By Ifiok Bassey
There are indications from reports circulating in Akwa Ibom state that the government is considering renewing the one-year management contract it is signing with Icon Hotels and Resorts Nigeria to manage the Ibom Icon Hotel and Resort in Uyo, the state has capital. The new contract, if it goes beyond the scope of speculation, can have a term of around 15 years. This should be good news for everyone who is interested in the fortunes of the five-star hotel in particular and the development of the hotel industry in the country in general.
The decision to sign Icon Hotel and Resort Nigeria, the local franchise of Kenya-based Icon Hotel Group Africa, to manage the icon of Akwa Ibom hospitality was perhaps one of the best investment decisions the government has made in recent years six years of her eight-year tenure, beyond industrialization, which has resulted in more than a dozen thriving industries being set up in various parts of the state.
The events and developments related to the Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort over the past year have confirmed the government’s decision to hand over the management of the hospitality facility to the third manager since it opened in 2007, and there are some positive and tangible things There have been changes in the hotel business.
During this time I had four occasions to travel to Uyo, and each time I was a guest at the hotel. Every stay at the facility exposed me to something new and different from what I had experienced on previous occasions.
The Icon Hotel and Resorts Nigeria has applied its well-known expertise in fusing local cultures into service delivery on the African continent to showcase some things that were not part of Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resorts’ culture. For example, it was not customary to prepare local dishes à la carte on request. I found I could order local delicacies and have them freshly prepared while waiting and delivered in record time.
A regular who has visited the hotel in the past will not overlook the friendlier and welcoming nature of the staff, which is obviously the new culture that today’s managers have brought to the operation of the facility. It goes without saying that you are enthusiastic about providing services in the various departments.
A man named Ime, who acts as the tour guide, takes pleasure in showing guests around the hotel and explaining the changes that have taken place over the past year, and misses no opportunity to tell them that Uyo is fast moving the Dubai of Nigeria becomes, due to the many visitors to the state, many of whom have made Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort their permanent choices.
The striking difference between the managers of the Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort and their colleagues in similar establishments in other parts of the country managed by expatriates is that while the management structure in these hotels has a large concentration of foreign managers, it does may not be more than seven foreigners on the uyo restaurant’s staff. There is a strong concentration of Akwa Ibom indigenous people in senior positions, which reflects the hotel board’s conscious policy of being sensitive to the federal government’s local content policy.
The progress made by Ibom Icon Hotels and Golf Resort over the past year, which has had a positive impact on business development, has guaranteed employees job security and strengthened their work ethic. This must be seen in the context of the government’s employment policy of creating new jobs while ensuring the security of existing ones.
The current managers have not only equipped the employees with new knowledge and modern skills in the hotel industry, they have also raised the bar for service provision in the country and set standards that others want to emulate. This is good for the industry as hotel operators strive to improve their game to meet the standard expected by guests who flock to the state almost daily for various activities such as conferences, retreats, weddings, or leisure. Some of these guests have seen the best hospitality standards around the world and would expect nothing less in a state that is rapidly adopting investment destination status.
There is some consensus that if Icon Hotel and Resorts Nigeria could achieve success in just one year of running Ibom Hotel and Golf Resorts, the more years on the saddle could significantly change the fortunes of the hotel and help with that too Boost the state’s economy.
An extension of the one-year contract by the government to give the current managers more years would certainly be a step in the right direction. With the managers who have done it in such a short time, the government certainly does not want to go back to the time when it had to give the hotel subsidies in order to remain functional at all.
Bassey lives in Abuja