Monday, March 3, 2014

Technology gives us edge over other hotels —Coeln


Didier Coeln, General Manager of the 5 star Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos has been in the hospitality industry for the past 25 years. In this chat with JIMOH BABATUNDE, Coeln  revealed how he came into the industry and how he got to where he is  today.
He said having travelled in many countries within Africa and Middle East that he has gained a large experience in leadership with multi cultural environment. “Being successful is achieving results while focusing on service delivery and standards improvements.”
Here is an excerpt.
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On how he came into the industry
I have always loved the hospitality industry and so went to catering school for four  years in Ecole Hôtelière  Namur, Belgium , where I learnt how to cook, serve and learnt all the basic of the hotel industry.

It was four years program  which gave me opportunity of concentrating on all aspects of catering Then  went to International Hotel School of Glion, Switzerland,  for two and a half years preparing for  management positions within the Hotel industry.
So, basically , I have A level technical with my catering school in Belgium. After my education , I entered the hotel industry with the Hilton group as a low ranking staff and moved up the ladder before moving over to Intercontinental and have remained here since
On challenges  moving up the ladder
Well, yes , you face some challenges due to various hotels, environment, locations and of course, the most important is the hard work that you have to put in and then you get support by Intercontinental in your career development.
On his experience managing hotel in Nigeria
The good thing is that from my career, first of all, Nigeria  is not the first place  that I will be working abroad , I have spent most of my careers  working abroad in what is known now as DRC and I have worked in Congo, in  Kenya, Egypt , Saudi Arabia  and Oman and now Nigeria.
don’t think that there are bigger challenge than anywhere else. It is same if you work in Saudi Arabia or in Egypt  not everything is readily available. So sometimes, you might have the issue of finding  the right equipment or the right type of goods that you need, but there is always a solution.
There is nothing that makes Nigeria more complicated, on the contrary, our Nigerian colleagues go out of their ways to make guests happy unlike in Europe , five O clock is five O clock.
On the the edge of the hotel in terms of competition
Well, our edge is obviously when  you are the newest, you are more up to date on matter of technology.  Then also our rooms are quiet large, we offer  our clients large varieties of dinning experience . Some hotels have one restaurant, one bar, but here we have four different restaurants, three different bars and definitely, you have wide range of possibilities for guests that want to enjoy themselves while in Lagos. We have  the latest technology in the hotel, we have IP solutions as regards to telephone, TV, internet and these are what guests are looking for, especially business travellers .
On the hotel’s unique selling point
I think today, we have two unique selling points. One is our rooms and the technology that goes with them, including the bathrooms. I mean we have modern equipments and not all hotels have what we have.
Our second selling point is our Nigerian colleagues, right from the day we opened  they have embraced the philosophy of intercontinental and they are truly dedicated  and they are truly making all the efforts to make sure our guests are happy inspite of some hitches.
They have done good jobs in making  the guests feel at home and for them to get the services they expect to get from intercontinental  property.
On connecting  with the hotel guests
Obviously, that is the most important part of the day, even though sometimes, it can be a little bit shorter due to desk work. Obviously the name of the game is to meet the guests, to have contacts with them , to know what they will like us to improve , what they will want to see, what they will like to get and making sure they are happy and return back to us on their next trip to Lagos.
On the opportunities in the hospitality industry in Nigeria
I think the opportunities here are great and I think for what I know since  Intercontinental hotel has opened, a number of other international chains are trying to open an hotel in Nigeria which shows definitely there are keen interests in Nigeria as a very good market.
In any case, Nigeria is one of the leading countries sub sahara Africa with large population, good GDP so there is definitely good potential for the hotel industry here .
For the people, obviously that will give opportunities for our Nigerian colleagues to grow, because if there are new hotels coming up in the next two, four, five years, I am  pretty sure that our colleagues would have trainings  that will make them grow in the industry. That is the name of the game.
When I started my career, I started as a receptionist, checking every day tomatoes, it took me several years to become General Manager.
On the cost of accommodation in Nigeria
I will not say it is expensive, it is a fact that we try to balance between the investment to cost of running the properties and then to make a profit.
Everybody knows that in a hotel that you don’t  get your investment back in a short time as it is a long time investment, but at the end of the day, everybody in business aim is to make profit. So, I don’t think the price of hotel in Nigeria is particularly high.
If you go to cities like London, Tokyo or Paris, you will find hotels that are much more expensive than all the hotels in Lagos.
On his vision for the hotel
My vision is to try to make intercontinental Lagos the number one in Lagos and Nigeria, making sure people recognised the quality of service being  provided, the quality of the equipment  used against  good quality price ratio
Intercontinental  hotel  is a five star hotel and we are not new. We are different brands under the IHG that gives customers  opportunities to travel and remain in intercontinental brand. The strength of the intercontinental is that it has the largest members in loyalty program with over 72million members.

- See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/01/technology-gives-us-edge-hotels-coeln/#sthash.U3AR4hAn.dpuf


Didier Coeln, General Manager of the 5 star Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos has been in the hospitality industry for the past 25 years. In this chat with JIMOH BABATUNDE, Coeln  revealed how he came into the industry and how he got to where he is  today.
He said having travelled in many countries within Africa and Middle East that he has gained a large experience in leadership with multi cultural environment. “Being successful is achieving results while focusing on service delivery and standards improvements.”
Here is an excerpt.
- See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/01/technology-gives-us-edge-hotels-coeln/#sthash.U3AR4hAn.dpuf