Spotlight On Wumi Jubril

For many countries globally, the wellness and hospitality industry is one with hefty potential to not just provide locals with relaxation options but also double as a tourism cash cow, generating a fortune in national revenue—a viable economic model that has propelled several countries to self-sufficiency. In Nigeria, however, although the wellness business is a largely privatised affair, the raw potential of the industry to transform the country’s fate for the better remains untapped.

Having honed her hospitality skills at Sheraton Hotels home and abroad in neighbouring African countries, ace hotelier, Wumi Jubril’s impact in the hotel space cannot be overstated. Courtesy of her vast experience running world-class built-for-relaxation establishments, the lifestyle escape connoisseur is the CEO of the Seattle Residences and Spa (SRS Collection), a leading luxurious residence in the commercial hub of Lagos and has since become an authority on all things wellness and hospitality. Speaking with DOWNTOWN, she shares her expert insights on the potential trillion Naira industry and its present shortcomings, what constitutes a luxury wellness centre, and the unique offerings of the Seattle Residences and Spa.

Having grown up in a family of doctors, you earned your masters in International Business Management from the International Business School, after a bachelor’s degree in Chemical engineering in Budapest, Hungary. How did you get into the wellness and hospitality industry?

It began 13 years ago when I realised how much I loved the whole process involved in the art of catering to people’s needs. Coming from a family where everyone is involved, one way or another, in healthcare or hospitality, I would say I naturally developed a passion for it. I started with the Sheraton Lagos Hotel in Ikeja as a trainee where I had amazing mentors, and I worked in the sales department for about two years, after which I was nominated to represent Sheraton Gambia in Nigeria. I did this for about a year and then got an offer to head Business Development (Outbound) for West Africa. It was all exciting, and I learnt so much. The experience I gathered definitely led me to this point with The SRS Collection. I had wonderful mentors in the process of my growth, a lot of whom I am still very much in touch with.

At the beginning of your career, you were a sales representative at Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Starwood’s flagship brand, here in Nigeria and Gambia. Can you describe what that experience was like, your foray into the hospitality industry and how you sold it to Nigerians?

Certainly! My experience as a sales representative at Sheraton Hotels and Resorts was truly enriching and formative. It was my first foray into the hospitality industry, and it provided me with valuable insights into the dynamics of sales, customer service, and the unique Nigerian market. As a sales representative, I was responsible for promoting the brand to potential customers in Nigeria and Gambia. I engaged in direct sales, relationshipbuilding, and networking to generate leads and convert them into bookings. It was a fastpaced environment where I had to be proactive, responsive, and adaptable to the changing needs of customers. One of the key aspects of my role was to effectively sell the Sheraton Hotels and Resorts brand to Nigerians. I learned that understanding the local culture and customs was crucial in building trust and rapport with potential customers. I made sure to research and familiarise myself with Nigerian business practices, etiquette, and preferences, which helped me tailor my sales approach accordingly.

Building and maintaining relationships are also paramount in the hospitality industry. I nurtured partnerships with local travel agencies, corporate clients, and event planners, and provided personalised attention to their requirements.

Overall, my experience as a sales representative at Sheraton Hotels and Resorts in Nigeria and Gambia was a challenging yet fulfilling journey. It taught me the importance of cultural intelligence, customer relationship management, and effective sales techniques. It laid the foundation for my career in the hospitality industry and provided me with valuable skills that I continue to leverage in my current roles.

Times are very different now. You are the CEO of The Seattle Residences and Spa, the flagship of the SRS Collection, a luxury hospitality group.

What are some of the major differences between the hospitality industry then and now?

As the CEO of a foremost luxury hospitality group, I am well aware of the major differences between the hospitality industry then and now. Times have indeed changed, and the hospitality industry has evolved significantly. First, technology has transformed the hospitality industry in unprecedented ways. Today, we have advanced property management systems, online booking platforms, mobile apps, and other technological tools that enhance guest experiences, streamline operations, and improve efficiency.

These advancements have revolutionised how we interact with guests, manage reservations, and handle guest services.

Furthermore, guests’ expectations have significantly changed over time. Today’s guests seek personalised experiences, are highly reliant on online reviews and social media and demand seamless digital integration throughout their stay. They expect convenient online bookings, fast Wi- Fi, mobile check-ins, and other modern amenities. Meeting these evolving guest expectations has become a top priority for luxury hospitality providers like The Seattle Residences and Spa. In addition, the global pandemic has brought health and safety to the forefront of the hospitality industry. Today, guests expect stringent health and safety protocols in place, such as increased cleaning and sanitisation, contactless services, and social distancing measures.

As the CEO of The Seattle Residences and Spa, I prioritise the health and safety of our guests and staff and ensure that we strictly adhere to all recommended guidelines and protocols. No matter the dynamics, I am committed to adapting to these changes and leading my team in providing exceptional guest experiences in this ever-evolving industry.

Globally, mental wellness always takes a backseat to physical medicine.

In your experience in the wellness industry in Nigeria, what are some of your biggest takeaways from Nigerians’ attitude around wellness of the mind?

As someone with experience in the wellness industry in Nigeria, I have observed that Nigerians often prioritise physical health over mental wellness. However, there are some key takeaways from Nigerians’ attitude around wellness of the mind. First, there is a general lack of awareness about mental health and its importance in Nigeria. Mental health education and awareness campaigns are not as widespread as those for physical health, and many Nigerians lack basic knowledge about mental health conditions, symptoms, and available treatments.

Also, Mental health is often stigmatised in Nigerian society, with misconceptions and negative attitudes towards individuals who experience mental health challenges. There is a prevailing belief that mental health issues are a sign of weakness or a result of spiritual or moral failings, leading to social exclusion and discrimination.

While there is a growing awareness about the importance of mental wellness in Nigeria, there are still significant challenges that need to be addressed.

Efforts to promote mental wellness in Nigeria should focus on increasing awareness, reducing stigma, improving access to mental health services, and integrating mental health into the overall healthcare system.

What are some of the shortcomings of the hospitality industry here in Nigeria?

The hospitality industry in Nigeria, like any other industry, has its fair share of shortcomings. One of the significant shortcomings of the hospitality industry in Nigeria is the inadequate infrastructure. Many hotels, restaurants and other hospitality establishments face challenges such as inconsistent power supply, unreliable water supply, poor road networks, and inadequate telecommunication infrastructure, which can impact the quality of services provided to guests.

Another shortcoming is the scarcity of a skilled workforce. Despite the potential of the hospitality industry in Nigeria, there is a shortage of skilled and trained personnel in various roles such as management, culinary, housekeeping, and customer service. This can result in a lack of quality service delivery, which may affect the overall guest experience. And lastly, price sensitivity among local consumers can also be a shortcoming in the hospitality industry in Nigeria. Many consumers have limited purchasing power, and price remains a significant factor influencing their choices. This can impact the profitability of hospitality establishments and their ability to invest in quality infrastructure, training, and services.

Addressing these shortcomings would require efforts from both the public and private sectors to invest in infrastructure, workforce development, regulatory frameworks, and industry standards to enhance the overall quality and competitiveness of the hospitality industry in Nigeria.

What makes a luxury wellness centre?

A luxury wellness centre is defined by several key elements that collectively create a premium and exclusive experience for individuals seeking health, relaxation, and rejuvenation. A luxury wellness centre must have top-notch facilities that provide a serene and aesthetically pleasing environment. This includes well-appointed treatment rooms, state-of-the-art fitness equipment, luxurious spa facilities, and serene relaxation areas, all designed to create a sense of opulence and comfort. It should also offer a wide range of holistic wellness programs that cater to different needs and goals. These may include personalised fitness plans, nutrition counselling, stress management techniques, mindfulness practices, and alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture.

Furthermore, the staff at a luxury wellness centre should be experienced, skilled, and trained to provide exceptional service. This includes qualified fitness trainers, nutritionists, spa therapists, and other wellness practitioners who are knowledgeable and passionate about their fields. Personalisation and privacy are crucial in a luxury wellness centre.

Guests should be able to customise their wellness programs based on their preferences, goals, and health needs. A luxury wellness centre should be a place where guests can indulge in a premium wellness experience that nourishes their body, mind, and spirit, leaving them feeling rejuvenated, revitalised, and pampered.

What are some of the offerings that stand The Seattle Residences and Spa out from the rest?

The Seattle Residences and Spa stand out from the rest due to our luxurious accommodations, exceptional spa services, exquisite waterfront dining options, exclusive resident services, and prime location. These offerings create a truly exceptional experience for our guests, setting us apart as a premier choice for those seeking unparalleled comfort, luxury, and hospitality.

At The SRS Collection, we provide an escape for business travellers and leisure seekers. We are saying, literally, “Come to us, and we will pamper you.” From the moment you walk in, it is completely fresh with our popular SRS signature scent; you walk straight into your apartment, led by the butler who would have been expecting you. Your welcome fruit platter, a welcome drink, and many other amenities/services which we offer on arrival of guests are served to you at your apartment on your arrival. We have just recently started to have our branded amenities with the Mont Company, which work perfectly for us, particularly due to their ecofriendliness.

Can you provide an insight into what the wellness trends of 2023 have been so far? What have you found that Nigerians are into and enjoy?

The year 2023 has already gone far and in Nigeria, wellness trends have been centred around holistic health, incorporating physical, mental, and emotional well-being. There has been a growing interest in fitness and exercise among Nigerians, with an emphasis on diverse workout options such as gym workouts, outdoor exercises, and group fitness classes. This includes activities such as yoga, aerobics, strength training, and dance fitness. Many Nigerians are focusing on healthy eating habits, including the consumption of locally sourced, organic, and whole foods. Traditional Nigerian foods such as plantains, yams, and local vegetables are gaining popularity due to their perceived health benefits. It’s important to note that wellness trends can evolve and change over time and may vary depending on individual preferences and cultural factors, but I believe that Nigerians are definitely on the right track with their wellness concerns.

You provide unwinding solutions to people. How do you unwind yourself?

I have now gotten to a point where I now receive spa treatments as gifts (Laughs).

I actually do get some time to relax as, in the past, I travelled quite a bit. Ever since the pandemic, I have taken a lot more interest in spending a lot more time with friends and family. It’s always one thing or another… cycling sometimes, exploring new restaurants for wine and food tastings, or attending exhibitions. I can comfortably say that my friends have definitely played a huge part in helping me unwind.

Despite being blessed with arts and culture, what do you think is the reason why Nigeria is not cashing in on tourism?

First, I’d like to address the problem of inadequate infrastructure. Nigeria faces significant infrastructural challenges, including poor roads, inadequate transportation systems, and limited access to basic amenities such as electricity and clean water.

These challenges make it difficult for tourists to travel within the country and experience our arts and culture. Nigeria has also faced security challenges for over a decade now, including insurgency, ethnic conflicts, and crime, which have affected our country’s image as a safe destination for tourists. Safety concerns can discourage tourists from visiting our country and experiencing our arts and culture. Other abounding challenges also impede Nigeria from profiting from tourism, including a lack of tourism-focused policies and regulations, limited tourism infrastructure, lack of marketing and promotion, and other limitations.

Addressing these challenges will require concerted efforts from the government, private sector, and other stakeholders to unlock the full potential of Nigeria’s arts and culture for tourism.

 

How can we change the entire hospitality landscape to turn us into a tourist destination in Africa?

To change the entire Nigerian hospitality landscape and turn the nation into a tourist destination in Africa, a multifaceted approach is needed. One of the critical factors in attracting tourists is the quality of infrastructure. The Nigerian government and stakeholders need to invest in upgrading and maintaining transportation systems, such as airports, roads, and public transportation. Nigeria has a rich and diverse cultural heritage that can be a significant attraction for tourists. Promoting Nigerian arts, music, dance, cuisine, and festivals can help create a unique and authentic tourism experience. This can be done through cultural exhibitions, cultural exchange programs, and collaborations with local communities to preserve and promote their heritage.

In addition, safety and security are major concerns for tourists. Enhancing security measures in Nigeria, such as improving law enforcement, implementing safety regulations, and addressing issues related to crime, corruption, and inter-ethnic conflict, can create a safe and secure environment for tourists to visit and enjoy their stay in Nigeria. By implementing these strategies, Nigeria can change its hospitality landscape and position itself as a top tourism destination in Africa, attracting tourists from around the world and boosting the country’s economy.

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Self-identifies as a middle child between millennials and the gen Z, began writing as a 14 year-old. Born and raised in Lagos where he would go on to obtain a degree in the University of Lagos, he mainly draws inspiration from societal issues and the ills within. His "live and let live" mantra shapes his thought process as he writes about lifestyle from a place of empathy and emotional intelligence. When he is not writing, he is very invested in football and sociopolitical commentary on social media.

Kehinde Fagbule

About Author / Kehindé Fagbule

Self-identifies as a middle child between millennials and the gen Z, began writing as a 14 year-old. Born and raised in Lagos where he would go on to obtain a degree in the University of Lagos, he mainly draws inspiration from societal issues and the ills within. His "live and let live" mantra shapes his thought process as he writes about lifestyle from a place of empathy and emotional intelligence. When he is not writing, he is very invested in football and sociopolitical commentary on social media.

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