Meet Thys van-Der-Merwe: A cop turned hotelier

With the strenuous training most security personnel undergo, the least place one expects them to work is in a hotel, which requires a lot of humility to serve even the nastiest guests, as Obinna Emelike engages Thys van-Der-Merwehospitality expert and general manager of Radisson Hotel Lagos Ikeja.

Interestingly, he was a police officer in South Africa, his country of birth, prior to a security consultancy role to one of the main hotels in South Africa.

Having caught the bug for hospitality during his consultancy role, he worked himself up through the ranks, learning from various departments within the industry and leading up to his current engagement with the Radisson Hotel Group as the general manager of one of its prime properties in Lagos , Nigeria.

Of course, he is happy with the turn his life and career have taken, especially as the general manager of Radisson Hotel Lagos Ikeja. The hotel is a leading upscale hospitality facility centrally located in the heart of Lagos mainland and offering Scandinavian inspired hospitality with natural surroundings and unexpected delights, all with the aim of enabling guests to find more harmony in their travel experience. In a recent chat with him, he talks about his hotel, its service offerings, and a look ahead to the future of the hospitality industry.

Radisson Hotel Ikeja is a comfortable retreat in Lagos with stylish rooms and suites, he says, noting further that the hotel has 94 modern rooms and well-equipped facilities for the business and leisure travelers including steady Wi-Fi connectivity, meeting rooms, restaurant, relaxation lounge, courtyard bar, a pool side, a fitness gym among other amenities.

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Thys describes the hotel as an upscale brand offering the best hospitality services in a friendly and professional environment. “For our guests, we continue to inspire the art of being in the moment. Our commitment is to help our guests find the right balance for their stay by removing any discomforts travel may bring, enabling them to switch off and relax in every way. Delivering the very best with our Yes I Can! Service attitude, our goal is to ensure maximum satisfaction for every guest”, he says.

Speaking further about the hotel and its unique services, he ntes, “At our hotel, my team truly loves engaging with our guests. This genuine love for people is at the heart of why I am in this industry today. I find true purpose in the path of continued service to people, and our staff are well equipped and happy to assist with every detail in making each stay with us, a memorable one.”

Rated for its food and beverage prowess, the leading hotel continues to transform its F&B offerings into immersive community hubs with open plan, welcoming and communal spaces for every occasion. At Radisson Ikeja, the hotel’s bar, lounge, and restaurant areas serve as prime relaxation hubs for many within its environs and are very popular with guests indeed. The hotel’s signature restaurant named The Collage Restaurant is particularly popular at the weekend and for breakfast among both leisure and business guests, who are on the prowl to discover the best and latest mouth-watering food trends in Ikeja; the heart of Lagos mainland.

Boasting an array of local and intercontinental cuisines that excite even the most delicate taste buds, the restaurant and bars are well positioned as independent spaces, each with their own clear identity and culinary offerings, ideal for enjoying relaxing meals and cocktails with friends and family. The atmosphere at the restaurant on a typical Sunday afternoon is very vibrant as guests, of which most are returning, arrive for Sunday brunch. The atmosphere, which offers great tunes via a live band, is ‘simply delightful’ as described by thrilled guests.

Despite the many thrills of the hospitality industry, it is not without its challenges, states the general manager. “The challenges are constant and in many cases recurring but as with any industry, we overcome them with great strategies, engagement and professionalism.

“Since returning to the new normal, our processes have become more streamlined for maximum efficiency. The lockdown period gave us some downtime in implementing our streamlined processes for all round operations improvements and quality service delivery. Prior to the lockdown, as a hotel group, we had taken on significant investments in the areas of developing new brand architectures, new IT systems, new revenue management systems including the launch of a new loyalty program for our customers.

“When the no-travel period hit, we simply modified these systems for better efficiency and rolled them out with concrete initiatives and without delay. It is how we stayed alive during the challenging period.

“I think our response to recent challenges show that as a team, we have become more flexible in our approach to problem solving. At our hotel, we now make decisions quickly but effectively and overall; we remind ourselves that we must forge on stronger than ever. We are glad that the industry is now in recovery, and we continue to look ahead with great optimism”, he enthuses.

In all, as the Nigerian economy continues to develop and the hospitality sector is expected to grow alongside it, “we continue to position our hotel for optimum business success by listening to our guests’ feedback and effectively managing expectations. This is critical for our business success”, Thys adds.

In concluding the chat, he states that, “Our hotel offerings are personalized for our target customers, and we continue to develop our teams to deliver consistent memorable moments with quality in mind always. As a hotel, we are well positioned for the increase in demand expected in the sector as we look ahead, and we are currently experiencing this increase in demand as more guests seek to experience the local flavors and culture”.

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