In an exclusive interview, Popular hospitality guru, Omoaefe Ejere (Popularly referred to as Efe) shared insights on the hospitality industry in Nigeria.
Q1. As a known hospitality guru in Nigeria, tell us more about yourself and how you started off in the hospitality industry?
My name is Omoaefe Ejere (Popularly referred to as Efe). I am the Chief Operating Officer(COO) with the Cubana Group and I hail from Delta state. I am married and blessed with beautiful kids.
I started this journey 22 years ago as a teenager after my secondary education in Calabar while waiting for my WAEC result. I decided to engage with a hotel to keep myself busy which was against my parents’ wishes. My dad wanted me to further my studies so he probably expected me to use my time to do extra-moral classes etc.
Sincerely, I had no plans of being a hotelier rather I fancied a career in banking and was studying towards that. Fate played a role in my life and I started my career as a kitchen steward in a hotel 22 years ago. My big Aunt and church member, Mrs Agatha Eyam recommended me for this position which was the only available position at that time in the hotel. Taking a job at that age was the most difficult decision I ever took as it was against my parents wish. My dad wanted me to proceed to Nigeria Defense Academy while my mum wanted me to further my education and become a banker
In summary, here I am after 22 years. I still went to school obtaining various degrees. I hold a Bsc in Public Administration, Masters in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolutions, Masters in Public Administration, PGD in in Peace Studies and Conflicts Resolution and a Diploma in Business Administration. I am also a Fellow in some highly placed reputable chattered organizations.
My career in hospitality has taken me through the entire cadre of the industry. I have grown through the ranks as best staff of various reputable organizations as Waiter, Banquet Staff, Front Desk, Supervisor, Marketer, Departmental Manager, General Manager and today Chief Operating Officer with the Prestigious Cubana Group. In addition, I am also developing my own brand (Grand Orchid Hotels)
Q2. You have worked with numerous personalities in the hospitality cum entertainment industry including your current boss, Obi Cubana. As his right hand man in the industry, how has that changed your perception towards the business?
Well, I have worked and consulted for many generous personalities and brands like 805 African Restaurant, Signature, Davvy Apartments etc. However Obi is just an amazing and super role model. Obi is integrity personified and many people can attest to this. He is a go-getter. He sets a target for you and pushes you to achieve that target. I learnt that approach to business from him and it has made me a better person today. He challenges me daily with different responsibilities and also comes to check my work and personal life just to ensure that I am not off track. He treats me not just as a staff but as a brother.
Q3. What’s your take about Abuja Hospitality and tourism sector and what you think could be done to enhance it?
Well I think a lot needs to be done in this sector in Abuja- the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Because of its status as the Nations’ Capital, there’s a large influx of citizens and foreigners who converge in Abuja from time to time. What this means is that hospitality is big business in Abuja.
I feel we need a lot of privately driven expertise to come into this untapped sector and explore it’s potentials as this sector remains one of the most ignored sectors in Nigeria. From, experience, I dare to say that if the government increases investment in the hospitality and tourism industry (they go hand-in-hand), this sector will compete with other sectors like Oil and Gas, Agriculture, Manufacturing etc., in terms of employment and internally generated revenue (IGR).
Finally for this sector achieve its optimal value, there has to be focus on getting qualified personnel into the right places i.e the right man for the right job. I suggest the creation of a tourism/hospitality think-tank consisting of proven professionals in the industry devoid of political sentiments with the task of developing an Abuja or Nigeria Tourism Master plan. It worked in Calabar. It also worked in Dubai where tourism has become the major source of revenue for that country.
Q4. The name Efe-Cubana is synonymous to philanthropy. Many people have spoken well about how you’ve assisted them in different ways. Tell us, do you have a foundation that gives back to the people and what are your plans for the future?
The Bible teaches us about being our brother’s keeper so am doing the best I can to help humanity. I do not have a foundation yet but I intend to launch one soon. The focus of this foundation shall be education for the less privileged children. We will be going to the rural areas to support parents who can’t afford paying the fees of their children. We are starting this year in Delta State with the theme “WE CAN MAKE IT TOGETHER” by enrolling and paying WAEC Fees for 1,000 indigent students. We will also support the less privileged in the local communities.
Q5. How do you feel celebrating 40th birthday and what do you want people to look out for in the nearest future?
Wow! I feel great celebrating 40 and I count it a great privilege to God for making this day possible and I want to see the bigger me, exploring and breaking new grounds in my field.
Q6. How do you balance family and work, especially in this hazardous moment?
Family comes first in all I do and I want to thank my beautiful wife for the understanding and for being a part of what I do. Family is everything and work is everything.