In this exclusive interview with IBCITY INFO, Otunba Ayodele Ogundele, Managing Director of Ibadan's oldest private hotel, Davies Hotel, talks about the city, competition, being a chef and why new hotel owners may be hurting the industry.

How did you venture into the hospitality business?

I guess it was because of the influences I had at home. My mother was a caterer/hotelier and I started working with her from the age of ten. If I had my way, I would either have joined the military or been an aviator but my mother wanted me to take over her hotel and run it.

Davies Hotel is the oldest privately owned hotel in Ibadan, how much of it has changed over the years?

The hotel was set up in 1974 and there have been tonnes of changes since then. My mum died 16 years ago and if she could see the hotel today, she would probably not be able to recognize it, that's how much transformation the hotel has gone through. We even bought and remodeled a new building in 2007 to serve as an annex to the hotel. It’s called Asake and is located just a stone throw away from here.

You have been in business for the better part of 42 years, how have you been able to stay in competition even after all these years?

We have been able to stay in the race because we do our best to keep up with trends. We run the business side of the hotel with absolute integrity plus we put back nearly as much as the business has made over the years. We are continuously overhauling and maintaining and we have studied our customers' likes and wants which is why they keep enjoying our services.

What is the one thing that distinguishes Davies Hotel from other hotels in the city?

Food! We have been known for simple, good food since we opened in 1974. One of our most famous delicacies is called the Dodo special. Lots of people have tried to copy the recipe but have failed miserably. Also, our pounded yam and amala are simply fabulous. We don’t try to pretend that we do everything; we play to our strength and specialize mostly in Nigerian food.

Besides being the Managing Director, you are also an in-house chef, where did your interest in cooking stem from?

I developed an interest in cooking when I was a little younger and this blossomed when I went to school in England. I'm not put off by the idea that I am the MD, I love cooking and working with my staff. When they see me in the kitchen helping out, it motivates them a lot.

Do you cook at home?

(laughs...) All the time! In fact, my wife loves it. I do about 60 percent of the cooking.

From your perspective, would you say the hospitality business in Ibadan is growing or declining?

It has been steadily improving over the years. We have more hotels and the present government has tried to put certain things in place (like the Agodi Gardens) to help improve the state of things. The growing number of hotels is a good thing but the problem lies with hotel owners most of who do not have an inkling on how to run a hotel properly and are in it solely for the purpose of making money. A hotel does not necessarily bring money every day, but you are definitely going to spend money every day maintaining your facilities.

How do you relax in Ibadan?

I go to the gym nearly every day and I love spending time with my family. Relaxation-wise, I have a little beautiful country house in Ekiti where I go to spend two or three days and I am also building a hotel there as well as in Oshogbo.

Talking about amala, do you eat out?

Yes! I know almost every buka in Ibadan

Where is your favourite amala place in Ibadan?

Mama Hadija at Ring Road.

What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Well, I am a discreet person. I try to shy away from publicity as best as I can.

What don’t you like about Ibadan?

I don’t like how government policies here are fickle as you can see with the refuse collection.

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