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‘Serviced apartment is taking a slice from conventional hotels in volume and value’

By Maria Diamond
09 July 2022   |   3:00 am
Wumi Jubril is the Chief Executive Officer of the Seattle Residences and Spa, a luxury hospitality brand. With an MSC in International Business from the International Business School....

Wumi Jubril is the Chief Executive Officer of the Seattle Residences and Spa, a luxury hospitality brand. With an MSC in International Business from the International Business School, Budapest, Hungary, Wumi has over 10 years experience in the hospitality sector, working with Starwood Hotels and Resorts, one of the world’s leading hotel brands. Her experience spans Sales, Marketing, Business Development, Partnerships, Strategy and Training.
While with Starwood, she was appointed Head of Business Development, Outbound Sales, West Africa, managing sales teams of the five Starwood Properties in
Nigeria, the Gambia and other Hotels within West Africa. In her current role as CEO of the SRS Collection, an umbrella brand of Seattle Residences and Spa, she manages a strong team of hospitality professionals who help to curate some of the most memorable wellness escapes in Nigeria.
In this interview with MARIA DIAMOND, she spoke on the hospitality industry and the evolution of serviced apartments in Nigeria

There has been noticeable increase in demands for serviced apartments in Nigeria, what’s responsible for that?
A serviced apartment is in simpler terms a hassle-free choice of rental property. A typical rented apartment requires so much such as power, 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 coming to realise, is how hassle-free everything is – from payment down to moving in, unpacking, and just simply living in an already well-furnished apartment. Your rent and service charge cover the cost of almost everything, if not all.

Also, given the rise in remote work, the thought of not having to worry about electricity is blissful. COVID-19, the game-changer, brought a rise in the need for serviced flats, as opposed to their self-serviced counterparts. You want to be in the comfort of your home and have all your basic needs catered for without having to go through any hassles.

There has been complains about the role of real estate agents in the high cost of lease and purchases in Nigeria, why is this so and can this be curtailed?
I believe that real estate agents are necessary, but while they are important, using them suggests that you have to rely on them as a middleman between the seller and you (the buyer). This can lead to a feeling of distrust and then, you find yourself not believing the real estate agents. Some charge as high as 100 per cent in certain situations, because you are not dealing with the homeowner personally.

In some other instances too, these property agents suggest inflated prices to homeowners. The danger of this is that, this will end up working against you if you get desperate to rent some single apartments. What might be a solution to this is to have a fixed rate, as well as a functional body that checks activities to ensure the right rates are being charged and paid.

The cost of serviced apartment is considered to be on the high side and for high earners, how true is this?
Not exactly, however, it could come across this way, especially when considering that the name ‘serviced apartment’ has been somewhat abused in the country. Some assume that just because you are provided with a diesel generator, then you stay in a serviced home, but it goes beyond this. There are a lot more which go into providing a serviced apartment; such include electricity, security, facilities provided, and so on. All of these amenities add up and do come at a cost. Ultimately, you find that what you are getting is good value for the money spent.

Based on your experience in the industry, what would you say are the major challenges with housing in Nigeria and how can these be tackled?
 Some of the major challenges are ineffective housing budgets, high population growth, high migration to urban centers, high cost of building materials, etc. Investors are also subjected to multiple taxations.

Tell us about The SRS collection; what exactly do you do and what is the ideology behind the business?
The Seattle Residences and Spa (SRS) Collection is a luxury, health, and wellness hospitality group that specialises in the art of curating wellness and lifestyle escapes and treats to guests. The brand is synonymous with scenic views, tasteful luxury, sophistication of design, and quality of service.

It is not just a home away from home, but also a stunning escape for our guests, and it is not only defined by sophisticated style 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 the apartments at the SRS Collection?
Our units are delicately furnished, premium apartments. In all our three properties, we have 3-bedroom apartments, which would be considered higher than a premium suite in a 5-star hotel. This is because of the facilities provided, as well as how spacious they are. 

The Seattle Residences and Spa, which is our flagship property, and Pier Harbour by SRS – our latest new addition, all 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 clients.

What are the major challenges in the hospitality sector where you operate?
Some of the challenges we face in the hospitality sector usually border on government policies, travel bans, electricity, and security. Staff management, training, and retention, in so many instances, are also some of the challenges we are faced with. These are topics that always come up in conversations within the hospitality sector.

What is the place of serviced apartments in Nigeria in the next ten years?
The serviced apartment industry has carved a niche for itself, and still steadily doing so in the Nigerian market. I believe it is an industry that has come to stay. It is taking a slice of the hospitality business in terms of volume and value of transactions from conventional hotels.

What do you think the Government can do to enhance the growth of the sub-sector and its acceptability in Nigeria? 
Government should improve on electricity and security, which is key in the industry. These have always been of major concern in the country and have gotten worse overtime. As a result, the economy has been epileptic. This applies to other sectors like health and transportation.

Recently, the increased prices of diesel have been the deal breaker. The government needs to work on close partnerships with the private sector and must ensure that the right policies, delivery structures, and subsidised tariffs are in place.