At Ikogosi, strongest hold for our business value chain is MICE —Balogun, GM, Glocient Hospitality

Lanre Balogun is the General Manager of Glocient Hospitality, an operators and managers company of IKogosi Warm Springs Resort in Ekiti State. In this interview with WALE OLAPADE, he speaks on how Glocient in the space of two years, changed the face of the resort into a world-class hospitality enclave, the company’s expansion plan, MICE business bid and sundry issues.

What is Glocient Hospitality about?

Glocient Hospitality is the hospitality arm of Cavista Holdings Limited and the concessionaire of Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort. Cavista Holdings has interest in hospitality, fintech, technology and farming.

So, for fintech, we have Payzeep. For technology, we have Cavista Technologies. For farming, we have Agbeyewa Farms. We own and run the biggest cassava project in Nigeria, in Ekiti State.

What are the reasons for your success at Ikogosi resort within a short period of taking over the management?

So, let me give you a little bit of background and understanding of how Glocient came into Ikogosi.

First of all, the government has no business doing business. At Glocient Hospitality, we have assembled the best hospitality team in this country and I am saying this with all humility.

Between my team and I, we have over 85 years’ experience. I worked with Avalon Intercontinental, the holding company of Radisson Blu Ikeja, Radisson Ikeja, Pack Inn by Radisson Victoria Island, and the Avalon Hotel.

In 2022, Cavista Holdings, through Glocient Hospitality, its hospitality arm, became the concessionaire of Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort.

Also, the leadership of the holdings, in its wisdom, wanted the best hands it could get in the country to run the resort.

So, the leadership went for the people with the best experience in the hospitality business across the country. The result was an assemblage of a team of Nigerian hospitality professionals.

Cavista is pan-Nigerian and really did not want people from abroad to run the resort because they believe that Nigerians can do it. So, I was the first to arrive here among a team of Nigerian professionals.

I pulled some of my colleagues in the industry and we visited the resort. Then to some people, it wasn’t achievable considering the deplorable state of the resort then.

But I looked for those who have the passion, the zeal, and most importantly, the understanding of the business.

The above were the most important things in our approach in reviving and making the resort the success it is today.

Part of our approach is what we call SLAM, which is an acronym for Sell, Leadership, Alignment of strategy, and Management of cost. Of course, the management of cost in Cavista Holdings strategy is the most important of them all because you have to manage cost to stay afloat in business.

Another reason for our success so far in the resort is because we did everything people are applauding here today all by ourselves, contractors were involved.

The rooms you stayed are locally designed and furnished.

We got the local furniture people, tillers, plumbers and other local artisans to work with us in upgrading the facilities here.

And within eight months, we were able to complete 60 rooms. This place was completely dead when we came in. You couldn’t stay here for one hour, the roof was falling off and we couldn’t even enter. But we were able to fix and restore the resort, even better within a short period.

When the Ekiti State government came here, they were shocked because of the improvement they witnessed within the shortest time.

As well, we have put in lots of resources to bring the resort to this enviable state it is now. Our achievement still baffles those who don’t believe that Nigerians can transform businesses. We can, and we have done so here at Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort. Now, we have guests coming in from all over the world to visit us.

Do you think a change in government can affect management of the resort?

Before signing the concession agreement, we made sure that everything was right and all the details given required attention. So, we have a proper agreement in place and we will see the lifetime of our agreement.

What is the key selling point of the resort?

Of course, the warm and cold springs that flow side by side and still maintain their respective thermal properties, is the key selling point of the resort.

When you come to the resort, you will encounter the two springs; the only warm and cold springs. To experience this, we tell our guests to take off their shoes to feel the two bodies of water; the warm and cold.

They also witness the confluence of the warm and cold water. Myth also has it that the water has healing power, while those who dip their leg or hand in it instantly feel its therapeutic power. So, the rare experience is what Ikogosi offers to guests and it is a very unique selling point.

Again, the water, which the guests use in their rooms, is directly from the spring and the pool is thermal with water directly sourced from the spring.

When you combine the unique nature, world class facilities and dedicated professionals, Ikogosi has all it takes to become number one holiday resort in Africa.

Between MICE and holiday, which is your stronghold?

The strongest hold anywhere for our business is MICE (meeting, incentive, conference). MICE is a no-brainer. If you have a telecoms company come with hundreds of their staff, that translates into your F&B revenue. Translates into your room revenue and translates into your merchandise revenue. So because they come, you have holiday, you have a family of 10, 15 come, but you have a hundred people come, they fill your rooms for one week. They eat and they dine. So our major selling point is MICE.

Have you been attracting such people?

Yes, we have the capacity for such events here.

Why do you think I should come to Ikogosi and come again?

Ikogosi is the best holiday resort you can visit. It is most peaceful and Ekiti State is the safest state in Nigeria, statistically. We’ve been here two years and there’s not been any case in our locality of any security challenge. Don’t forget, we are part and parcel of this society. Most of us are not from here but lkogosi flows in our veins. The town flows in their veins and they take the resort as theirs. So the resort and the state is very safe to visitors and tourists.

What are the facilities on offer?

We have categorised the property into three camps. There is Camp A, where we have 32 rooms; Camp B, with 43 rooms and Camp C, which is called the villa. It offers 15 rooms and a presidential villa.

In total, we have 92 rooms. We have completely upgraded and revamped 60 of them. But our goal is to have 120 rooms. So, we have 60 saleable rooms now.

We also have world-class restaurants and bars. For the dining experience, we use QR code here, which is obtainable worldwide. Other facilities include; enthralling swimming pools fed directly by the spring water, amphitheatre, hiking trails, bush camp, halls and rooms for conferences, the warm and cold springs, which are among the most alluring occurrences in the world, among other facilities.

Do you have innovations in the resort?

We have invested a lot in upgrading the landscape. We made it habitable. We have a fish pond here. We planted some grasses and cleared the bushes because we are creating what we call a forest park where people can come and meditate.

We have lined the stream paths with hard core rocks. They will have park benches, a pool among other facilities for visitors who want to meditate or have free time.

We want a peaceful and serene environment with seats where people who are tired of the hustle and bustle of the metropolis can recline. Arrangements like this are being made all over the resort.

Also, a boardwalk is being created from the reception area because we are building a new reception here. Construction work is not concluded yet. Our restaurant is going to be totally transformed by December. It is going to be a decent place for people to dine, eat and unwind.

What about security?

Ekiti State is safe for tourism and with our security architecture, there have been no issues.

For our business, if you have one security breach, it kills our business because the majority of our clients are from outside the state; from Lagos, Abuja and other places.

Now, people are security-conscious and they want to know how safe a destination is before they visit.

Ikogosi is very safe. Our security is top-notch. We have experienced hands; people that have managed security of major VIPs in this country are the people that we have brought down here to look after our security architecture.

What are the goals of Cavista at Ikogosi?

Our goal is to complete all the rooms here, to have a golf course and other facilities that will combine to make Ikogosi the number one holiday resort in Africa.

Moreover, our goal is to completely transform the economy of Ekiti State. That is our goal. But for our leadership vision, Cavista is investing in Ekiti State, first, for jobs, second for jobs and the third reason is for more jobs. That is the vision of John Olajide, our chairman and we are running with it.

How has the relationship with the host community been?

It has been very cordial. About 80, percent of our staff members and others are from the community. So, the community members say to us, “we are grateful that you transformed our economy.” We also engaged some of the local artisans from the community in our construction and renovations projects here.

Do you have expansion plans?

We are closing in on the property in Abuja. We are in the closing stages of it, but we can’t disclose that now. We want to finalise all the documentations.

In your opinion, why should a guest visit Ikogosi resort?

Ikogosi is the best holiday resort you can visit any time of the year. It offers the rarest nature; (the warm and cold springs) and it is affordable and accessible. Moreover, Ekiti State is one of the most peaceful states and the safest place in Nigeria.

Quote

Ikogosi is very safe. Our security is top-notch. We have experienced hands; people that have managed security of major VIPs in this country are the people that we have brought down here to look after our security architecture.

Source:

Tribune Online