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BON Hotels boosts home-grown skills in the Nigerian hospitality sector

The directors of BON Hotels have emphasized their strategy of local skills and training in the Nigerian hospitality sector. The group made their ‘home-grown’ policy known when they entered the Nigerian hotel management arena some two years ago and, according to recent reports issued by the group, the number of Nigerian managers coming through their program shows their commitment to skills development and transfer.

Speaking at the launch of their newly refurbished hotel, BON Hotel Abuja, Bernard Cassar, director at BON Hotel International West Africa, notes: “Today across our hotels in Nigeria we are profoundly proud of our people. Our expat staff have taken us seriously and have devoted their energy into transferring their knowledge and abilities to eager recruits. We are able to boast from the rooftops that more and more of our hotels are managed on a senior level by locally trained Nigerian staff.” According to Cassar, this strategy has been a work in progress, when as far back as 2001Nigerian individuals were identified and fast tracked to form a new generation of localized senior managers.

Of the 25 hotels which BON hotels manage across Nigeria, 78% of their general managers, deputy managers, senior management, department heads and executive chefs have, over the last two years, been trained, skilled and promoted to senior level positions by the group. Local management is headed up by Nigerian Paul Umoh, who, from his position as executive director and major shareholder at BON Hotels International West Africa, is one of the many local Nigerians who have been fast-tracked through the transformation policy. Umoh heads up the on-the-ground operational management of the Nigerian hotels

Historically, the multinational Nigerian hotel sector has been run and managed by expatriate leadership, imported from countries such as the United Kingdom and South Africa. In the twenty years of a flourishing hotel sector, transformation and transfer of these skills sets has been slow or, according to BON, non-existent and unacceptable. “The predisposed support of imported staff, imported raw material, imported supplies with very little local encouragement is very heart-breaking,” says Cassar. In contrast, in two years BON Hotels has been able to identify the right talent within their ranks and has placed a strong focus on fast-tracking and supporting their home-grown program.

Otto Stehlik, chairman of BON Hotels International West Africa, concluded that he is extremely pleased at the progress of the BON group. ‘We recognised the need of skills development when we began operating in Nigeria. We put together a transformation program, which the board identified as a priority. We are finally in a position where we have a team of elite Nigerians who have been trained, educated, skilled and, importantly, mentored to head up and be supported by senior executive management and head office. This forms an ideal base for future growth in Nigeria on all levels.”

It’s apparent that BON Hotels have a sincere strategy of tapping into the skills and expertise of seasoned hoteliers of upskilling local talent. The program is run internally within the hotels by current expatriate mangers who identify suitable candidates to in turn ‘shadow’ the manager who nurtures them through the process. Further announcements on their proposed hotel school to support the program are imminent.