Sunday, January 26, 2014

Golf tourism: MicCom redefines leisure business…plans hotel for Lagos

By Jimoh babatunde with agency reports
Nestled in the the forest in the rustic town of Ada, Osun State, is a resort that is promoting golf as a niche tourism product that can help the state showcase its other tourism attractions as well attract more tourists.
The resort, MicCom Golf Hotels & Resort, started some years ago as a pastime of a couple who love playing golf so much they turned part of the land they inherited into a golf course.
Today, that pastime has turned to a business entity that can be considered the perfect getaway haven for seekers of leisure, solitude and golf.
MicCom resort has over the years redefined the concept of hotel services by offering pure teeing-off delight to all golf enthusiasts, a unique ambience of tranquility and relaxation, while enjoying a premium sports.
Apart from pulling golf lover, the serene environment has also transformed the facilities into one of the leading resort for retreat and conferencing. It has a 90-room accommodation, a banqueting hall that can sit 500 and three meeting rooms that could each take 40 persons.
Listening to the Managing Director of the resort, Mrs Bukola Adubi, one gets enthralled in the concept and vision of the founder of the resort. Her passion is not surprising. She had abandoned her profession, Pharmacy, for the resort.

Mrs Adubi said: “My parents are keen golfers and they are from Ada where the hotel is situated. When they started to be addictive to the sports, they thought okay, we have land that we inherited in our village, why don’t we do something that we can play golf on. They had an acre of land that they inherited from my grandfather. They bought small parcels of land around and did a nine-hole golf course.
“By the time the golfers finished playing, they would have been tired and needed rest. So, Ponle decided to build some 24 rooms for the purpose. Later, people who had social engagements such as wedding too began to ‘borrow’ the rooms.
Not long after, the volume of golfers attracted increased, and the course had to be expanded to 18 holes. By 2003, they had acquired more parcels of land and increased the rooms to 90. Thus the need to transform the pastime into a structured business.
“I said okay, I have some free time. I can help you set it up, put some people inside, put some structures and let’s see if it is viable.”
Mrs. Adubi disclosed that they had spent a huge some of money already and no bank will loan them anything because nobody thought it was viable project. “I think the rest is history,” she mused.
Speaking on how the resort has performed, she said: “Quite viable. It has been a very interesting journey. The first three years was quite challenging because by then, nobody wanted to come because there was no reception.
Nothing. We had to literally beg MTN to put up a mast. We had to also beg Glo to put a mast to encourage communication and since then it was been fantastic.
“We’ve lived off word of mouth consistently. Again we cannot survive on that. We’ve had guests that come in as far as from Abuja and Port Harcourt. They drive down. They normally tell us that it was somebody that had used the facilities that recommended us.”
Adubi said over the year, due to the its location, facility and the top services it offers, conference and retreat had taken high percentage of the resorts clientele base. She said: “You know, the funny thing is, the golf part of the  whole set up forms maybe 30 per cent of clientele.
We have also come to realise that our golf tournaments or golf as a game, can only be played during the weekend because of our location. A lot of people that will come, a lot of the high network proper golfers, are people that are in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, and so on. They have their regular day. All of them can only converge at weekends.
“So, the golf helps us to also push for the rest of our business which is corporate retreat because this same big boys of golf are managing directors and heads of companies that would come for retreats. That keeps us Mondays through Fridays.”
MicCom, she said, is ideal for family vacations: “We categorise ourselves as having three categories of guests. I will say 60 per cent fall under corporate retreats.
They are the ones that are always doing something. Then I have my golfers. That takes another 20 to 25. Then I have my social: there are weddings, birthdays, honeymooners, and people coming for vacations.
“We have a huge vacation crowd now for Easter and Christmas. People that normally don’t come home or people that travel out of the country for vacation. Now we have an increasing number of them that would rather come and spend the week with the family.”
On promoting tourism around the area, she said: “Osun State is vast and fantastic. Sometimes I tell a few people I know in government that I patronise and advertise your tourism sites more than the state itself. They are fantastic. I have been to a few myself and they are amazing.
“We encourage our guests to visit the tourism sites. We try and encourage corporate people that come for retreats to have a day off and see the sites. We always encourage a half or full day tour. Some of these people have never gone out of their comfort zone and when they go for retreat, they don’t leave the hotel.”
While appreciating the growth in the hospitality industry in Nigeria, Adubi said one major challenge is that of trained manpower, especially in such a sector where a lot of untrained hands find their way in. But she explained that she has been addressing this challenge by consistent training of her staff.
She notes that another problem MicCom Resort has had to grapple with is accessibility. Accessibilty, not just in terms of distance to a major city such as Lagos,  but also because of the bad state of some of the major roads.
Despite all these challenges, she disclosed that, “I started this whole thing and it has grown so beautifully. I did some work after my Master’s Degree in Pharmacy. I haven’t done anything in that area in the past nine years. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else apart from this business of leisure. Pharmacy is now like my past life and I feel very fulfilled doing what I am doing right now.”
She added that that she was looking forward to building a strong brand with the MicCom in the hospitality sector in the next five years and, “God willing, my next target is to have a hotel in Lagos with the same brand.”