‘If you give people good service, they will come back’
‘From experience, I know that if you give people good service, they will come back. We are going to establish a culture here that from the gate to anywhere in the hotel, we will serve people. Our cuisine will be a combination of African and international dishes. We want people to come from very far places. I’ve discovered that word of mouth spreads faster than any advertisement, because it is more authentic.’
Victor Okwudiri Orie is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mariskaville Hotels. The 33 room-hotel, which is about to be commissioned, is located in the serene neighbourhood of Golden Pearls Estate, along Lekki- Epe express way, Lagos. Victor Orie worked with several blue chip companies, including British American Tobacco-BAT, MTN Nigeria and MTN Foundation. An avid reader and lover of arts, he wants to bring his experience of over two decades to bear in the hospitality industry. His mantra has always been to put smiles on the faces of people and give back to the society.
BLACKWASH Publisher, Oludare Sorunke met Victor Orie early this week.
You started with an event centre and lounge, why are you expanding to hotel business?
Actually, it’s not an expansion because in a hotel environment, you have banqueting and events .I have always had a passion for hospitality. Secondly I’ve stayed in 4,3,2,1 star hotels in Nigeria and abroad. I observe that once a visitor enters a hotel, whether as a private or corporate client, he wants to spoil himself. Nigerians work very hard but they don’t reward themselves. I feel that I owe them a duty to reward them for their hard work. It is a life ambition.
Have you considered the rates for your rooms? Hope they will not be expensive.
Yes please, but we have not decided on the prices. Expensive or cheap is very relative. We have a particular clientele in mind. We are not for everybody, though we are sensitive to what is going on in the industry. We also intend to be innovative. We are working towards having a balance in terms of pricing. We want total entertainment for anyone who visits our hotel.
Some mama put serve delicious foods more than some expensive hotels. We do not want a situation where our guests will stay in our hotel and go outside to eat. We will avoid that. We have a limit to what we can decide as profit. Our rooms may be expensive, but our drinks and food will not be expensive.
What are the activities that will sell your hotel? How do you intend to draw traffic to your hotel?
You mentioned activities, but I call them products. There are things in place which I cannot tell you at the moment because they are proprietary. I’m talking about showcasing our culture. No one can emphasize our culture better than us. Though, I mentioned that the best of Nollywood will be patronizing our hotel, something has to be happening before they come. We have a platform where a lot of things will happen and people will have a reason to visit Mariskaville every time.
Are you going to partner with artists or you want to promote African art alone? Will you be holding art exhibitions or in-house art gallery?
If you look around, you will see art works on the building, swimming pool and on the fence. That tells you that I am already engaging an artist. This place will be a kind of art gallery of its own. We are trying to promote our civilization. I could have bought tiles to finish the walls, but I decided to emphasize our art and promote our artists. Don’t be surprised if you see expatriates here, because this hotel will be a bastion of art. So beyond the hotel, we will also cater for those who have a taste for art.
Do you have plans for expansion?
Absolutely, within and outside Lagos.
People are embracing technology, how convenient are your bookings and reservations?
The world is embracing technology and businesses cannot remain on brick and mortar. We are finalizing our website, where visitors can book and pay from anywhere in the world. We are in an industry where booking is held for a particular period, so visitors know that if they do not pay, I am free to sell the room to another visitor. There are a lot of things that we can do which will be stated in the terms and conditions; discounts for early bookings, penalty for refunds, etc.
How are you going to source your food and drinks?
Buying fake products is a risk that everybody in this industry runs. The best you can do is to make sure that you buy from reputable stores and major distributors, to save funds and hold the distributor responsible if anything happens.
Can hotels not buy directly from and be distributors to breweries?
Yes please, it is possible. As long as the hotel can meet the target set by the company. But, as a startup, it is not feasible because of the volume and funds constraints. As we grow, we will look into it.
Security is a major issue in Lagos. What are the measures that you will put in place to ensure that your hotel is secured and your guests are relaxed?
Security, power supply and service quality are fundamental to hotel business, and part of service quality is security. We thank God that we are located in an estate. The best we can do is to contribute to the security network of the estate and our community. I am an Executive member of Golden Pearls Estate, so, I am very interested in the security of the estate. We will monitor the access to and exit from the hotel. We will have a record of everybody who comes into Mariskaville. We will also relate with relevant security agents, so that anytime they are patrolling in our neighbourhood, they can come and see what is happening here.
Apart from the security personnel, what about surveillance equipment?
The hotel is already covered with Close Circuit Television-CCTV system. All the public areas are well covered, especially the pool side, lounge, parking lot and the bar. Technology is very important to our business.
How are you going to handle issues of harassment and intimidation of your staff by visitors or indiscipline on the part of your staff?
We will inculcate a service culture which will include how to handle harassment and intimidation. We know that in this business, we serve all manner of people. I graduated from the Lagos Business School-LBS and trained at the Enterprise Development Centre-EDC. Intimidation of our staff by visitors is something we will not view lightly, because while we employ staff to serve customers, we have the responsibility to protect and assure them that they are safe and their dignity is not devalued. If we have any case of harassment, the matter will be reported to law enforcement agents.
At what point can you say that you have achieved your dream?
(Laughs) Actually, there are two achievements for me. I observe that many Nigerian start up businesses do not endure the test of time, for example the Adebowales, Ojukwus. Abiolas. Why? Because the businesses revolved around the founders. But thankfully, we are now having businesses that outlive the owners. So, for me one of the things that will make me say that I have succeeded is when the business is still running and doing better than I left it.
Secondly, when people are empowered. Honestly, I could have kept working and become an Executive Director in a blue chip company, but I know that I cannot achieve my aim of lifting people. I can give scholarships to a few, but not at the scale of when I own a business, as an entrepreneur. So, when those two things happen, then I will know that I have achieved my dream.
We wish you success sir.