FIDEL BENSON is the financial secretary of Imo State Hoteliers Association (ISHA) and the general manager, Paris Heritage Hotel Limited. In this interview with business a.m.’s DIKACHI FRANKLIN he shares features and services that place Paris Heritage Hotel above its peers.
When one mentions one of the leading hotels in Owerri, Paris Heritage Hotel, no doubt, will be mentioned, could you let us through this hotel and why the name is soaring high?
The Paris Heritage hotel is barely three years old; we are about celebrating its three years anniversary, three years of being in active business, and being one of the leading hotels in the state. The chairman has made it to be a world class hotel and a unique hotel. I have been very active in the hotel and leisure sector for many years, am also a consultant and instructor in this sector of the economy.
You claim the hotel is unique and stands out among its peers despite the fact that it is barely three years, could you let us know some of the features that make it look different and outstanding?
To start with, this is the only hotel in Owerri that has hanging swimming pools located at the second floor of this building; it has both adult and children swimming pools, working for 24 hours. A first time visitor or guest would think the swimming pools were constructed at ordinary ground that is at the ground floor but without knowing it is constructed on the second floor. It is a tourist attraction of its own; no hotel in Owerri has such.
Again the topography of this place where the hotel is situated is pleasant and wonderful; the chairman of the hotel has made it so. The hotel stands on an elevated land. The chairman used the Brazilian concept and style to build the hotel, it design, layout, services, facilities etc are second to none. It is also close to Imo State University and the CATOL, two popular and conspicuous institutions in Imo State.
Before, this place was no go area, it was like a den of robbers and hoodlums where they operated unchallenged; the road was also impassable, it used to be flooded and water percolated here and there. But the chairman took it up himself from the beginning to the end, and constructed a good drainage system that joined the Okigwe Road, he also tarred this area and this is what the government would have done.
We have a boundary with CATOL and there is no more fear again walking along that road both in the day or at night, people walk there now without fear contrary to what was obtainable along this area in the past. He also extended street lights to the road.
Could you tell us about other features and facilities you have which are almost common with other hotels of this status?
There are about three bars, swimming pool bar, we have the inner bar which contains over 40 people at ago, we have a very wide restaurant that contains almost 100 people at a sitting.
There is also the outside bar. And at our reception, somebody at the last floor could see people at the ground floor even without been seen by the person at the ground floor. We also have CCTV for security purposes. The Paris Heritage is unique in that every hall and corner has CCTV camera except the rooms. But we also have a gym but it is a private gym because it is not as big as you may think, though we are about putting in place a bigger gym.
For the rooms and suites they are very pleasant and comfortable numbering about 180 but net all of them are in use, however about 100 rooms are actively in use. There are Deluxe rooms, Paris Heritage, Royal Suites, Mini Suites, so we have about four categories of rooms.
And the rooms are wonderfully packaged for your comfort and relaxation. They are also affordable with a discount rate.
Some people say many unprintable things concerning the services they get at some hotels and the inability of such hotels to have some kinds of or prepare sorted dishes at the request of guests, can you say this place is different?
This place is unique, I repeat it is unique. People, guests, and visitors also say it is unique and our services are quite efficient and quick and unique. We have various types of foods – Continental, African cuisine, when you talk of African, let us say somebody from Ghana, Kenya, Senegal or any other country in Africa comes and demands for a particular food eaten in their country, we will prepare it.
Just mention it; we will prepare the food for such guest.
In Nigeria, we know our own food, Igbo, Yoruba, Calabar or Akwa Ibom, Hausa, just mention the food, we will prepare it for you.
Here we have Executive Chef, Chef de Cuisine and Chef Departee (pastry), the Chef Departee prepares any kind of pastry, garnish, egg rolls, super rolls, fish rolls etc. But while that is the person in charge, it does not mean that there is no other person that can prepare it, it is just that somebody must be responsible or be in charge for any particular thing.
The Chef de Cuisine takes charge of every type of food, from continental, to African to Nigerian etc. Even some people who are sick can be our guests, some diabetic patients who come but for one reason or the other are not with the drugs; our Chef de Cuisine would prescribe the food to sustain them within the few days they can stay in the hotel before they can procure their drugs. Paris Heritage Hotel is a home away from home, we have also assorted drinks to meet your taste, ranging from alcoholic and non-alcoholic, beer, spirits, alcoholic wines soft drinks etc all for the comfort of guests.
The hotel is big and unique, the work load is also big, guests also expect much from staff in terms of service, how do you keep your staff fit to handle the work load and at the same time be productive and efficient?
Here, I do a spot check on daily basis and make corrections on daily basis. I also train them on daily basis and that is why about 40 per cent of our marketing is outside and 60 per cent is inside. Because I just do not want to be getting stories because if you maintain the in-house guests very well, they will do about 50 per cent marketing for you.
And I have a very cheerful staff because in this industry you do not give a guest more problems than he came with, you are supposed to make the guest happy and this is why it is a home away from home.