Barely one month after launching the $2 billion Anambra Airport City Project at Umueri that would be funded and constructed from start to finish by the Chinese, Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, has sealed another business deal with the Golden Tulip Hotel Group, which is the third largest hospitality group in the world, with head offices in Switzerland. The latest agreement is over the management of the idyllic Agulu Lake Hotel Resort, which Obiano inherited from his predecessor, former Governor Peter Obi. The 100-room tourism showpiece is nestled in the verdant green slopes beside the famous Agulu Lake in Aniocha Local Government Area of the state.
The agreement signing, which took place on the foregrounds of the hotel in Agulu, symbolised two important developments in Anambra State. In the first instance, it marked the entry of a major multinational player into the tourism and hospitality industry in the state and served as a signpost to the growing confidence of foreign investors in its local economy. Its second significance was that it left no one in doubt that Anambra’s rating as Nigeria’s safest state was not empty sloganeering. These two perspectives tell a compelling story of the emerging Anambra. Coming on the heels of the recent entry of the Chinese with an airport city project that promises to dwarf anything of its kind in all of West Africa, Anambra’s intention of becoming a new, important destination in Nigeria is no longer in doubt.
The event also confirms the fact that Governor Obiano has kept his campaign promise to continue the projects he inherited from his predecessor, complete them, commission them and commence his own projects and initiatives that would change the landscape of Anambra State for good.
Speaking at the handover and agreement signing ceremony in Agulu on Tuesday, the Governor applauded the arrival of the Golden Tulip Group as an important development in the history of the state. According to him, the state government’s new pact with the group “marks the first formal entry of a multinational hotel management group into our beloved state. This is a clear proof that we have opened our doors wide and the world has noticed our efforts to be part of its numerous success stories. This ceremony also goes down in history as the formal opening of our tourism and hospitality sector with its many fantastic offerings to the world. Anambra is home to some of the unsung wonders of the world. We can only hope that, with the entry of the Golden Tulip hotel chain, the world will finally discover our tourism treasures.”
Enumerating the anticipated benefits of having the renowned hotel chain in the state, Governor Obiano said, “I have no doubt that the entry of the Golden Tulip group into our dear state will induce a sea-change of attitude in favour of Anambra State in the investment community. In fact, their entry is a loud signal to the outside world that Anambra is now ready to leverage its enormous potential to compete for a space in the global tourism map. And why not? Anambra is home to some of the oldest archaeological treasures in Africa. The Igboukwu Bronze holds an endless fascination to scholars and historians, who have a keen interest in the contributions of Black Africa to modern civilisation. The Ogba Ukwu caves and waterfalls in Owerre Ezukala is one of the few outstanding UNESCO heritage sites on this side of Africa. The Ogbunike Cave, with its over a dozen entrances, remains an undiscovered wonder waiting for explorers. The mysteries of Obu Gad in Aguleri and the high ceremonies of the Palace of Eze Nri in the ancient town of Nri all point to an illustrious ancestry that have remained a fascinating theme for Igbo scholars across the world. And all of these are here in Anambra State.”
Governor Obiano further expressed the hope that the hotel would create jobs and cut down the number of the unemployed in the state. He also revealed that the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Affairs was looking at developing the state’s tourism sites with a view to linking them up with Golden Tulip and other hotels in the state to ensure that special tours are packaged for visitors who may wish to visit the tourism offerings in the state.
“This will also open up new income windows for transporters, restaurateurs and our youths who might be interested in becoming tour guides,” he said.
Chief Executive Officer of Golden Tulip West Africa, Mr. Amaechi Ndili, gave assurances that the hotel would open for business within the next six months. Ndili also lauded Governor Obiano’s achievements in his three years in office, pointing out that Anambra had changed for the better: “I remember, many years ago, when it was unsafe to come here. You stood up and fought against it and you have made investments like this possible. You have commenced an agricultural revolution that reverberates around Nigeria. This state has become, under your leadership, the shining light upon a hill.”
The hospitality expert further praised Obiano’s achievements, observing that, while it was clear that hospitality and tourism would boost the state’s GDP, “without safety, without security, without confidence, people would not come here.”
On the immediate motives of his organisation in coming to Anambra, Ndili said, “Our ambition is to continue to grow and continue to work with your government so that we can empower young people by hiring them to work with us, by training them so that they can become the leaders in this industry, so that they can export even their own expertise across Africa.
“So, our ambition for this project is to create a pool of local experts so that our people can evolve from here to manage major hotel brands across Africa.”
Earlier, explaining the nature of the partnership between the state government and Golden Tulip, Chairman of Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA), Igwe Cyril Nwabunwanne Enweze, said the company would operate and manage the hotel for a period of 10 years, renewable after the first five-year term.
Igwe Enweze expressed hope that, when fully operational, the hotel would promote urban development and boost revenue , create approximately 300 direct jobs and 1,200 indirect jobs and stimulate tourism and enhance the social capital of Anambra State.
Agulu Lake Hotel Resort promises to offer a unique hospitality and holiday experience to visitors who wish to discover the bounties of Anambra State that were hitherto made inaccessible by the high crime rate in the state that was dominant for several decades before the Obiano administration turned the tables on all criminals and drove them out of the state.