HOMEWARD BOUND

Nigeria 2019 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

A new development in the capital Abuja aims to attract global citizens to Nigeria.

Ugo Ezeigwe
BIOGRAPHY
Ugo Ezeigwe is the Managing Director of Belanova Apartments and Suites, a Nigerian hospitality group formed in Abuja Nigeria in 2017. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from the University of Reading, UK and a master's in Nanotechnology from the University College London. In 2015, he obtained an MBA from Arizona State University with emphasis on supply chain management. His experience over the last 10 years spans real estate, finance, and engineering, mostly in the US. During his time in Arizona, he founded Redwood Investment Group, an investment firm with interests in real estate and US securities.

Can you provide some background to how the concept of Belanova came about and to the hotel's operations since its establishment?

The Belanova Apartments and Suites project was conceptualized while visiting similar serviced apartments in France, the UK, the US, and Dubai. The experience sparked the idea of domesticating a truly convenient home away from home. The vision is to be the preferred option in hospitality for our guests, employees, and partners and be synonymous with excellent quality and service, while putting a Nigerian brand on the global radar of the best-known boutique hospitality brands. To pursue this vision, the operations in Belanova were setup by leading professionals in the hospitality industry with close guidance of the board of directors, who are particular on the standards we are looking to achieve. Since the commencement of operations, the board of directors and management of Belanova have diligently implemented our mission, which is to delight every guest by guaranteeing quality accommodation, excellent service, and unique memories, as well as provide dignified means of livelihood for our employees, vendors, and contractors.

How do you ensure you maintain an edge over your competition, and what features and services make Belanova stand out?

The product we offer is already quite unique on its own as true apartment hotels are not particularly popular in Abuja. Besides, we are conscious of the fact that maintenance culture is the bane of most laudable initiatives in Nigeria and so we prioritize and invest in maintenance to ensure our facilities and services are quality assured at all times. We also realize that globally, the best strategy you can adapt in the hospitality industry is to be customer service oriented and the onus is on us to maintain a high standard in delivering excellent customer service. Therefore, all decisions made at the organization center focus on how much value we are bringing our guests.

How would you describe the clientele you aim to target, and what are your main strategies to continue building on your reputation, strengthening the brands and gaining more customers?

Our target audience includes global citizens and millennials with discerning taste for a home away from home anywhere from a few weeks to a year. We aim to strengthen the brand and build a reputation by doing the right things right and prioritizing safety and security, customer service, quality and tasty meals, and of course cleanliness.

What trends are you observing in the demand for your services and for hospitality in general? What are the peculiarities of the Abuja hospitality (both business and leisure) sector?

The Abuja hospitality industry's trend is quite seasonal and responds differentially to government activities, religious festivities, and public holidays. For instance, patronage is quite low during the Ramadan season, but picks up substantially right after.

What are some challenges (whether regulatory, logistical, or economy-related) that Nigerian hospitality businesses like Belanova might have to contend with in the near future? What can be done to enhance the hospitality sector in Abuja?

I could spend all day talking about challenges we face in the hospitality industry in Nigeria; however, I believe power is one of the more prevalent issues affecting us. We do not have 24/7 electricity supply in Nigeria, and we have to supplement with diesel generators which are quite expensive and harmful to the environment.

What is your outlook for Belanova and for the sector in 2019?

2019 will really be our first full year of business since commencing operations. During this period, we hope to build a wider clientele base and increase occupancy substantially. This is highly desirable given that a lot of investment has been put down to get to the point we are today, and we are really looking to recoup some of those investments and inch our way toward realizing the dream of making Belanova a global chain.