The Hospitality Workshop Africa organized by Ink Business Design, took place on Saturday 18th of June 2016 at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. The aim of the event was to explore career opportunities, provide business knowledge and insight, highlight challenges and solutions in the hospitality and tourism industry, and create awareness for the Swiss Education Group training facilities.

The Swiss Education Group, a world leader in Hospitality Management Education, hoped to use this as a step towards building a relationship with the Nigerian Ministry of Education and other willing investors. The aim of this relationship is to provide Nigerians with a world-class education and experience abroad which they can bring back home and build on. In an interview with Benoit Samson, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer, SEG, he made clear his belief in the potential of Nigerian students due to his experience with Nigerian Alumni from the SEG and hopes to make this opportunity available to even more Nigerians.

 

“We would like to see what we can develop in Nigeria and ensure they have a better opportunity for tomorrow and all the students and potential people we met today are able to receive the great education” – Benoit Samson.

 

The Workshop brought together a host of industry leaders and created an avenue for one-on-one interaction and consultation. There was a massive turnout, as one would expect, considering the hospitality industry is one of the major areas of employment. Some of the industry leaders present were, Sally Mbanefo, Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC); Benoit Samson, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer, Swiss Education Group; Obinna Ekezie, CEO Wakanow, the first online travel portal with expertise in tourism in Africa and around the world; Funmi Victor-Okigbo, CEO No Surprises events; Nkem Odewunmi, CEO Food Fashion Fusion; Belinda Nwosu, Research Consultant, W Hospitality Group, Nigeria and Kushal Dutta, Managing Director Jovago, Lagos, Nigeria.

The Panel – Hospitality Workshop Africa, 2016.

The first speaker of the day was Benoit Samson. He gave tips on how to work in the hospitality business and also expressed his appreciation for the warm reception he was given at the Nigerian Embassy as well as the airport upon arrival.

Benoit Samson
Benoit Samson

The second speaker, Sally Mbanefo, who came in her lovely signature outfit spoke on types of tourism (inbound, outbound, and domestic) and value chain of tourism as it affects every other sector. She talked about the hospitality industry being a major sector of employment. Also stating that there are about 11,000 hotels and 30,000 restaurants in Nigeria alone. The hospitality industry, she said, provides significant benefits to other sectors and so needs more investment. She also commended the Nollywood and Nigerian music industry for successfully exporting the Nigerian culture through passion, which she mentioned as an important trait in the hospitality industry.

The Panel Session

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about hospitality?

Belinda Nwosu stated that the major misconception was that Nigerians see it as a place for people without aspirations and vision, a place for school dropouts and people with little or no educational background. This misconception, however, needs to be corrected.

To Sally Mbanefo – As a mother, and somebody who is passionate about young Nigerians, what is the best way to mitigate the stigma attached to the tourism industry?

Sally Mbanefo stated that dialogue is being held with young people encouraging them to visit tourist sites, but parents also have a role to play. She mentioned the need for the educational sector to integrate hospitality & tourism into the school curriculum. “We are going all the way to the grassroots and young people need to be aware of hospitality because it’s the greatest part of employment”, she said. Belinda added, “The only way for your voice to be heard is by getting trained, getting the education you need, and excelling…” “You have to be resilient, that’s one trait Nigerians are known for; you have to be tenacious and you can have the education you need here in Nigeria, you don’t have to go out of the country” – Sally Mbanefo.

What are the steps one should take when switching to the hospitality industry?

The CEO of Wakanow, Obinna Ekezie talked about already having the travel experience due to his former career as an NBA player. He made use of a platform called ‘Expedia’ for most of his ticket reservations. Returning to Nigeria, he noticed there was no online ticket reservation platform hence his idea for developing Wakanow. “You need to have the passion and you should believe you want to be the best. You should not cut yourself short”, he said.

How important is it to understand benchmarking and what role does exposure play in that process?

Kushal Dutta, MD Jovago stated that one of the issues they face is getting individuals with the right skill-set. “It makes our life easier if we always have a pre-trained individual”, he said. He also stressed on the importance of getting trained as an entrepreneur as entrepreneurs need both functional and behavioral qualities. He stated that entrepreneurs need a support system, as the majority of their ideas may not be successful; a job in an industry related to your business is needed.

“You need to know where you want to go and follow that route. You have to stop being afraid of getting your hands dirty. You start from the bottom and you grow. ” – Belinda Nwosu.

On how to make money from the industry

Getting a good idea is one thing but you also have to credible because investors don’t just invest in the idea, they invest also in the brain behind it, Kushal Dutta explained.

“If you want to make money, then create value. What is this idea worth and how much will people be willing to pay for it?” – Obinna Ekezie, CEO Wakanow.

A member of the audience asked a question on security concerns in the country and how events in Nigeria can be improved to measure up to those in more developed countries

Mbanefo stressed that Nigerians need a paradigm shift because most Nigerians are more focused on making money and have little or no time for relaxation. Foreigners come to Nigeria and enjoy the country even more than the indigenes. As for security, she stated that only a few northern states are affected by security concerns and there are still a lot of other places to explore in Nigeria.

More pictures from the event below:

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