Hospitality & Tourism
African Sunsets Travel: Digitizing high end luxury safari experiences
African Sunsets Travel Founders, Dexter and Gladys Chikerema
According to a Google Travel study, 74% of travelers plan their trips on the Internet, while only 13% still use travel agencies to arrange dream destinations around the world. The generation we find ourselves in has steadily been moving toward a technologically savvy environment. It is travelling and new technologies combined, however, that boggle their mind.
This joint interest has opened the door to a new context where social media, apps, blogs and adding value to the life of people play an important role in planning a trip. In the same breath, we realise that the pandemic we find ourselves in has given rise to an increase of digitization, saturating all industries and making it difficult for small businesses to peak through the noise. Everyone has to adapt their models to survive and produce compelling content to attract desired clients for future travels.
Back in 2018, when Dexter and his wife Gladys took a leap of faith to start their own travel and tour company (African Sunsets Travel), the couple dug deep into their passion for Africa, travelling, hospitality and their love for serving people. They had no idea if their prosperous business would find its way in such innovative times. Born and bred in Zimbabwe and both being skilled tour operators with over 10 years of experience, they know and understand that building relationships with people has been fundamental in getting new clients.
Being plunged straight into the COVID-19 crisis, African Sunsets Travel (AST) has been determined to give their clients the best experience online by providing them with stories and virtual tours to keep them entertained during lockdown. Prospective clients can find their exciting stories and thrilling blog posts on their website.
“We are fighting the pandemic together with the world and we look forward to taking our clients on wonderful safari trips, once we’re over this hurdle.” They understand the value in digitizing their packages and adding valuable information that will educate and steer individuals away from panic and fear.
Also Read: A ‘second renaissance’ for African payments post COVID
For this start-up company, it meant refunding up to 60% of their tours and trips for the year and moving 20% of their tours to an uncertain 2021. They have learnt that their traditional way of advertising and promoting their tours moved straight to the bottom as the world started to panic. The most important commodity right now is not travelling but rather face masks and sanitizers (in essence, people’s health and lives). We have been jolted into preservation mode, be it wildlife or humankind; all life is important and it is part of our global mission to show that we, too, value life.
“As a developing company, we believe that it is imperative to place people over profit, to follow leadership and instead of aggressively promoting travelling right now, recognise the greater need to calm and inspire the online audience. This time of uncertainty has called for innovation and imaginative storytelling, the way we package, coupled with understanding that digitizing is of utmost importance in the climate we find ourselves.
“When we started out, we never had a big business in mind but this current situation really pushed us into thinking bigger and better. We have the skills and resources to take on the new digital space, even if it maybe as simple as having a professional website and blog.”
Today, at African Sunsets Travel (AST) they pride themselves in facilitating affordable, enjoyable and quality tours. Their knack to combine luxury, style, service and authenticity guarantees clients a unique,exhilarating and unforgettable experience that will make every heartbeat to the rhythm of an African drum.
Credit: Toni Erasmus
Visit: African Sunsets Travel
Hospitality & Tourism
Radisson Hotel Ahmed Raza On Moving to Nigeria
Radisson Hotel Group General Manager, Ahmed Raza (Image: Supplied)
Ahmed Raza is an experienced operator with a demonstrated history of working in the hospitality industry. Skilled in catering, hospitality industry, menu costing, property management systems, and MICROS. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Ahmed shares his experience on moving to Nigeria, the hospitality business, impact of Covid-19 and much more. Excerpts.
Alaba: Moving to Nigeria to work, what’s different?
Ahmed: I have been very blessed and fortunate to be able to see the hospitality industry in different places including Asia, the US and now Africa. Every country, every culture has a completely different style and something that makes it its own. I think the hospitality culture is definitely growing in West Africa. Being in Nigeria, it is a very hospitable country. Nigerians are very warm and friendly, they are hustlers and go-getters and bringing that and refining that service culture is something that is really starting to pick up here.
It is a huge service driven country and I have seen a lot more people wanting to engage in proper training and getting proper experience so that they are knowledgeable about what it is that they are selling so in time the service industry is going to match up with its international competitors. That is what I believe, we are not there yet, there are a lot of things that need to change and happen but the nice thing about it is that groups like Radisson Hotel Group are dedicated to implementing the proper training programs for its teams and staff.
Alaba: How is Radisson different from your previous experience?
Ahmed: Radisson Hotel Group is flying high in the hospitality industry. Today it stands as one of the largest hotel groups in the world, with more than 1,400 hotels in operation or under development. The Radisson brand stands out for me because it believes that people are at the centre of a successful hospitality business. The foremost way to be a responsible company is to have ethical business practices at the core of our culture. Our ethical standards can be seen every day in the way we treat all our stakeholders from customers and team members to suppliers and other business partners.
Alaba: Talking of this period of COVID-19 pandemic, how are you managing?
Ahmed: From the onset of the pandemic, it was clear to me that this was a rare and massive change. Along with the team we decided to focus on bringing positive results and understood that the only way of succeeding is to become agile and dynamic. We engaged with all our guests and bookers in a way of looking forward to the end of the crisis, building lasting relationships that would benefit the hotel in times to come.
Radisson Hotel Group was the leading chain in developing Safety Protocols in order to prepare for guests to return. This association with the Swiss-based SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification company, led to a full review of the best health and safety practices. The outcome was the 10-step and 20-step protocols that ensure that all aspects of wellbeing and safety of both the staff and guests are the primary focus of what we do. Those tools gave us the confidence to put go-to-market strategies that resulted in additional business for the hotel, increasing our market share substantially.
Alaba: What is the extent of the impact COVID-19 has on the hospitality sector in Nigeria?
Ahmed: These are uncharted waters; we have gone back to the times of Ebola. Although this was mainly localized around the West African region but with a phenomenally higher fatality rate of over 90% compared to Covid of around 10%. The hospitality and aviation industry were the first and have been the worst hit so far. This is mostly because the industry is primarily involved in the provision of accommodation, transportation, entertainment, food, and other services to individuals who move from place to place for business and pleasure. Restriction of movement was one of the first steps taken to combat the virus, and then the eventual closure of borders and domestic travel.
In fact, it is estimated that travel will decrease by 40-50 per cent after the pandemic restrictions are removed. It is also important to note the shift of the pandemic epicentre from China to Western Europe and US which are the hotel’s industry’s major source markets and therefore the economic impact to the sector is far reaching. Keeping in view the fact that the total contribution of tourism in Nigeria to the country’s GDP is 35%, it accounts for huge economic and social losses from this sector alone.
Alaba: Radisson Blu Victoria Island has just carried out refurbishment, how much of a game changer is this for you
Ahmed: The hotel has rolled out a comprehensive strategy of innovation and renovation concentrating on the safety of the guests to accelerate the anticipated recovery from the pandemic. Radisson Blu Anchorage Lagos has embarked on an ambitious renovation exercise to the tune of a substantial investment with the sole aim of guaranteeing the safety and convenience of guests during and post the coronavirus pandemic. The rooms are wearing a new colour, blends meant to continuously brighten the mood of guests while the gym and the pool have been redesigned with modern equipment for guests’ pleasure.
Alaba: How do you sustain this position?
Ahmed: Through continuous improvement – innovation transfers across the brand e.g. Hybrid Meetings, Carbon neutral meetings, training, strong marketing and PR machinery.
Alaba: What is the percentage of Nigerian guests that come to your hotel?
Ahmed: 75% – to be confirmed
Alaba: With vaccines on the horizon, how hopeful are you for normalcy to return?
Ahmed: Our typical customers are the top corporates looking for personalised experiences and service. We like to call this a rollout of the micro-vacation. With vaccination rates being up, the domestic leisure travel segment is breathing life into Nigeria’s hospitality industry, we are on the road to full recovery. There is a lot of pent-up demand, especially in the luxury segment of hotels. For example, we are seeing extremely high demand in Lagos for leisure, our rates have not dropped. For domestic travellers, we are offering flexibility in their booking dates and a wholesome, future-ready experience tailored to the ‘new normal’ that we are all faced with today.
Alaba: In your projection, what direction will the hospitality business be taking in 2022/2023?
Ahmed: It is important to remember that the hospitality sector is no stranger to crisis. Our industry has survived countless challenges and periods of economic downturn, and COVID-19 is no exception. Industry experts predict that the industry might begin seeing a rebound in typical demand within 18 to 24 months. Understandably, hotels will be expected to adopt heightened cleaning standards moving forward, as cleanliness will be a critical factor in a guests’ decision to book a hotel room.
Secondly, technology. Love it or hate it, the hospitality business cannot ignore it. Hospitality providers will need to serve guests in a significantly more connected way, striking the right balance between automated solutions and human interaction. So much change. And so much of it is driven by the most important person in hospitality: the guest. Every brand operating in this dynamic and innovation-friendly market wouldn’t have it any other way.
Alaba: What is your favourite local meal, any special hobbies?
Ahmed: Suya and Pepper Soup anytime of the day, I have a great passion for Tennis. Currently play at club level to unwind from the daily routine.
Alaba: What legacy do you want to leave after your time here?
Ahmed: There is no doubt that the success of this hotel, and customer satisfaction is the best legacy I would like to leave behind.
Hospitality & Tourism
Radisson Hotel Group announces a transition in its African leadership team
Radisson Hotel Group Bert Fol and Sandra Kneubuhler (Image: RHG)
Radisson Hotel Group announces a transition in its African leadership team with the appointment of Bert Fol as Regional Director for Africa, focusing on English Speaking Africa and the promotion of Sandra Kneubuhler to District Director for South Africa, in addition to her role as Country Director of Sales.
Sandra Kneubuhler, Country Director of Sales and District Director, South Africa.
Kneubuhler, a South African national, started her hospitality career in 2001, holding various positions in Zambia, Switzerland, Thailand, and Qatar before returning to South Africa. In 2005, she assumed the role of Corporate Trainee at the Hyatt Regency Johannesburg, progressing within the group in roles such as Sales Manager, Revenue Manager and acting GM before launching the group’s Global Sales Office as the Global Sales Director: Africa, a position she held since January 2015.
Drawing on her extensive sales experience and local market insight, Kneubuhler joined Radisson Hotel Group in February 2019 as Country Sales Director for South Africa. Developing and leading the Group’s dynamic sales structure. Ever since Kneubuhler and her team have delivered exceptional results, especially during the challenging pandemic period.
In her new role, Kneubuhler assumes the additional responsibility of overseeing the operations for all Radisson Hotels in South Africa, working closely with the Group’s Regional Director for English-Speaking Africa, Bert Fol.
“Since joining the Group three years ago, Sandra has demonstrated through her passion for the industry remarkable results. Even when faced with the most difficult circumstances due to the pandemic. As a Group, we firmly believe in balanced leadership and developing our talent. And with a team player like Sandra who is powered by passion and forward thinking, it was a natural next step in her career progression which we believe will prove rewarding in every aspect.” says Bert Fol, Regional Director, Africa, Radisson Hotel Group.
Bert Fol, Regional Director, Africa
Fol, a hospitality veteran with 30+ years’ experience in the hospitality industry, worked for some of the largest and most prestigious global hotel chains. Before joining Radisson Hotel Group in January 2014 as Cluster General Manager of the Radisson Blu Hotel, Bucharest and Park Inn by Radisson Bucharest. In addition to his role as General Manager, Fol also had hotels in Turkey reporting to him in his capacity as District Director.
Since 2017, Fol has successfully led Northern Africa and thereafter, the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa as Regional Director. Within his capacity as Regional Director, he will now lead the operations in English-speaking African countries.
“With Bert’s wealth of industry knowledge and his standout leadership qualities, he has made strides for the Group within numerous key markets. I have no doubt that he will be equally successful delivering results in his new area of responsibility.” said Tim Cordon, Area Senior Vice President, Middle East & Africa at Radisson Hotel Group.
Hospitality & Tourism
Abuja Culinary School Launches The Tertiary and Secondary Education Culinary Art Project (SECA)
Abuja Culinary School Students and Facilitator (Photo: Supplied)
The Abuja Culinary School The SECA (Secondary Education Culinary Arts) initiative is a project that aims to train 1 million secondary and tertiary school students in Culinary Arts Education. This gives students across the world access to their comprehensive online lesson module consisting of lecture notes. And more than 25 learning videos of different dishes, including pastry, continental dishes and African dishes for a period of one year 100% free.
The Abuja Culinary School is on a mission to open up the culinary industry and its boundless opportunities to the young ones. It believes this opportunity will pique their interest in pursuing a career in Culinary Arts. and raise the next generation of food industrialists, food technologists, food designers and chefs. They also believe it will increase their students’ ability to earn an income. And raise a generation of thinkers who will proffer solutions to food problems and break new frontiers in the culinary arts industry.
As one of the top culinary schools in Nigeria, The School’s vision is to see the culinary industry in Nigeria, develop, impact, and uplift people. The importance of knowing how to cook like a true chef is rewarding health-wise and economically. The hospitality industry accounts for billions of dollars in revenue yearly. So, why not get a skill that helps you get a chunk of that money.
Do you want to become a skilled Chef, food technologist, food designer or food blogger, baker, a restaurant manager or owner? The Abuja Culinary Courses, ensure you get the right skills and culinary education that will set you apart from others. With different courses that are a good fit if you are joining the food and hospitality industry.
Register with this Link
Afripreneur1 day ago
Mary Njoki is helping startups tell their stories through Glass House PR
Afripreneur2 days ago
Deraya entrepreneurship initiative to boost job creation in Libya
Press Release2 hours ago
MoCaFi, founded by Nigerian Wole Coaxum, raises $23.5M funding to end racial wealth inequality