Hotel Business Needs Government Attention To Flourish
Chief Murtala Muhammed Olayori, the Chairman of the Lagos State Hotelier Association, Alimosho Zone, in this interview, speaks on the state of hospitality in Lagos State, the requirements to grow the tourism industry and how government can be of assistance to a vibrant hotel business. Excerpt…
How did you get into the hospitality business?
My passion for the hospitality business started a long time ago. That was in 1985 when I set up a hospital for my wife called City Holloway Hospital at Agege area. My interest started with children welfare. I’m a father who loves to care for the younger ones.
That was how I began the hospitality business skeletally. In fact, the passion started in 1974 when I was working with my uncle, Alhaji Abdullahi Salihu, the Sarkin Yorubawa of Kano State whose Busy Bee Hotel I managed well. Then, I was running my own small outfit called Du Allah Hotel by the side.
Tell us about your association and the progress made so far.
The hotelier association of which I’m a strong member is doing very well. We are one, united association that ensures quality services to clients. The association in my Zone has also been making progress and it is growing even more now when I took charge as the Chairman. I contested for the office when it became vacant and I won.
What is the level of patronage at your business now compared with when you started?
There is one thing about hotel business; it requires great sacrifice. It requires sacrifice in monetary terms and supervision. To succeed in hotel business, one has to be very observant of how it is managed by those employed to run it. I do that 24-hours, and that is how it has been from the inception.
I make sure that clients are given the best of services required. Also, the hotel business needs a clean environment to flourish. We don’t take this for granted because a clean environment attracts responsible patrons. These are the qualities that give one an edge over competitors.
However, it is unfortunate that running a successful business in Nigeria requires too much of personal efforts. There is no external backing to support you; you struggle on your own to get finances, and you suffer a lot before the bank considers you for a loan that is even killing.
You have a big structure cited here which is fit for a highbrow location. Do you have a plan to extend your business to the Island?
Yes, we have the plan to move beyond this level. This is not the only hotel I have now. I run another small one which is also doing well but needs more funds to function well.
But the issue of expanding a business like this is a matter of two things. First is, it is capital intensive to move a business from a place like this to the Island, a more cosmopolitan location.
If that is taken care of, which of course is possible as a business that gives returns; then you consider the age of the owner of the business. Also, you consider succession, you think of the interest of those that you wish to continue the legacy after you.
I’m watching my children; I want to see who among them will show interest in running the legacy. I’m also looking at the possibility of a reliable and capable person from the outside, probably among the staff, who can handle the business well.
If I can get any of this to continue the legacy, I’d be glad to invest more and continue living my quiet life, because I’m the quiet type. You need people with quality managerial skills to run a chain of businesses. I’m sure the future is going to take care of this development.
Talking of funds and the fact that hotel owners don’t get financial support, what is your association doing to call the government attention to this matter?
The hoteliers association is still working out a modality through which we can be having direct loans from the state government and be paying back as and when due.
I want to implore the tourism ministry of the state through the president of the hotelier association in Lagos State, Chief Tola Odunuga who is the owner of Grandjoy Hotel, to help in this regard and see how hoteliers can be getting soft loans to maintain our businesses.
A standard hotel business needs a face-lift every three years. Besides, looking at our incomes and expenditures, you will appreciate the efforts of an hotelier.
We have to pay salaries to ensure that the staff are motivated and in return give best of treatment to customers, and we have other heavy running costs like maintaining the rooms, generating regular power and more.
Please, tell us about yourself.
I’m Chief M.M Olayori, the Chairman of Lagos State Hotelier Association, Alimosho Zone and the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Olanson Guest House, Lagos.
I’m also the incumbent President of Silver Club of Nigeria. Olanson Hotel was established eleven years ago and it is doing very well.
You are also a politician. What is your view of Nigerian politicians and how do you fare in politics?
Let me correct that impression. I’m not a politician in the active sense. I don’t play politics; I only support political office seekers who meet the basic requirement of having genuine interest to serve the people.
I have never in my life sought an elective office. And for the political leaders, I will only implore them to respect their oath of office by giving us through leadership and by serving the people in truth. The problem of Nigeria has remained bad leadership.
What other businesses do you do apart from hotel business?
I used to be in the transport business. I came back to Lagos in 1987 with 21 vehicles. Iyana Ipaja bus park was not in operation by then. I ran it as a private business because I did not belong to any transporters’ union. I decided to opt out of it when it started gulping money rather than bringing profit.
Socialites are believed to enjoy polygamy, tell us about your family.
Some things are supposed to be private. I’m a socialite no doubt but my lifestyle is different from that of a typical socialite. I can only live with one woman under one roof. By nature I’m a polygamist.
I’m a father to many children not just my biological children alone. And I’m husband to many women not just my wives alone because I help a lot of people irrespective of gender, age and tribe, in my own little way.
My children and grandchildren are based in America and I just returned from a vacation there.
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