Mr Taiwo Adedamola is the general manager of the famous WhiteHouse Hotel and Corporate Centre in Lagos. In this interview, he discusses issues and challenges in the industry with OLAJIDE OMOJOLOMOJU. Excerpt.
How was the journey from inception?
The business has been through its ups and downs. I think we started about 14 years ago to be precise October 1, 2004. We started as an event place and a night club; it was sometime later that we delved into the real hospitality business and lodging and accommodation.
At the initial stage it was so rough, but I think the leverage we had was because of the way we started, the name of the hotel, WhiteHouse had already gone so far and when we decided to go into hotel business, it wasn’t so much of a problem because people already knew about us.
What is the story behind the name of your hotel?
We have different kinds of nightclubs around and we tried to carve out a niche for ourselves because, we believe that WhiteHouse in the United States of America happens to be the seat of government of the world; so we wanted to pass a message across to our existing customers and intending patrons to let them know that this would be a better place compared to the ones they have been patronising.
How has it been for the business especially through the years, up to the point Nigeria went into recession?
The economic recession affected the business so much because it has to do with people in different areas of human endeavour.
When people travel from one place to another, they need a place to lodge in and when a place or hotel is not thriving, they would not patronise such a place; so it affected us a lot, as the influx of people coming to the hotel dropped considerably; and even now that the worst is past, we are still feeling the effects it had on our business.
What makes your hotel different from others in the hospitality industry?
There aren’t much differences between us and other hospitality businesses, as there is a lot of competition in this business. And I think the services in the hospitality industry are not different, but what sets us apart from other hotels is the manner with which we put our customers’ hospitality first, we make our customers feel at home.
Are you still involved in your previous business?
Night clubbing has been rested, but we still do event packaging and we handle some events, but not like we used to at the inception and early stages of our operation, since we are now fully into hotel business.
We don’t want to disturb our clients or guests, because they always want the place quiet and also security wise, so that we can control the influx of people coming into the hotel, we are thus careful in events that we take this time around.
Where do you see your hotel in the next five years?
WhiteHouse Hotel has come a long way and we handle the business in line with the vision of the owner. He’s made us understand that you can’t bite more than what you can chew.
The little we have, we try to improve on it and expand it more in order to thrive where others can’t.
In five years’ time, we hope to be among the top players in the hospitality industry.
How are you coping with the tax policies of government ?
One of our obligations to the government is to pay tax, but a case where you have people coming in with multiple taxes from the same government is actually crippling the business.
Most of the time, we have people come here to disturb us; we have had people who came in to ask of an issue we thought we were done with, this people don’t have records of this things in their offices, because they are always here to disturb.
They sit in their offices and come up with figures, they view the industry to be thriving enormously, but that is not the case; we are just trying to remain in business.
We lack two very important things, security and power supply. At times they are always here to complain about the smoke and noise coming from the generator and tax us for that, we are not happy running on generator, because that’s where our profits are going to and at the end of the month, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), would bring exorbitant estimated bills since the meter system is faulty and we have to pay to stop them from taking us to the grid and all these things are making business very difficult.
What are your challenges?
There are always challenges in any business one finds himself in life, but we are focused and know where we are coming from and where we are going.
We have good plans for everything we do, we have a blueprint for our business and for every activity, we put so much effort.
But majorly, we are battling with two challenges: power and multiple taxation. On power, we are doing our best to manage it by providing alternative source of power to meet up with the challenge.
What is your relationship with the umbrella bodies for hotels in the country?
We have a cordial relationship with our umbrella bodies, and when we have problems, we liaise with them, even if it is a case of litigation we don’t handle it alone and they remain our backbone.
Have you had problems of litigations in the past?
No, of course not.
Finally, with the services you offer, what are your rates like?
Our rates are commensurate with our services and very affordable for everybody and we have loyal customers who enjoy our services, we know many of them and always want them around.
We have what we call our loyalty cards which we give out to our customers with good discounts.
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