GHANA TOURISM-AFRICAN REGENT HOTEL DESTOOLED-Part 1-The Incident

Posted on November 1, 2010

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This post could be subtitled: THE ANATOMY OF A SCANDALOUS TOURIST EXPERIENCE.

Off the top, this is not a prank. This is not a hoax. What I am commenting on happened and is in the public domain. Ghana is a fledgling democracy and Ghana’s fledgling industries, like tourism, can only soar with the practice of free speech.

That said, I write with some hesitancy and fear.

I’d also like to say that I have no malicious intent in carrying the report below, neither against the particular hotel, nor the Ghanaian tourism industry at large. I simply consider the situation so shocking that it will undoubtedly kick-start a discussion on the state and future of Ghana tourism . Not much more could have gone wrong. So much more could have been done to rectify the situation as it was taking place and a week afterward. We all have so much to learn from this situation. See Part 2 of this post for “WHAT WE CAN LEARN”.

Really, it is all so sad. I have heard good things about this hotel, as undoubtedly Shay had. Once you read this post, you will likely agree with me that it is hard to believe that on September 20, 2010, this hotel was awarded Hospitality Establishment of the Year 2009 by CIMG (Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana)
http://www.african-regent-hotel.com/cimg_award.html

Explore the rest of the hotel’s website at http://African-Regent-Hotel.com . It provides a stark contrast with the report of the March incident that follows.

The report below appeared on both TRIP ADVISOR on October 10, 2010.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g293797-d1079301-r82842365-The_African_Regent_Hotel-Accra.html

and, if ya want to read it again, on the BRADT GUIDE TO GHANA update October 13th.

http://bradtghanaupdate.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/african-regent-hotel-accra/

First, to public and private sector stakeholders deeply involved in and concerned about tourism in Ghana, I encourage you to share and discuss the report. It’s no good hoping and praying that such incidents will go away. It’s no good turning a blind eye. If we do, a culture of impunity will grow in the hotel sector and the tourism industry and the nation Ghana will suffer.

THE SITUATION AT THE HOTEL
: Where to start? I guess the most significant fact is the room was PREPAID!!!!!The hotel advertises “109 rooms, including Penthouse, suites and standard rooms”. Couldn’t they find just one single room?

Imagine….the hotel is supposedly full-apparently lots of airlines book the hotel for their flight crews…and there was no manager on duty or on site. What’s more, no manager could be reached by phone!

The hotel is located in Airport West Residential Area. There are probably no less than a dozen high-end hotels within 15 minutes from the hotel. Why, oh why, wasn’t the lady taken to one of those???

Imagine, the consternation experienced by the receptionist when the lady returned from the hotel he had sent her to. To think that he allowed her to sit in the lobby the rest of the night! To think no manager appeared on the scene until morning!


THE SITUATION AFTER THE INCIDENT:
I have a close Ghanaian pal deeply involved in the tourism sector. Time and again when we are talking about the hospitality industry, he says, totally exasperated, “NOBODY COLLABORATES HERE.” He’s got that right; that’s for sure.

The hotel had a week to put out the fire! Between the time the mummy left and returned, the owners of the hotel should have been informed and decisions taken to welcome mummy and daughter back in grand, grand style.

Owner, managers, the whole staff should have been lined up to greet Shayee and her mummy on their return….Bouquets, fruit baskets, a highlife band, the Penthouse, everything should have been waiting for the two ladies…not little remorse, lame excuses, a token gesture, and inadequate compensation.

And now seven months later and more than two weeks since the reports appeared on the internet, why hasn’t been a MANAGEMENT RESPONSE on Trip Advisor or an e-mail offering some kind of explanation on the Bradt Update website?

THE MOM: Put yourselves`in her shoes! A pensioner…heading off to tropical Africa for the first time expecting to be met at the airport by the hotel vehicle, expecting to stay in a four-star hotel BEFORE heading off to meet her daughter.

After all, her daughter had gone down to Accra the previous weekend to make the arrangements personally and to pay in advance.

Imagine, mummy in a strange country in a strange airport, late at night, after a six hour flight trying to find a telephone to phone the hotel. She is pushing a trolley with luggage, keeping her handbag close to her body.

Imagine mummy sitting for an hour in a near deserted airport waiting to be picked up.

Imagine mummy’s relief when finally she is collected from the airport and arrives at the hotel-ironically literally less than 10 minutes away.

Now imagine her shock when she is informed by reception that there are no rooms available and that her room was given to somebody else because she was too late. Imagine the argument when mummy declares that the room had been prepaid by her daughter.

Imagine mummy sitting in a taxi bouncing along unlit roads in a questionable unlit neighbourhood to an out of the way unkempt hotel. Imagine how horrified she was when she arrived at the substandard hotel. Imagine her upset to demand to return to the hotel where she came from.

Imagine, the lady sitting in the hotel lobby ALL NIGHT!

DAUGHTER SHAY
: Imagine Shay the night her mum is travelling to Ghana…her mixed feelings-excitement, her happiness peppered with some lingering doubt that all would go well..

Imagine her shock and outrage when she hears from mummy!

Imagine Shay listening to the explanations wanting to lash out, but tempered by the rules of civil decorum.

Imagine how thoughts of the nightmare situation nagged her over the seven month interval between the incident and the postings of the review on TRIP ADVISOR AND THE BRADT GUIDE TO GHANA UPDATE.

Imagine Shay’s relief when she finally poured it all out seven months later .


MADINGHANA
: Finally, seven months after the incident, Shay posted the report. Seven months ago, Madinghana had heard the outrageous incident first hand from the mummy when she stayed at Four Villages Inn after flying up to Kumasi to meet her daughter here.

Needless to say, my first and only reaction was, “You’ve got to report this to the Bradt Update site and to Trip Advisor. You have a moral obligation to other travelers.”

After Shay returned to the U.K. I sent a gentle reminder and left it at that.
When I saw the review on the 15th of October, the adrenalin started running…

To post or not to post. Like Shay, I too equivocate….However, I feel a moral obligation to the tourism industry to start the conversation. Incidents, thankfully not as serious as that reported above, are happening all too frequently and sooner or later Ghana’s hotel industry will get a bad reputation.

I welcome your comments and suggestions. And stay tuned for Part 2 of this post WHAT WE CAN LEARN. In fact, help me write it. Send me your comments.

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