Walter Ukaegbu, Abuja
Though the Federal Government has announced an end to economic recession in the country, proprietors of hotels in Abuja have a different story. For them, it is gloomy tales all the way. They are complaining of low patronage and hard times.
Ms Oluchi Ndukwe is an assistant general manager of a top hotel based in Utako, Abuja. She told Daily Sun that they are gasping for breath as they are facing one of their worst seasons ever. She has worked in the hotel for more than a decade. She said the hospitality business that used to be vibrant and lucrative has suddenly become unprofitable due to the economic challenges in the country.
She said: “Presently, business is not okay. For instance, if I have 14 guests for 214 rooms or even for 100 rooms, its not okay. There is low patronage. Moreover, in a day, we may have power supply for only five hours. We use generator for the rest of the day. For five hours, we use one drum of diesel to power our generator and a drum is 220 litres, sometimes we buy a litre at N200.”
Ndukwe said the money guests pay does not offset bills, because of the cost of diesel and other overheads, and “it is made worse by the delay in the passage of the budget.”
The poor situation could even be be aggravated if the unconformed report that a new government policy seeks to bar government agencies from using hotels, instead of their own facilities, such as halls and conference rooms, for their activities takes effect.
Another official of a popular hotel in Abuja, Jude Ossai, claimed that most hotels have drastically reduced room rates in a bid to lure guests. He said that huge discounts are given to government and company delegates who lodge in their hotel.
To make the situation more pathetic, most hotels are owing staff arrears of salary. Ndukwe confirmed this, disclosing that her organisation was owing its staff three months’ arrears.
She said that some hotel managements now resort to regular sack of staff as cost-cutting survival measures. She also lamented that electricity bills from AEDC was another headache as the hotels are charged by the new billing system, which is more costly.
“AEDC charges us as high as N4.5 million per month, if you default, they cut off supply immediately. The challenges are numerous, as there is also increase in tenement rate, even as the Copyright Commission, AMAC and FCDA all come to collect rates and levies. They use task forces to storm hotels demanding one thing or the other,” she lamented.
At another top hotel in the Central Area, the story is the same, as the staff complained of low patronage and over-taxation by AMAC and FCDA. When our correspondent visited the hotel, there was no power in the building. An official who would not like to be named said there was no way they would turn on the generator when they had only a handful of guests, as it would amount to loss on their side.
He said patronage has been very low which has led to shedding of staff and unpaid salaries, while the management of the hotel has been making efforts to maintain the facility.
Meanwhile, at a hotel near Banex, Mr. Basil, manager, administration, said the situation was not peculiar to the hospitality industry in the FCT. He noted that other sectors were equally facing gloomy times. Another staff of the hotel who spoke to Daily Sun in confidence said patronage has been at an all-time low, but the hotel management manages to pay staff salary, with the hope of a turnaround soon.
In his submission, the managing director of Blissy Hospitality and Services Limited and national president of Hospitality and Tourism Management Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Badaki Aliyu, said, “Hotel business has been rough in Nigeria.
The once-booming hospitality business has drastically declined. Ministries, parastatals and even NGOs who used to patronise hotels for workshops, seminars and meetings have reduced such activities.
“Instead of hosting meetings for about five times in a year, some now do so twice.”