By Musa Jibril, @omg_omj
Until a few weeks ago, when a slick paint job turned it into a glossy, bleached lemon and faded Sunset Yellow building of simple architecture, the imposing edifice had raised questions in the minds of observers passing through Aromire Street in Ikeja. What the heck is this going to be? For 12 months, they watched it grew into the sky.
Now the towering edifice of eye-catching magnificence dominating the Aromire skyline is Lagos’s newest hotel.
In Lagos, a city with a burgeoning population, where business is brisk, bubbly and capricious, there can hardly be a saturation of hotels. With each addition, the city hunger for more. Only a handful is truly dandy, able to define and dominate their niche. The new Dover Exclusive belongs to this class.
Here I am on a tour of the new facility with Jackson Agbai, Chairman of the Dover Hotel chain. We meander up and down through the bowel of the hotel––foyer, lobby, elevator, hall, toilet, bedrooms, suites––amidst workers shuffling here and there, busy as bumblebees, putting finishing touches to the structure ahead of its grand opening. All the while, I quizzes the owner and listen with rapt attention to the essentials details reeling out from the man who built the hotel.
From the outside, the hotel has an impressive façade, a flat slab of modernistic architecture defined by linear geometry. Inside, you find yourself steeped in a sleek ambience of luxe and bling.
Let me start from what impresses me the most––the spacious lobby, a long room, lavishly permeated with a fetching aura radiating off its ‘gold-encrusted’ walls, a room characterized by high ceilings with elegant chandeliers, its floor gleaming porcelain tiles. This signature lounge-lobby is “a set-piece of contemporary cool.” Wing-backed leather sofas and cantilever chairs, carefully arranged around the room, encourage guests to lounge in comfort.
And the walls, of mellow hues and bejewelled surface, are stunningly attractive. “What you have here is 5-D; before the coming of this hotel, what was in vogue was 3-D and 4-D, but here now is the 5-D wall. It is a new technology. We are the first hotel here in Nigeria with it.”
It is not only the walls that are striking, the chandeliers––like candle lights flickering inside glasses––are charming. Porcelain flower vases add a quaint touch to the décor, everything adding up to a splendid ambience indoor.
The lobby’s colour, tone and brilliance, exert cooling, calming effect on your mind. This, he says, was calculated: “We wanted to do something extraordinary in terms of aesthetic, in terms of appeal, something that can compare with the best anywhere in the world.”
In all, you are aware of space and angles; long space, tall space, vast space––which makes the hall unusually large, light and airy. The best example of this you will find in the conference hall down in the basement. At ground level, the longish 300-seat auditorium has no arch or column that tend to spoil your end-to-end Point of View of a hall.
I listen to Agbai’s logic of space: “We realized that people feel more comfortable in a spacious environment, whether in terms of the wideness of the space or the volume of the roof. We let that come into play in the new Dover Exclusive Hotel.”
The hotel’s opulence is a product of experience, he tells me as we ride up in the elevator. Dover Exclusive, Agbai avers, “is an aggregation of ideas that we have gathered from 15 years of doing hotel business, of travelling and staying in all kinds of hotels around the world.”
We get down to the brass tacks, the crunch question of building the edifice in one year. Twelve months ago, the spot upon which the hotel sprouted, was flat, bare, Ground Zero. The building had risen, metre by metre until it now stands a four-storey hive of 104 rooms. I gaze from the window of the top floor room, over 40 feet in the air, soaking in the panorama of downtown Ikeja and revelling in the bubbly feeling that comes with height and aerial views. I can’t help but wonder aloud about the drive to build the hotel in such a record time.
“I listened to the MD of Hilton on CNN two years ago,” Agbai recounts, “where he said that in Hilton it took them a year to build one of their hotels, from the day they broke the ground to the day they opened the hotel and he said they were working to ensure that in a few years’ time, they will abridge that gap to nine months. And I thought: “If they could do it there, why can’t we do it here?” I don’t see why we can’t deliver a hotel in nine months. We set a time frame of 10 months, but for a few issues that set us back, we were still able to deliver in 12 months.”
Now, to the question of workmanship, who built this edifice?
“I am very proud to say that everybody who has been involved in this work has been a Nigerian,” he supplies. “But for a few Togolese who laid the POP ceilings and the tiles, other things were done by Nigerians.”
This four-storey building, plus basement and ground floor, serviced by three elevators, has 100 Standard rooms and four suites. Each suite, a grand affair priced at N100, 000, comprises two en suite bedrooms and a living room plus extra toilet designed for guests who come in with their families and would be needing space and privacy.
We inspect a couple of Standard rooms on the second floor. Each one is large and welcoming, a chamber with white/pale/cream colour scheme with 3-D wall in the bedroom and modern aquatic white theme in the bathroom. A 44-inch TV, contemporary lighting and furniture are a perfect complement.
The bedroom features the hotel’s trademark 7 x 8 memory bed, looking inviting with its mix of snow-white and chestnut sheet and pillows. The bathroom––water cistern, shower, wash-hand basin––is ornately simple, sparkling clean, with the glass enclosure adding an ethereal quality.
World-class hotels are built with fortunes. Dover did not spare the cost either. “All the building materials, tiles, wall, lighting, all fixtures and fittings, were imported,” the Dover chair confirms. “This is a higher notch because we want to cater to a higher class in society that is why we have expended so much in terms of aesthetics.”
If ambience, comfort is everything about a hotel, then Dover Exclusive is home and dry. Customer service is an important aspect of the hotel matrix, and in this regard, the management of Dover aims at perfection.
Agbai thinks they have a winning USP.
“We are the only hotel in the whole wide world that offers free meals––breakfast and dinner. And on Sunday, we have our Happy Hour when people can come with their family for lunch.”
His explanation stands to reasons: “Usually most people lodge in a hotel and because of the high cost of the restaurant, they go out to nearby eateries to get their meals. We want a hotel that is a one-shop offering. So, generally in all Dover hotels, guests don’t have to bother about their meals. We take care of that, buffet style.”
It’s not hard to intuit that Agbai, a lawyer and a former banker, is an astute hotelier. After all, he has been in the hospitality industry for 15 years, since he started the Dover Hotel Lekki, in November 2004. The ultimate objective for him it to see the Dover chains become ‘a hotel of first choice’ for people anywhere they are located.
Though on the ascendancy, the Dover chain has no intention of allying with any global hotel group. “Rather we are aspiring to go to other countries with our brand,” says the chairman.
And where is Dover going next? “Hopefully, Abuja.”
As we enter the elevator back to the lobby, I reviews my knowledge of the hotel: great ambience, personalized service––inclusive of free breakfast and dinner for one person and its memory mattress––fascinating poolside area with loaded bar within arm’s reach, Friday live band and of course, the Sunday Special, where meals come with a free bottle of cold drink of your choice.
Now, the new hotel is poised to take that further.
I ask the question that matters most to most patrons: How much does it cost to have a taste of this luxury?
“Our rates are usually low,” he supplies.
The standard room with all its luxury is priced between N45, 000 to N60, 000.
“But people tend to identify us as a low-quality hotel without allowing us to serve them,” he points out patiently.
His statement gets me thinking: In a city teeming with hotels, some with international sinew, what is its chance of competing favourably for a sizable share of the market?
He is fervently upbeat. “I can assure you we will outperform all the big hotels in terms of quality service, and a combination of infrastructure and the aesthetic will give us an edge.”
By now we are back in the lobby.
While still trying to find the right phrase to capture the whole essence of the hotel, the right expression drops from the owner himself: “an exclusive experience for those who want extreme quality.”
I agree with him.
As I take my leave, my mind bubbles with excitement.
Luxury has few names––I think Dover Exclusive Hotel is one.
Dover Exclusive Hotel opens today, September 28.