Dupe Olusola is the Managing Director and CEO of Transcorp Hotels PLC. In this interview, she speaks about how the company returned to profitability a year after the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the forex crisis on the hospitality industry.
You became the head at Transcorp during the pandemic, how was it?
I became Chief Executive/MD at a very interesting time – at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – an unprecedented experience that caused so much global disruption and mostly to the travel and hospitality sectors. The hospitality industry was particularly affected by the ensuing restriction on local and international travel, and limitations on social interaction – indeed trying times for all.
Despite the unprecedented twist that surfaced in 2020, we continued to implement our innovative strategies as well as novel initiatives aimed at curtailing our imminent loss position. I led our outstanding team at Transcorp Hotels Plc to deliver above expectations in 2020, building momentum into 2021 where we recorded a remarkable recovery. We created and developed a domestic leisure market providing products for this market and successfully diversifying our target market.
We haven’t stopped building on this, and this year to date, we have broken performance records. All this was through the effort of my amazing team. Their passion and resilience are second to none.
Despite the economic downturn, Transcorp has shown resilience, what is the key?
It is our mantra to continually think outside the box. The pandemic taught us that lesson as we had to innovatively create activities to bring back guests to the hotel, assure them of their safety through the Hilton Clean Stay programme, and improve our overall service delivery. We did not rest on our laurels in 2020; we were aggressive in driving business and, very importantly, leisure activities to the hotel, by curating experiences for guests to enjoy, at bundled rates.
While driving our leisure business to make up for the dwindling performance of the international business travellers’ segment due to the travel restrictions, we continued to use targeted marketing to maintain top-of-mind awareness. Hence, when normalcy gradually returned, we were the top choice and prime location for locals and international travellers.
Our 2021 numbers are a testament to the strategies we implemented during the recovery year as we achieved over a 100% of our top-line figure and overturned the N8bn loss to a N1bn profit. Similarly, 2022 has been remarkable as well. Our 9-month revenue already exceeds our FY 2021 revenue by about N1bn.
We continue to reinforce our position as the all-round industry leader with an increased and continued focus on delivering excellent service quality, customer satisfaction, and security of our guests.
To what extent has the foreign exchange volatility affected the business?
Foreign exchange volatility has indeed impacted our business and has significantly increased the cost of operations. The forex volatility, coupled with inflation, has escalated the costs of goods and services. However, our primary strategy is to grow our revenue at a faster pace than the costs are growing. We closely monitor and implement innovative measures to ensure continuous cost optimization.
We reduced our forex needs in the procurement of consumables by sourcing and helping to develop SMEs to access local alternatives that meet our required standards.
What are the growth strategies you implemented at Transcorp Plc?
Transcorp Hotels Plc is listed on the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX). We own Africa’s leading business hotel, Transcorp Hilton Abuja, and another award-winning hotel in Nigeria’s South-South, Transcorp Hotels Calabar. We are also the proud owners of Aura by Transcorp Hotels, a fast-growing digital platform for booking hotels, apartments, and experiences. We launched Aura by Transcorp Hotels last year as part of our asset-light strategy.
Aura by Transcorp Hotels is an online platform for booking hotels and apartments, as well as experiences. The platform is helping us expand to places it would have otherwise taken us many years to expand to. Today, we have over 5,000 rooms and counting across different hotels and apartments nationwide. With Aura by Transcorp Hotels, we are leveraging the power of technology to fast-track growth.
Also, we work closely with different stakeholders and introduce innovative offers to continue to improve demand, even as we expand our business. We are delivering a world-class event centre at Transcorp Hilton Abuja in 2023, where we also recently launched a spa with great facilities.
We are also working on a new five-star hotel in the heart of Lagos. There is truly so much more and we are excited about this.
In what ways has it positively affected its immediate communities?
We are highly committed to giving back to the communities where we operate. We make periodic donations to hospitals, orphanages, and old people’s homes through our properties in Abuja and Calabar (Transcorp Hotels Calabar).
Every year, we empower women to learn new skills, including business and entrepreneurship skills to help them build their businesses. The Business Empowerment Programme for Women is an annual programme that has helped a lot of women.
We also have the Soap for Hope project, where we make soaps through recycling and distributing them to nearby communities. This is in addition to the material and financial donations we make to different bodies.
We are also a significant contributor to the Tony Elumelu Foundation, a philanthropy that supports thousands of entrepreneurs across Africa every year with a seed investment of $5,000 each.
We are continuously looking for ways to give back to our communities in line with our ESG commitment to doing good, even as we do well.