Kakanfo Inn & Conference Centre is one of Ibadan’s most prominent prestigious hotels and event centres that have been in the business of providing excellent comfort and first class facilities for visitors and residents since 1988.

Adedamola Are is the current CEO and Executive Vice Chairman of Kakanfo Enterprises. He is also the youngest son of the hotel’s chairman, a driven man who would not settle for just an ordinary career path. Besides being entrenched in the philosophy that built and sustained the hotel for 28 years, his track record is nothing short of stellar. Before packing his bags and deciding to head home, Adedamola spent the better part of thirty years in the United States working for top tier names like Marriott and Hilton. He has managed over 30 hotels and resorts and in excess of 3900 rooms in the span of his hotel managerial career which is in no way a small feat. In this interview, he sheds light on his journey so far and how he is adjusting to life as an hotelier in Ibadan

Going into Hospitality

When I went to the United States, the original plan was to come back to Nigeria in 1987 and do my grad school back at the University of Ibadan but the quality of life back home at that point had begun to spiral out of control. So instead, after graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in Public Administration, I proceeded to the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) for my post graduate degree in Hotel Administration. I spent two years working and schooling in Vegas.

When I went to the United States, the original plan was to come back to Nigeria in 1987 and do my grad school back at the University of Ibadan but the quality of life back home at that point had begun to spiral out of control. So instead, after graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in Public Administration, I proceeded to the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) for my post graduate degree in Hotel Administration. I spent two years working and schooling in Vegas.

Marriott Hotels and working days

Upon graduation, I got my first full-time hotel job as Food and Beverage Manager with Marriott Hotel in Costa Mesa, California on December 31st1989. I worked there until 2005 and over that period I worked my way up to becoming the General Manager at every of the hotel’s four divisions namely Fairfield Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn and eventually Marriott Vacation Club International.

At a point, I was given an opportunity to go to Colorado to run one of the ski resorts located there which was a big deal as I was the first non-white person to ever do that. It turned out to be a bittersweet kind of job - I was meeting A-list clients like Dick Cheney, Will Smith, Cameron Diaz, Tom Hanks but the work itself stipulated that I couldn’t be offsite for a certain period due to the kind of high profile characters I had to deal with. As a result of this stipulation, I missed my dad’s 70th birthday IN 2003.
After Marriott, I joined Hilton for two years where I was made the East Coast Regional Director of Operations.  Back in Marriott, I was only managing single properties but it was at Hilton that I started managing multiple properties. I had resorts I was overseeing in Orlando and Miami, Florida, Breckenridge, Colorado and New York city, New York at the same time. After that, I worked for an outfit called Legacy Vacation Club which was my last job before I decided I was coming home.

Homecoming and adjusting from the glitz and glamour

In truth, I had been gone for almost 30 years which made my father question if I would be able to readapt. Before joining the big leagues, I was privileged to work at smaller hotels and the experience I gained those years ago has made the transition an easy process for me.
Also, the grand plan for Kakanfo Inn and Conference Centre and myself is not to stop here. Our goal is to take the hotel away and beyond where it currently is. We want to grow and there are plans in place already that will manifest over the coming years.

Kakanfo’s Longevity

Different people go into business for various reasons; some are in it for money and for others, it’s the passion. For Kakanfo, the latter is true for us. We try not to only care for the business, we make sure to care for the clients as well. Also, seeing as we are a source of income for many, making sure the business survives becomes a social responsibility on our part. There is a succession in the philosophy that established this hotel and this guarantees that the guest will always be the priority here at Kakanfo. For us, the hotel is more than the structure. It’s not the building that people are going to remember but the experience they had in terms of the quality of service.

Hospitality industry in Ibadan

It has been improving for two reasons; the internal change and the external change. The internal change is about the market; people are trying to do things the right way in Ibadan and the more people do things the right way, the more people come into Ibadan and the more sales we have. The external demand means when a customer from outside town comes around and expects to get the kind of services he has come to expect in other hotels (outside the city).

Role Model(s)

Steve Wynn is someone I look up to. He is a visionary in every sense of the word; after all, he did build the Bellagio, the Mirage and The Wynn. While I was at UNLV, he donated a grant that propelled our Hotel Program to number one in the country. He made it possible for a lot of people, including me to get a quality education.

Writing ‘When life throws you lemons’

“When life throws you lemons” is a half autobiography I wrote based on my experiences in the United States. The experience I have garnered from working at some of the best hospitality groups in the world has been an invaluable asset to me both as a person and as an hotelier.

Most exciting thing that happened on the job

Denzel Washington shot ‘American Gangsta’ at The Hilton club on 6th avenue in New York, that was one of the hotels I managed. Also back then, my job required that I travelled a lot so here’s a fun fact for you; I have flown more than two million miles on the job which is the equivalent of travelling to the moon and back twenty-two times.  I am one of the few people on earth who will never be able to drive as many miles as I have flown in this lifetime.

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