“The serviced apartment takes a share of conventional hotels in volume and value” | The Guardian Nigeria News

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Wumi Jubril is the CEO of Seattle Residences and Spa, a luxury hotel brand. Holding an MSC in International Business from the International Business School, Budapest, Hungary, Wumi has over 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry, working with Starwood Hotels and Resorts, one of the leading hotel brands in the world. His experience spans sales, marketing, business development, partnerships, strategy and training.
At Starwood, she was appointed Business Development Manager, Outbound Sales, West Africa, managing the sales teams at five Starwood properties in
Nigeria, Gambia and other hotels in West Africa. In her current role as CEO of SRS Collection, an umbrella brand of Seattle Residences and Spa, she manages a strong team of hospitality professionals who help curate some of Nigeria’s most memorable wellness getaways.
In this interview with MARIA DIAMOND she spoke about the hospitality industry and the evolution of serviced apartments in Nigeria

There has been a noticeable increase in demand for serviced apartments in Nigeria, what is responsible for this?
A serviced apartment is in simpler terms a hassle-free choice of rental property. A typical rented apartment requires so much energy, security, cleaning services, etc., which are all burdened with tedious processes in this part of the world. The beauty of a serviced apartment, as a number of Nigerians are beginning to realize, is how simple everything is – from paying, to moving in, to unpacking, and simply living in a apartment already well furnished. Your rent and service charges cover the cost of almost everything, if not all.

Plus, given the rise of remote working, the thought of not having to worry about electricity is a bliss. The game-changing COVID-19 has led to an increased need for serviced apartments, as opposed to their self-service counterparts. You want to be in the comfort of your home and have all your basic needs met without having to worry about anything.

There have been complaints about the role of estate agents in the high cost of renting and buying in Nigeria, why is this so and can it be reduced?
I believe that real estate agents are necessary, but although they are important, their use suggests that you should rely on them as an intermediary between the seller and you (the buyer). This can lead to a feeling of distrust and then you find yourself not trusting real estate agents. Some charge up to 100% in certain situations because you’re not dealing personally with the owner.

In other cases too, these real estate agents offer inflated prices to owners. The danger is that it will eventually backfire if you are desperate to rent individual apartments. One solution could be to have a fixed rate, as well as a functional body that audits activities to ensure that the correct rates are charged and paid.

The cost of serviced apartments is considered high and for high earners, is this true?
Not exactly, however, it might appear that way, especially considering that the name “serviced apartment” has been somewhat misused in the country. Some assume that just because you have a diesel generator you stay in a serviced home, but this goes beyond that. There are many more that go into providing a serviced apartment; such as electricity, security, facilities provided, etc. All of these conveniences add up and come at a cost. In the end, you find that what you get is good value for the money spent.

Based on your experience in the sector, what do you see as the main housing challenges in Nigeria and how can they be addressed?
Some of the major challenges are inefficient housing budgets, high population growth, high migration to urban centers, high cost of building materials, etc. Investors are also subject to multiple taxes.

Tell us about the SRS collection; what exactly do you do and what is the ideology behind the company?
The Seattle Residences and Spa (SRS) Collection is a luxury, health and wellness hotel group that specializes in the art of curating wellness and lifestyle getaways and treats for guests . The brand is synonymous with panoramic views, tasteful luxury, design sophistication and quality service.

It’s not just a home away from home, but also a stunning escape for our guests, and it’s not only defined by sophisticated styling and luxurious finishing, but also equipped to deliver legendary 5-star services. Our ideology is to be the next wave in luxury waterfront living.

What are the categories of apartments in the SRS Collection?
Our units are exquisitely furnished upscale apartments. In our three properties we have 3 bedroom apartments, which would be considered superior to a premium suite in a 5 star hotel. This is due to the facilities provided, as well as their space.

The Seattle Residences and Spa, which is our flagship property, and Pier Harbor by SRS – our newest addition, both have two floors of lush penthouses, each with stunning views. We do not compromise on the quality of services and products that we provide to our customers.

What are the major challenges of the hotel sector where you operate?
Some of the challenges we face in the hospitality industry are usually related to government policies, travel bans, electricity and security. Staff management, training and retention, in many cases, are also among the challenges we face. These are topics that always come up in conversations within the hospitality industry.

What is the place of serviced apartments in Nigeria in the next ten years?
The serviced apartment industry has carved out a niche for itself, and continues to do so steadily in the Nigerian market. I believe this is an industry that has come to stay. It takes a share of the hotel business in terms of transaction volume and value from conventional hotels.

What do you think the government can do to improve the growth of the subsector and its acceptability in Nigeria?
The government should improve electricity and security, which are essential in the industry. These have always been a major concern in the country and have worsened over time. As a result, the economy has been epileptic. This applies to other sectors such as health and transport.

Recently, the increase in diesel prices has been the deciding factor. The government must work on close partnerships with the private sector and must ensure that the right policies, delivery structures and subsidized tariffs are in place.

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