By JIMOH BABATUNDE
He has kept faith with his childhood dreams of being an hotelier, today, Mr Richard ROBAIX, is the General Manager of the First Ibis Hotel in Nigeria, Ibis Lagos Airport. Robaix has over 30 years experience in the hospitality industry working in different parts of the world. He has spent seven of those years here in Nigeria working for major hotels. In this interview, he talks about the hospitality industry, the tourism industry and concluding that the new visa policy will boost the country’s tourism. Here is an excerpt .
Why he came into hospitality sector
From my childhood I have always happy to serve and please people, and happy to work in the hospitality industry. I would have gone to the tourism industry or hospitality industry like hotel or restaurant and finally I ended up in hotel which could afford me to realize my dreams of serving people and travel around.
I have wide experience travelling around as I worked for international branded hotels , I worked in Europe, Africa, Middle East and South America as well as working on Cruise ships in far East , Caribbean , Northern Europe , middle East . I travelled a lot
On training he had
When I finished my Baccalaureate , I joined an hotel school in Switzerland where I got my diploma after two and half years and later Centre International de Glion Diploma (MBA), Hospitality Administration/Management .
On his experience in the sector
Great. I always say that if I have to choose again, I will choose the same job. I love my job, I like it, I am passionate about it . You meet different people, you meet different customers , you deal with different staff, you need to train the staff . what I love in the sector is that you can use your abilities to train people about different brands. Each brand is different, but I donft believe in the fact that to smile you must belong to a five star or two star. Any star you need to smile, you need to welcome customers.
On the hospitality sector in Nigeria
There are lots of potentials in the hospitality and tourism sector in Nigeria , lots of hotels just opened recently and more will open soon, but there are also much more potentials as many airlines are coming into Nigeria. These airlines will bring in new customers. I heard that the country is entering new era in terms of visa, as visitor can apply online for Nigeria visa and the visa will be delivered at the airport to you. This will be very good for tourism and it will encourage the tourism industry as well as hospitality sector in Nigeria.
On tourist destinations in the country
I will say that I travelled more when I was here between 1992 and 1994 than now. I have been to tourist attractions in Ibadan, Abeokuta, Badagry , but unfortunately, I have not been to Obudu Cattle Ranch, Tinapa in Cross Rivers as well Yankari Games park which I learnt are nice destinations. I am in the process of visiting these tourist destinations soon.
On if the hotel is business or leisure
We are more business oriented hotel than leisure, despite we having beautiful swimming pool in a quiet environment and other leisure facilities. The hotel provides a restaurant that is open 24hrs a day , we have a bar that is opened 24 hours. We have all the features a business traveller needs and to crown it, we are in a convenient location as the hotel is located 5 minutes away from the International Airport. All the rooms and Public areas are equipped with WIFI internet access. The buffet breakfast is served daily in our restaurant. Our restaurant will serve exquisite international and local cuisine delicacies.
On the patronage of the hotel in the last two years
We have enjoyed good patronage, first we have to be known, because Ibis Airport in Nigeria is the first of its kind. We are Ibis in Nigeria, but we are as any Ibis Hotel anywhere in the world. Ibis has 1600 hotels worldwide and we are proud to say that customers are not disappointed in coming to us. We have a name and well known for that, so when guests come to us at Ibis, we offer friendliness and value for money.
On the challenges running the hotel
The greatest challenge was training of the staff in the sense that we needed to employ green horns as staff as most of them are new in the industry, those who are not new they needed to adapt to the Ibis product. At Ibis we are multi computer, multi task as a receptionist can work in the restaurant, a restaurant staff can go to the house keeping to make up rooms.
We are proud to say that our staff are well trained, very well adapted and multi task, which is good advantage compared to other hotels. Our style is very simple, but here simplicity does not mean mediocrity. Simplicity also means to be efficient. So, training of the staff and the turnover of the staff has been a major challenge. To keep our staff has been a challenge.
On the products
We are rated three stars, we have rooms with some facilities, we provide what will make our customers and guests comfortable. We are in the process of changing our beds now. Ibis worldwide has decided to change all the hotelsf bed to what is called sweet beds by Ibis, which is a comfortable bed by the end of June. We have started the process here as 50% of our rooms have been changed and we will meet up before June ending for the entire change. Like, I said the product is all the time moving up.