Initeme Adukeh: Customer Service is the Foundation of all Businesses

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As a seasoned hospitality professional, Initeme Adukeh has undertaken work in Europe and in Sub Sahara Africa. After spending years in operations within top multinational hotels establishments around the world, she returned to Nigeria and worked as a hospitality analyst in Sub Sahara Africa as part of the team that created the pipeline studies for hotels. She has also delivered feasibility studies that have birthed several existing hotels in Nigeria. She now runs her own hospitality company called Hospitality Groundworks. Her motto “The foundation of Success” is a nod to the fact that the basics which, encompass customer satisfaction, are the beginning of achieving a success job. In this interview with Mary Nnah, she expressed the belief that customer service is the foundation of all businesses, hence why she decided to go into hospitality. Excerpts:

A quick one, who’s got the best jollof – Nigeria or Ghana?

Let me start by saying “variety is the spice of life”. I have been opportune to have tasted both and they are unique to each other. Nigerians usually use long grain rice and Ghana uses basmati rice; further there is a difference in cooking methods. This gives them their own distinctive tastes and textures. I’m yet to try the inventors’s “Senegal Jollof”, when I do, maybe I’ll find my favorite.

Have we done enough with putting our food and culture on the map?

Nigerians and especially Nigerian food is no stranger to the international market; however, I do feel that we need to do more to put our food other there. We can start by embracing more fusion menus and incorporating our flavours to suit the foreign palate.

Do you think Nigeria can ever rub shoulders with top nations as far as the hospitality industry is concerned?

Of course, Nigeria has all that can compare with our foreign counterparts; we are born hospitable. We are constantly developing, growing and building. Observing the market, we see that there has been a massive amount of interest and investment into the country, which only ascertains they potential it holds. According to the 2017 pipeline survey released by W Hospitality, we find that there are currently an additional 10,313 rooms from international hotel brand, of which 42 per cent are currently in their onsite construction stage. We are evolving our offerings and our scope is getting wider.

How do tourists make their tourism choices and what are the factors that influence those choices?

“Need and Habits” – Tourists make their tourism choice based on a need that must be met. These internal influences could be broken down as; desire for change, relaxation, an escape, esteemed living, health, cultural exchange or even just social interactions. However, it can also be influenced by external factors such as affordability, accessibility, desirability of the destination, the unique features of the destination, the natural or man-made resources available at the destination etc. (Hsu et al 2009).
Other factors such as medical tourism can be influenced by the tourist’s condition and best medical practices.

How does tourism help in the political development of a country?

Looking at countries like Bahamas or Egypt that rely heavily on tourism, it is very easy to see how tourism can help the government with the generation of extra revenue to the GDP. These countries connect you directly to their culture and tourism; and capitalise with the help of their government to make it a strong sector. It also enables different business opportunities for locals, prompts the government to provide and revamp infrastructure to cater to the tourists and business. This creates jobs and assists the government in creating more stability amongst citizens.

Okay, let me give a scenario – a guest flying into Lagos for the Christmas holiday and would have to stay in a hotel; this is hospitality. They then proceed to go to the Takwa bay beach; this is tourism, and whilst there, they buy locally made carvings and beads from the beach hawkers; this is cultural transfer and additional revenue in the country. This is a plain and simple way tourism works to help government. I am working toward working with the government to providing more opportunities and scenarios where tourism can continue to build and better the country.

How should a city like Lagos manage its tourism sector?

I am a big advocate for the preservation and refurbishment of our heritage sites and landmark. We need to encourage our local communities and the government to invest in building up and maintaining these sites and local landmarks as they will draw in a larger crowd. Furthermore, the development of the infrastructure which supports the tourism market must be developed and maintained. My company curates information such as reviewing local restaurants and providing this information to the public, also we have hotel listings. These will help allow easier navigation of the tourists.

If I’m looking to take a sustainable vacation, I’m probably best advised to stay at home on my balcony, right?

Ah, sustainable vacations. Definitely not, the world is evolving and we are evolving with it. I think the greener your vacation, the better. Let’s all save the planet!! In Africa we are still catching on to this thread but I think go for it.

What is important to consider when planning a sustainable holiday?

Honestly, just remember ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’!! Start small and build up to the bigger more ‘inconvenient’ things. All you must do is swap your regular choice for a greener option, for instance – instead of getting a plane, make the trip on road and pack your own toiletries so you don’t use the disposable hotel options. Before you know it, you’ll be your very own Captain planet.

And what about once you’ve reached your destination?

Easy!! Take steps like reusing your towels, walk more and take fewer cabs – think greener and producing less waste!

Do you have a website? What functions does it offer?

Yes I do have a website. it is www.hospitalitygroundworks.com! If I tell you then you probably won’t check it out. But sneak peek– it’s all things hospitality

Tell us about the various available associations in the hospitality industry. What does an industry player have to fulfil in order to become a member?
There are quite a number of organisations in the hospitality and tourism space! It really depends on what you want to achieve. My favorite is the Women in Hospitality Nigeria Association, which I am a community head of mentorship and counseling. There are also Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC); National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA); National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM); Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) and Hospitality and Tourism Management Association of Nigeria (HATMAN), to name a few.

Vacations where people can work on social or environmental projects, the so-called volunteerism, are becoming increasingly trendy. It sounds sustainable, but in fact, it’s controversial. How do you deal with that?

I believe that if a person goes out of their comfort zone to help the less privileged it is always a good thing. I however believe that the organisational government should always run checks and place standards for admission to check that the volunteer’s intentions are true to the purpose of visit. Also they should be supervised and their work should be overseen by an official or professional to avoid exploitation of the less privileged.

How cheap is too cheap for a vacation if you want to be sustainable?

There is no such thing as too cheap as long as it has been vetted and certified as authentic, and fits your expectations.

Have you taken a vacation yet this year?

Yes I have! It was to Yenagoa and it was serene!

What is one area that the hospitality industry has failed on repeatedly?

Service delivery! Customer service is the foundation of all businesses. We need to get it right.

What is one business idea that people in the hospitality business are yet to grab?

Hands on doesn’t mean more profit. Let the professionals help you boost your business potentials.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I am a very big comic book fan. However I am a DC girl.

What does your typical day look like?

I wake up at 7am; I say my prayers after which I work out for 30 mins. I get ready and start my day with a cup of coffee and the morning news. After I get ready I get to the office for 9am where I check emails and industry news then get stuck in. I have meetings on site and sometimes at the client’s property if I need be. If I am working on a live project I work out of the property. My day goes on till 8 pm then I head home

What is the one book that you recommend we should read and why?

The Alchemist, It changed my life, Thanks Dad.

Who is your hero, and why?

My parents because they always believe in me and watching them makes me forever in awe of how amazing they are!

What do you want to do when you retire?

I would love to move to a nice house on a farm and focus on helping youths and young people fulfill their career dreams.