Executive Brief: Owen Omogiafo

Owen Omogiafo, is the Chief Executive Officer / Managing Director at Transcorp Hotels Plc.

In this interview with Ruona Phido, she speaks on Transcorp’s strategy for identifying and developing future leaders

She also speaks on the impact stewardship and mentorship has had on her career over the years to enable her take on her current role as the Managing Director/CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc.

You were a key leader in Transcorp Group. How was the transition to Managing Director/CEO of Transcorp Hotels and how are you finding this new role?

Before assuming my role as the MD/CEO of Transcorp Hotels, I was the Executive Director, Corporate Services at Transcorp Group where the core remit of my role was driving operational efficiency, a skill required to successfully oversee the running of a company such as Transcorp Hotels. That role prepared me for building on such a reputable legacy brand like  Transcorp Hotels and tackling the challenges of leading an organisation that has been around for over 30 years.  It also helped that I have the support and positive sentiment from all stakeholders, including the company’s shareholders. With this support, I have been able to handle my responsibilities and build on the legacy of such a successful brand.

Everyone was at a point stewarded and learnt from the experience of a person in a higher position. How have you been stewarded through the course of your career and what impact has stewardship had on your career?

At various touchpoints of my career, I had great people who guided me and mentored me to become the person I am today. I have also been fortunate to have been guided by women who taught me through their life experiences that it is possible to be a wife, a mum, have a successful career and still remain passionate about the things I love. To mention a few, the former minister of Communications and Technology, Omobola Johnson is one of such women.

I was also coached by my former supervisor at Accenture, Niyi Yusuf, who imbibed in me the culture of going the extra mile in whatever I do and understanding that not delivering on a task should never be an option.

Of course, in the Heirs Holdings Group where I served a great deal of my career span, I learnt under the guidance of Tony O. Elumelu, who is paying it forward in many different ways and taking a chance on young people. He too benefitted from a former supervisor who took a chance on him at a really young age – imagine that he was appointed as a branch manager of a bank at the age of 26! It is this same luck that reflects in the hiring process within our Group presently. You don’t need anybody to get employed or to succeed.

You assumed the position of Managing Director/ CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc after Mr. Valentine Ozigbo. What processes were in place when he left to enable you properly function in this role?

As a group, we are committed to holding the highest levels of corporate governance and this includes having board of directors’ committees and policies for virtually everything needed to run a business. Everyone knows who does what and how it is done, making it easier for transition at any point.  Valentine Ozigbo upheld this standard and this helped me pick up faster.

What are your stewardship plans for the next person to succeed you in your current role?

As part of our corporate governance ethics, succession planning is prioritized within the Transcorp group. I have a job to identify who my successor will be and groom them to the level they need to get to by giving them opportunities and projects that challenge them. This will strengthen their skills and set them on the developmental path for this leadership position.

What is Transcorp’s overarching strategy for identifying and developing future leaders and how has it strengthened the organization?

To build a succession plan for Transcorp, key roles within the organisation are identified, the key competencies needed are also identified then an inward survey is carried out to discover what the internal bench strength is. Each person identified undergoes a gap analysis to identify readiness for the role and based on this, a developmental plan that guides the individual towards achieving the required level is developed.

The same process was applied for my appointment as the Managing Director/CEO of Transcorp Hotels and further steps were taken to ensure delivery. Since my resumption, I have taken part in various local and international leadership training as part of my succession readiness.

This deliberate strategy fosters easy transitions. At Transcorp we continue to maintain a high level of corporate governance, our financial performance remains good, employees remain satisfied, our stakeholders are happy, and investors are happy. This shows the strength of the succession planning in Transcorp Group.

What is the secret to your success? How have you been able to effectively manage the best hotels in Nigeria?

In Transcorp Group, our core values are Enterprise, Excellence and Execution. We do not just preach these, we live by them. We are driven by excellence and do not rest on our oars. We have been the leader in our market, but we do not take that for granted, and so, we continuously strive to maintain that position. We constantly research and discover new ways and experiences to delight our guests, give them value for money, make them our ambassadors and create a home away from home for them. These are the factors that motivate us as customer service is critical in our line of business. We never compromise on it.

Also, employees are the heart of what we do. They are the bedrock of any organisation. We ensure their welfare is met. All these go a long way in the management of our hotels.

What is your view of the Nigerian hospitality industry?

The Nigerian hospitality industry is a growing industry. Yet, there is still so much to be done, and so much more to be gained. I believe that this sector is growing at a fast pace and the opportunities are endless for brands and customers.

Currently, the largest customer segment is business travelers, but we are witnessing an increase in the number of foreign leisure travelers. Domestic tourism is on the rise as well as according to reports.

Recent government policies have helped. The introduction of the Visa on Arrival introduced by the federal Government in 2018 has aided tourism further and gained the government praises from people all over the world especially participants of the recently held Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum that saw the gathering of entrepreneurs and delegates from all over the world. If the government continues to innovate and implement policies that will attract the necessary investment and patronage, then we will all witness a boom.

On the other hand, the economic instability has also threatened the sector in recent times. Issues like Naira devaluation affected the industry’s value chain from travel and tours to tourist attractions, hotels and much more. These factors cause Nigeria lose its tourism attraction to neighbouring countries like Ghana, Rwanda and others. There is a lot of room for growth in every area mentioned and the only way to achieve the desired growth is for the government to provide a favourable environment in the form of policies, tax reforms, pioneers status, and deliberate privatization of tourist attractions starting from the political structure.

Currently, hospitality is with the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. It would be great if Nigeria has a dedicated ministry for tourism similar to that of Kenya.

Where do you see the sector in the next 5 years and how do you think it can be improved to match international counterparts?

As I said, I am a firm believer that the tourism sector has so much potential for growth. A recent report by Trade Economics puts this growth at 1.9% YoY in the 2nd quarter of 2019. What we lack is the discipline of maintaining infrastructure, build new tourist attractions and maintain existing sites.

Transcorp Hotels is playing its part in raising awareness and excitement of local tourist sites and we will continue to work closely with associations including the federal government to position Nigeria as a tourism destination. We are working towards changing the narrative of Abuja beyond a business destination but as a city where people can visit for holidays.

In the past months, Abuja has seen the rise of activities and nightlife with musical concerts, food festivals and more which have been hosted in various parts of the city. The airlines also have a role in this regard. We hope that the airlines will partner with other sectors of the hospitality industry to create packages that make it affordable to travel locally just like international airlines do. When we collaborate, we can achieve more and accelerate the growth of the industry. 

Photo Credit: Transcorp