Hotel Presidential, Is Still The Old Lady Of Nigeria South

Hotel Presidential is located in the heart of the Garden City – Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State, Nigeria. Being centrally situated within the business districts and the main shopping areas of the city, Hotel Presidential is an ideal choice for both leisure and business travellers. With its 241 tastefully furnished and functionally equipped rooms and 53 spacious suites including rooms and suites on the executive 5th floor with access to the executive lounge.

The Hotel is supplemented by our conference and banqueting facilities comprising of four Conference rooms, Royal Banquet hall, Main Banquet hall and the largest, the Atlantic hall with a capacity over 500 persons, all of them just perfect for holding conferences, conventions, seminars, workshops, weddings and other events. In addition, the hotel also boasts a Conference and Banqueting Tent ideally designed to accommodate 2000-2500 guests.

Hotel Presidential also has a variety of restaurants offering a wide selection of international cuisine and distinctive styles ranging from African and Asian to Lebanese Cuisine specialties.

In this interview with Lucky Onoriode George, the General Manager, Joseph Rennie, reveals some of the secrets for the success so far. Excerpts:

What is the secret that after almost four decades, Hotel Presidential still ranks among the very best in this part of Nigeria? 

It’s been very difficult, but with a lot of hard work and lots of support from my directors. Just recently, we have completed the full renovation of the Rivers Restaurant, several floors now; the fourth and fifth floors, I don’t know if you have seen it. 

Renovation or refurbishment is all about money, how are you funding all these? 

Yes, it’s all about money and that is why there is a slow down at the money because of the negative impact of Ebola. Lots of our guests cancel lots of functions and bookings because when Ebola hits Port Harcourt, our business dropped from 65 per cent to 22 per cent. Without doubt, the last two months has been a very difficult period for us.

How did you receive the news by the World Health Organisation [WHO], declaring Nigeria free of Ebola? 

During the outbreak, we worked closely with the Ministry of Public Health here in Rivers State and we attended several meetings where the procedures and prevention measures were laid out. Thereafter, we put in place the aforementioned in the hotel and we worked closely too with some of the oil companies; Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC], Saipem and Total among others. 

Are you very optimistic that business will climb to normal before the end of the year?

Yes, we are very hopeful that business will get close to normal before the end of the year. Already, some of the cancelled bookings are now being reconfirmed for this November and December. In the last few days, business has been booming…with lots of activities going on.

What lesson have we learnt from the way the federal and state governments handled the Ebola out breaks, and if business that most affected like the hospitality industry be given palliatives? 

We have all learnt hard lessons. As for me, I am keeping all my practices in place…sanitisation and washing of hands in every department regularly will remain in place. As for everyone entering the hotel, they will also continue to observe this simple, but very important exercise. 

What impact would the renovations and refurbishment exercise do to your operations? 

Ohhhh! It would surely have good effect because we have got good reports. Gladly enough, we have just secured a new contract with an international airline that would henceforth put their crew here. Besides, the oil companies are also very impressed with the exercise done so far and we hope this will be followed up with more businesses for us.

From November 1st, 2014, we, now have an international airline that would be staying with us. Sincerely, we are now generating extra business in addition to our oil and gas clients that have been around with us for a while now. 

What other deal are you expecting because you are capable of surprises? 

At present, none! However, the pool area will be given attention because I hope to transform it into something very different. I hope to have a small café where users can easily buy small chops; and that would start early next year.  

Sustained peace in Port Harcourt, how has this affected your operations? 

We have no problem security wise in the past few years and I can tell you that we have though wonderful working relationship with the various agencies in the city.

Now that you are modernising, what is your training programme like now? 

We are investing in the training of our staff. Every Tuesday, we hold a health talk which is mandatory for all departments. Before the Ebola outbreak, we had routine training programmes for our staff; most especially, food handling, restaurant and room division that are at the core of our operations.

Very recently, we have also upgraded our front office, with the introduction of Opera System. With this, guests checking in would spend less time, especially our regular ones that the new system is capable of capturing holding guest information. 

How is your community relationship like? 

Our community relationship is very good. I have just recently received an award from the local community because we do take care of some of their issues. Only recently again, we also got our HSC awards from Total which was excellent. We have never received anything like this in the hotel.

Hotel Presidential is one of the two recipients of the award, this award for me is the highlight for this year because my background is HSC and I strive for it.