Travel & Tourism

MARCEL BREKELMANS: His sights on exceeding guests’ expectations

Marcel Brekelmans, is the general manager of Lagos Continental Hotel, he spoke to ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA on the plans of taking the hotel to greater heights as the first choice for business and leisure travellers, corporate world and residents of Lagos

Background

Marcel Brekelmans is an hotelier of international repute with vast experience on whose broad shoulders the task of bringing back the former InterContinental Hotel now Lagos Continental Hotel, under 11 Plc (formerly Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc), back to reckoning as a world class hotel with sights on business and leisure travellers, local residents and MICE. Prior to its reopening on Thursday this week after months of undergoing upgrade, the hotel held a number of pre – opening events, one of which was a retreat session for the new management team and work force assembled by Brekelmans. This reporter witnessed the retreat session and could not but noticed the readiness by the team to receive guests to the refurbished hospitality home and more importantly the passion ignited by Brekelmans who is no stranger to the Nigerian hospitality market, as he led the team of hoteliers and other personnel to inculcate in the teeming work force the ethos of professional and excellent service delivery as the core fabric of the hotel in its quest at exceeding the expectations of its guests in this new dispensation. One of the guest speakers was Ghanaian and African’s world renowned female chef, Selasise Atadika, an award winning chef who was named among the one of the 100 chefs of the world in 2019. She delivered a paper on African excellence, speaking of her outfit, Midunu and devotion to changing and telling African story of excellence through her culinary creations.

A new beginning

Transforming from InterContinental Hotel to Lagos Continental Hotel has its history and challenges for the reopened hotel but it is not something that Marcel Brekelmans as the new helmsman of the hotel now at the dawn of writing a new narrative is interested in as he tells you that he and his team are focused on creating a new image for the hotel following it not too positive and attractive recent history. ‘‘I don’t really want to look to the past but I will like to look to the future. Therefore, we took the opportunity to work on the outstanding maintenance issues.’’ These issues that plagued the hotel from its inception included lack of constant power supply, poor air conditioning system, cold and hot water supply. ‘‘These were four points that were majorly challenging our operation, therefore, we didn’t have guest satisfaction that we were after in the last few years.’’ But with these now resolved, the hotel general manager said it is all set for business and opening of a new chart, with sights set on guest’s satisfaction. ‘‘But by rectifying these four cornerstones of our hotel, we hope to gain back trust from our new and potential clients as well as our past clients. In addition, we are continuing to upgrade the facility and we are currently working on all the rooms as they are undergoing soft touch. But again, first and foremost, we have taken care of the core services of the hotel,’’ he said. This is even as he stated that: ‘‘It is very exciting, but again, the most important change so far is how we have dealt with the challenges of the building. I think if you have been here previously you will see that it has quite undergone some changes. ‘‘Fresh smell, clean and more accessible but we are not there yet as it continues to be work in progress.’’

Introducing a new dining concept

One of the new things that Brekelmans is excited about is the new dining concept which is in the offing. Part of this is offering guests new experience in African cuisine as he looks forward in the coming months to work with chef Atadika, on her new concept in African culinary. ‘‘In addition to the new restaurant concept, going forward and two projects that I am extremely excited about is to do something with Chef Selassie Atadika because I believe that we should tell the African story and get people introduced to African food and African hospitality,’’ he disclosed. Adding that: ‘‘I believe that with her, the message of sustainability and the way she looks at food and feeding holistically, it resonate with what I like to do.’’

Enticing with a dedicated female executive travellers’ floor

The second project that the general manager is also excited about is the dedicated female executive floor, which is already in the works and billed to open next year January. This is quite a unique concept imbue with feminine sensitive as the floor is designed by a female architect while all the personnel working on the project, according to him, are all females. These include security, housekeeping, butlers and room service attendees. He picked up the narrative: ‘‘The room obviously has a feminine touch in terms of smell, in terms of feel, in terms of produce and in terms of the amenities, completely separated from the pack. So, I am extremely energised about that particular project and it will be ready sometime in January next year. This project was actually inspired because of commercial reason. This hotel is referred to as a MICE hotel because our largest share of the market is coming from big events. ‘‘But we believe that because of COVID – 19 those big events will not be organised because of the obvious safety and security reasons so we have to look for new markets. The female executive traveller is one of those emerging markets and it is a pertinent market for our hotel to invest in because we have to diversify and we will diversify even further in the months to come. ‘‘Other floors can be dedicated to other travellers, the sky is the limit because we have 23 floors. So, we can be as creative as we want to be going forward.’’

Enjoying the support of the holding company

If there is one thing that buoys the aspirations of Brekelmans in reaching for the moon, it is the unalloyed support and financial backings that he enjoys from the holding company, 11 Plc, as he tells you excitedly that: ‘‘We have a parent or holding company that is very well known in the market and it has a hospitality division, with many hotels in its portfolio and they are extremely quality driven, definitely, not profit or revenue driven. ‘‘Obviously, I have a company that fully back up my vision of how to create an environment that we could all benefit from for a longer period of time. We have high expectation from our associates or staff in terms of service delivery because the cake has become very, very small. ‘‘Everybody on Victoria Island, because I consider Victoria Island as the base of my competitors, is fighting for those few travellers coming in and how can you set yourself aside is by having a good story, by having genuine services and providing quality for the value that people are willing to pay in the current market space. ‘‘Nobody knows what COVID – 19 is going to bring in the next week or months or even year but this gives us the opportunity to not go back to the old ways but to reinvent ourselves and do it differently. Technology is going to be embraced faster because it is developing in a far quicker way and so we will be implementing technology far better than we have done in the past.’’

Keeping it simple

Brekelmans said his team and himself, is driven by customer’s satisfaction and in trying to achieve this, the watchword would be keeping it simple and not complicated things. ‘‘Hospitality is not rocket science but it is actually very simple although it is a very detailed business because a lot can go wrong but it is not very complicated. Our business model going forward with our staff should be very simple; do what you say and say what you do. ‘‘So, our guest knows what to expect and how to expect it. Let us no overcomplicate matters. That is what we try to avoid. For instance, our restaurant will not have a lot of menus. Simple will not be the right word but it will be well – balanced. And in the process everybody is properly trained and properly carried along, so that we can guarantee continuity.’’

There is something for everyone

‘‘Just keep it simple and ensure that very guest is satisfied. The Nigerian community, Asian community, American community and European community as well as the African community, there will be something for everyone. ‘‘We will also not try to make it obvious but educate our guests a little for them to try new ways. In order to achieve this I have recently appointed a new management team including a new executive chief, and a new director of food and beverage, so I am very excited to work with this team as they bring a wealth of experience from Africa and other parts of the world.

Expect a better guest service

The core of all that they have put in place and will do going forward, according to him: ‘‘In summary our guests should expect a far better guest services in a clean and safe and more enjoyable environment. That is basically in a nut shell what to expect.’’

You need different ingredients to stay

atop If there is one thing that the hotel general manager is well -abreast of, it is the fact that staying atop as he wishes is a combination of so many factors, which hopefully, he is bringing on board in this arduous task ahead of him: ‘‘So, it is not only hard work but you need a little bit of luck, a little bit of patient and a little bit of hard work. It is like a soup with a lot of different ingredients. But if you do it with a holding company that is not ready to invest it will not work. ‘‘Marketing is very important; being out there, engage with you clientele and one of the pillars that we are currently driving on is bringing back old business. We have lost the corporate world over the years for various reasons. ‘‘The corporate contract is slowly disappearing and if you don’t make sure that your product is up to par then they will not come back and we are inviting them now almost on a daily basis to talk with them about what we have been doing and engaging with them to convince them that we are here to stay and looking forward to bringing them through the front door.’’

SHOCKING LIFE STORY!!!

Abuja Man reveals (FREE) secret Fruits that Increased his Manhood size and Lasting Power in 5days…

CLICK HERE TO GET IT!!!

%d bloggers like this: