Funke Olaode in this encounter with Managing Director of TINAPA Resorts, Arc. Bassey Ndem discovered the passion of a turn around manager whose expertise and knowledge may have re-awakened the vision and mission of Tinapa...
As CEO of TINAPA, a resort built on 265 hectares of land in Calabar, Cross River State. Arc. Bassey Ndem has always believed in the power of travel having travelled widely. And taking a trip round the resorts was unforgettable. The Waterparks, water slide which is the largest in Africa, shopping malls, gigantic Tinapa studio currently being occupied by Ebonylife headed by Ms. Mo Abudu and Tinapa Lakeside Hotels with 242 rooms, 183 standard rooms, 27 executive rooms and 39 suites are spectacles to behold. And contrary to people's belief, Tinapa is more than just a perfect holiday destination as it's currently bursting with a once-in-a-lifetime experiences that offer natural highs. Under the watchful eyes of Ndem, the once moribund resort has turned into a money making ventures.
Welcoming this reporter into Tinapa Lakeside Hotel is its dynamic and passionate general manager, Micheal Idakwo. The leadership of the hotel fell on Idakwo two year s ago and it has been a transformation period to woo back its teeming customers. Reeling out his achievements, excited Idakwo said the journey has been rough, but through collective effort from management they have been able to wither the storm. "It has been a wonderful experience because the mantle of leadership fell on me on November 30, 2011 and since the it has been a transformation period. I have been able to achieve a lot within the last two years. In 2012 we recorded the highest revenue so far in the history of the hotel through our strategic aggressive marketing, commitment to excellence, sincerity of purpose and integrity".
"What we did was to go out of the box because we have very young, vibrant and enthusiastic teams that are very hungry to create a legacy in Tinapa as a whole. We created a package which inevitably attracted the attention of customers. For instance, we introduced below the line marketing, a situation that necessitated our team to do door-to-door marketing, and that captured weather number of domestic clientele. We also came up with a lot of packages such as the famous Calabar Night which comes up every Friday, which has become a new sensation in Cross River State. Every Friday, everyone in Calabar wishes to be in Tinapa between 5pm to 11 pm. That is when we showcase the traditional Calabar delicacies, the famous meals that are very popular with a complimentary band. We also showcase palm wine. Without any fear of contradiction this is the only Five Star Hotel in Nigeria where undiluted fresh palm wine is served."
Another package which Idakwo claimed has attracted the hotel to its teeming customers is emotional service.
He explained. "Emotional service is type of service where a customer is celebrated. A situation where the service provider deposits extra emotion into the customer's emotional account. This no doubt has impacted positively on our revenue because what we made in terms of revenue was amazing last year Also; we have been able to re-activate most of the dead equipment in the system. The elevators were down for two years, and today, they are working. We also procured equipment in addition to what we have on ground because as our business expands, we also need to expand the facility to accommodate the business.
"We had over 900 people both adult and children in December. In fact, December was a carnival month but we don't want to predicate all our marketing on carnival alone and that is why we are marketing for all the months. And we intend to build on that achievement this year because success to us is not a destination but a journey. And the largest room in the world is a room for improvement".
Though it has been a roller coaster in the past two years but not without its challenges. The major challenge according to him is energy. "Tinapa Lakeside Hotel is the only hotel in Cross River State that is not connected to national grid. We are dealing with independent power provider and this is taking a good number of our revenue. And that is why we have to go out of the box to increase the volume of business that can cater for this energy cost without driving ourselves out of business. If we could be connected to the national grid, it will improve our revenue more".
Enumerating various facilities at the resort, Arc. Ndem said Tinapa offers numerous advantages to the discerning investor, wholesale or retail trader, price/quality sensitive shopper, as well as leisure seekers. Apart from these, Tinapa offers you the perfect opportunity to significantly reduce the perceived risk of expanding into the extremely lucrative emerging African market especially the important Nigerian market occasioned by the sheer size of her population and spending power.
Tinapa waterparks offers invitation to experience unequalled family fun in scenic environment. The waterparks boasts of adult and children sized pools, exciting water games, breath-taking slides, lazy river, a wave-pool surfer's delight as well as other exciting attractions.
There is a game section for children from age one year to 15 years. The entertainment area has eight cinemas. There is also a casino. The Tinapa shopping centre presents the inspired and discerning shopper with a bouquet of products offer from her 54 quality retail outlets.
In terms of tourism, how would he say TINAPA has impacted positively? "Tourism is our potential in Cross River State. People go to a place like Dubai because they want to have fun and at the same time go for shopping. Tourism is the main plan of development for Cross River State and it is based on our natural assets and resources. We have forest, waterfalls, rare gorillas, and the Obudu terrain and so on. But most Nigerians who go abroad for instance are not going to the Buckingham palace or historical places but most times go shopping on Oxford Street or in the malls. And that was why Cross River state came up with the idea of promoting an enterprise that also promotes shopping. The tourists that come can do their shopping. And if they are interested in eco-tourism, they can also have a feel of Calabar.
You get inspired as you take a boat ride on tidal lake, located alongside the Calabar River. The stunning surroundings and cool breeze from the river will not only rejuvenate your senses but also ensure that you are in sync with nature. So, as far as tourism is concerned, TINAPA would be a tourist destination in its own right but you could get bored after sometime. But Cross River has a lot more to offer to keep the tourists occupied".
In terms of challenges, Arc Ndem said the era of challenges in TINAPA is over. "We have had hotel occupancy rise from three percent to 60 percent. There is an improvement. Initially, we got foreigners to manage it for us but it didn't work and we decided that we would do it on our own, looking for competent Nigerians. And now, they are in charge. The maintenance is being done by Cross Riverians who were embedded during the construction process. The time has come when we must shift from challenges but celebrate our ability to overcome challenges.
What does he think make Tinapa tick? "I think of is the environment. It is the fact that it has been built to world class standard and it is located in one of the safest places in Nigeria. There are no armed men working on the streets. The ambiance of the place, the nature of local people is also our selling point: they are warm, receptive. People are accommodating and warm".
"So turning TINAPA around is a collective responsibility. Dubai has been around for sometime. And now over 500 Nigerians fly to Dubai everyday. The same story with Las Vegas which was a desert. Today, it is created out of nothing. The only thing that can keep you going on a lonely night is the passion and belief that what you are doing is right."