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Promises of the sun

Onome Amawhe
Ikoyi  Hotel, one of Nigeria’s most  sucessful and pivotal inns has undergone a rebirth. It now known as Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotels. Representing a timely change of  brand and image, the 100% Nigerian ownership of the hotel remain unchanged but management is now being exercised by The Southern Sun Hotels, the largest and one of the most successful hotel groups in Africa .

Mark Loxley

The South African hotel management group was established in 1969 to provide great hospitality to local and international guests. Southern Sun’s portfolio of hotels provide world-class accommodation across all markets, and offer the widest distribution of hotels in major urban centers and key leisure destinations across South Africa.

Southern Sun portfolios are designed to meet the needs of all guests whether business or leisure.  The group’s offshore division comprises of hotels within Africa and the Seychelles where it has 2 properties.

It also has properties in Dubai which are four star deluxe standard business hotels. It has other properties in Dar es Salaam , Tanzania , Nairobi Kenya , Lusaka Zambia and Maputo Mozambique . Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel is the group’s first property in West Africa .

Commenting on this new and exciting chapter in Ikoyi Hotel’s sixty year existence Mark Loxley, General Manager, Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotels said that the Southern Sun Hotel Group’s relationship with Ikoyi Hotels was formulated approximately 7 years ago: “The feasibility study of the management contract was signed 7 years ago and definitely the owner/operator relationship is very important”

“And  we have made    our  start by exercising a great standard which we have a strong affiliation to. And Our benchmark should be the window on the world of many good hotel and environment”.

June 2009 marked the culmination of Southern Sun’s brand evolution following the heavy and significant investments in the rebranding and renovation of Ikoyi Hotel: “We started trading on the first of June 2009—so we’ve been operating basically for 9 months and the occupancies have totally increased on a month to month basis.  Despite the economic downturn, I think we’ve made a good start; as an example, in the first ten days of November, the hotel ran 60% so after 9 months, we firmly believe that we have started to take our place in the market  and that’s a trend which we’ll obviously want to increase as we move forward”

“More specifically  we have formulated marketing plans to ensure that we continue to grow the business and demonstrate the full potentials of the hotel”.

Mark Loxley knows what makes the Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel special. He thinks the winning formula needs to be the understanding of the marketplace: “We believe that the Lagos market is a very sophisticated one and we never underestimate the sophistication of this market. We also believe in relationship association with our premium and corporate clients,  likewise the formula in terms of creating a winning situation which also needs to be the attitude of the staff and the consistency of the service standards to ensure that the product is maintained in a great manner whereby we can secure repeat clientele as we move forward and allow for the continued success of the hotel to mark itself up”.

With more international
chains moving into the hospitality market  competition in the sector gets on the increase and the management and owners of Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel are conscious of the fact that the new entrants into the market would be coming in with brand new products. The  refurbishments carried out on Ikoyi Hotel  have literally transformed the product into a new and this, Loxley thinks, puts them in a very competitive edge with the new hotels because in addition to the good product; he also thinks that they have the experience and the service provision culture that has been bulit over the years through customer loyalty:

“I think when we talk about other hotels in the Lagos environment; there are hotels that we will describe as direct competitors and possibly indirect competitors. Historically, some hotels have had dominance in terms of the supply and demand situation and as the new hotel identities come on board and enter the market place, I think the emphasis will be growth in terms of service and standards and I think we’ve definitely made a good start.

And the ultimate judge of the performance of the Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel will rest on the clients of the hotel and we have engaged in continual process of feedback from our customers and so far the response we’re getting has been very good and we’ll continue to maintain and enhance all standards that relate to this hotel”.

Located in the affluent and Prestigious Ikoyi  and just next door to Victoria Island the major financial and corporate center in Lagos, Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel  has 195 rooms with one main restaurant; a terrace facility; hotel gym; mini bars in all the rooms and a 24-hour in-room dinning.

The whole hotel is internet and wifi compliant—a complimentary service to all of its guests. It also has a business center which is adjacent to the 120 square meters main function hall which is known as Oduduwa A and B. The hotel has 12 seater board rooms on a mezzanine lounge and two small meeting rooms adjoining the board room. It also  has on the mezzanine level gym facility which is complimented by a sauna and steam access facilities for all the hotel guests and again that’s complementary.

Upon check in, all
guests get two shirts pressings complimentary and two bottled water replenished everyday in-room and rates are inclusive of breakfasts. The room categories include the standard rooms of which it has 86 and it has what it calls the executive rooms (785) which are the next level up. It also has double double a twin bedded room and it further more has the suite categories and then what it calls the junior suite. Definitely, Mark Loxley believes that the hotel has a lot of added value that makes it different from the previous Ikoyi Hotel:

“In fairness, it was a different management structure. We as a management company have  specific corporate guidelines that we use and our focus is very much on guest service and attention at all times. And we operate a management principle whereby we believe in and we practice collective responsibility and participated management. So, we have a high visible management presence in all our guest service areas to ensure that the service delivery is correct all the time and that guests receives the maximum amount of attention and service that they deserve”

“And I think that aspect
of the human element is what we call the attitude friendliness of the staff  which is the benchmark that separates us from the previous Ikoyi Hotel and competitors and as we go forward we have a particular operating standard that we maintain and we will always enhance that added value.” Loxley also states that guests of the previous Ikoyi Hotel, most of whom are of the business and government segment have automatically and thankfully returned to the hotel: “These are the segments where the previous Ikoyi Hotel had an emphasis on and as a revised and refurbished hotel after an extensive redevelopment program, we are seeing returning clientele and also focusing on new business which is very important to a new hotel especially in the specific business environment which we are”.

Mark thinks that the personality of the hotel lends itself to a friendly and efficient service: “I think home from home would be the very apt expression. It’s very important that the guests feel comfortable immediately they arrive and  ultimately that’s what a  practical hotel experience where everything functions is all about”s.

The current goal of the Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel is to create more awareness in the marketplace and Mark Loxley thinks that would be done through media liason and then extending beyond the borders of Nigeria by getting the word out to Europe, North America, and the Ecowas region: “We draw clients from all over the world and in terms of obtaining our market share we will further indulge in market intelligence and make sure that we use all means possible to emphasis and generate more business into the hotel”


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