your room and ask what you need and pet you like a child and finally you feel at home.
All these things are being done by people in the service department; we also have administrative and accounts departments. Also there is the catering department, that is why we employ a lot of workers because all these things need human labour.
How do you manage your family, business and leisure?
My family are part of the business because age is no longer on my side and at times I call them to lecture them on the business. Even those in school, during holidays they come to the office and ask what they can do and study what we are doing. If not when I retire they won’t be able to take over the business.
Especially those that have interest in hotel business can fit in, after all that is the source of income and where the family feed from, so we must manage it well. As for my leisure, I travel out sometimes and spend two weeks or more to rest because there is a lot of pressure in this business. At times I take vacations away for one month and sometimes stay in the village to refresh myself before coming back to Abuja.