Though oil and gas have been big exports for West Africa over many decades, Ghana really struck gold in 2007 when three billion barrels worth of light oil were discovered off the western coast, around Takoradi. The extra revenue from oil exploration has been invested into developing infrastructure and boosting growth. In 2011 the country grew by almost 15 percent, and though figures for 2012 are not yet available, they are expected to be promising and there is enough potential in the country for Ernst & Young to define Ghana as a ‘rapid growth market’.
“The discovery and the development of oil fields off the coast have certainly had major impacts on the Ghanaian tourism industry,” says Adrian Landry, General Manager of the Labadi Beach Hotel. “And there is also the fact that the country represents a stable democracy that shows signs of phenomenal growth. I believe that over the last financial period, Ghana has shown the second highest growth rate of any other country in the world. Ghana is well-situated and poised to assume an even greater role in the sub-continent’s development.”
The Labadi Beach Hotel, ‘where West Africa meets and plays’, has been Accra’s premier business destination since its inception 23 years ago, and it is undeniable that it has become adept at taking advantage of favourable market opportunities. “I believe that Ghana is well situated within the Western-Africa sub-region to be able to maximise the opportunities in terms of tourism whether it be leisure tourism or business tourism – the latter probably being the sector that is going to show the strongest growth over the next period,” says Landry.
It is a great place to be for The Labadi Beach Hotel, which primarily caters to corporate clients. “We offer very much the same amenities as any other big city location,” explains the general manager. “But the property is ideally located in a garden-like setting with large palm trees, yet easily accessible to the central business district and the airport.”
The Labadi Beach is ideally situated on the seafront with a private beach that is serviced and cleaned once a day. The rooms have been designed to reflect West African tradition, custom and culture: “Each room not only has a chief’s stool, but we’ve also made use of the Adinkra symbols which have been woven into the throw at the end of the beds and other linen items,” says Landry. The symbols have a decorative function within the Akan ethnic group in Ghana, but also encapsulate powerful messages of traditional wisdom. “The rooms are both spacious and designed in a very contemporary fashion but also reflect traditions and customs and culture which are unique in the West African region,” he adds.
The hotel offers all the services the discerning business traveller might require. “The Labadi Beach has held the position of premier business destination in Accra for the past number of years, and we would like to retain that title,” says Landry. Thus the hotel has been investing heavily in updating and expanding its business facilities: “The property currently has a meeting room for 100 delegates which is sub-divisible into two. We also have a secondary room that can accommodate 45 delegates. Earlier in the month we broke ground on a project for a conference facility for 500 people, and we are also putting in a world-class spa. We are doubling the size of our gym, investing in new equipment as well as commissioning an exercise pool. The additions and improvements to the property will certainly keep us as the number one destination in the city.”
Breaking the mould
The hotel has all the accoutrements a larger hotel might have, but distinguishes itself by its unique personality and exquisite service. “The difference between ourselves and a typical ‘cookie-cutter’ type hotel, is that our property certainly has a unique identity, and one immediately feels that as one walks into the foyer,” says Landry. “The hotel is 23 years old and it has a very specific character and personality. The average length of service for the balance of the management team is approximately 14 years, which says a lot about the continuity of the property. The executive chef has been with the hotel for the past six and a half years, as have I.”
The Labadi Beach really does pride itself on its standards of service and that includes its restaurant offerings. The executive chef has worked around the world, especially in the African continent, and with such experience he has learned exactly what the discerning business traveller wants from a top-hotel meal. “He is very well-experienced,” says Landry. “We can say without question – and our clientele tells us as much – that the Labadi Beach hotel is unparalleled in terms of the cuisine. We do import a substantial amount of product, and we believe that we are certainly sourcing product of the best possible quality for the discerning client.”
By combining exquisite service, world-class cuisine and state-of-the-art facilities, Labadi Beach has become something of a local institution. “The hotel has become almost iconic in Ghana, especially in Accra,” says Landry. “We are conscientious of the fact that improvements are required to keep up with international trends; that is why we are building the conference centre, gym and spa. Moreover, members of our team do spend time in other hotels, not only in Ghana, but also offshore, ensuring that we can keep pace with international trends and practices.” It is a smart move. The hotel industry is changing fast, and there is a pressing need to remain relevant not only as a facility and destination but also as a brand.
The Labadi Beach Hotel is a member of the Legacy Hotels and Resorts: Africa’s premier luxury hotel group. The brand comprises 23 hotels, primarily in Southern Africa, all of which are four or five star rated. The group is undoubtedly a market leader within the competitive market of the region. Being affiliated with such a recognisable and weighty brand can bring nothing but benefits to a hotel such as Labadi Beach. “Legacy Hotels not only provide technical know-how with regards to development,” explains Landry, “but the group also provides us with a very strong marketing division and we effectively have marketing and sales representatives in many locations around the world, including Dubai, India, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Nigeria and South Africa – the largest economy in Africa tends to be a large driver of occupancy even in Ghana.”
Responding to rapid changes in the global industry, the Labadi Beach Hotel has been investing heavily in both expanding and modernising to keep ahead of the competition. In recent years it has added 60 rooms to its total capacity: “So over the past five years the hotel has grown not only in the number of rooms but also the efforts are ongoing to keep pace with international trends,” says Landry.
But keeping up with trends is not everything when guaranteeing a hotel’s success; much of it is about staying in tune with what guests want and expect from a top establishment like the Labadi Beach. “We spend more time interacting with the customer, because we understand that customers’ needs and wants are ever-changing and evolving more and more quickly as technology develops,” says Landry.
For instance, the hotel now offers complimentary wi-fi in every room, to accommodate all the needs of a business traveller. “It’s about listening to the customer and providing what will make their stay more comfortable. We are spending more and more time interfacing with the customer, not only on a face-to-face basis, but also electronically.”
The Labadi Beach Hotel is the epitome of sub-Saharan Africa. As such it is no surprise that it has become the hotel of choice for state heads visiting Ghana, with its top quality service, world-class facilities and West-African hospitality and style.