Federal Capital Territory
Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The occupancy rate in major hotels such as the Transcorp Hilton Hotel and Sheraton Hotel and Towers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has dropped following security scares arising from the activities of Boko Haram.
Some of the hotels visited by THISDAY during the week complained of low patronage and dwindling revenues, resulting from fewer paying guests who are concerned about terrorist attacks.
The insecurity in the FCT has also forced airlines such as British Airways and Lufthansa, which fly in and out of Abuja everyday to seek for alternative hotels in Lagos and Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, respectively, for their flight crew to spend the night, rather than the nation’s capital.
While some staff and management of some of the hotels declined to speak to THISDAY on the issue, a few others did so on the condition of anonymity.
The Public Relations Officer of Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja, Ms Nanji Tyem, declined to speak on the matter and referred all enquiries to the National Security Adviser (NSA), whom she said is permitted to speak on the state of insecurity and how it has been affecting the country, including the hospitality and tourism Industry.
Tyem also said it was not in her place to disclose customer patronage and how this may or may not have been affected by insecurity.
“Please I don't want to talk about this. In fact, I am not in a position to say anything concerning security. We have been advised and it is better you meet the NSA for clarification,” she said.
However, the Public Relations Manager, Transcorp Hilton, Mr. Shola Adeyomo, confirmed the challenges faced by all the major hotels in the FCT because of general feeling of insecurity occasioned by the terrorist attacks.
Adeyomo said despite the fact that patronage appeared to be high on the face of it, which was evident from the number of events taking place daily, it was still lower than what it was before terrorist attacks became a worrisome issue in FCT.
“It has not been the same since then, and this has been a trying time for us, especially when no customer likes being conscious of possible terror attacks in addition to constant security alerts.
“Yes, in a way it has impacted on us but we have been able to sustain and improve on our standard services,” he said.
He, however, advised loyal and prospective customers of the hotel not to entertain fear since adequate security measures had been taken to secure and safeguard their lives and property throughout their stay.
Adeyomo also agreed with the managers of other major hotels who bemoaned the resources being diverted to security at some of the hotels, as this has become a drain on their revenue stream and was affecting other aspects of their businesses.
They said customers, mostly government officials, private companies and non-governmental organisations, now resort to using their own offices and conference rooms for functions.
Coordinator, Emergency and Disaster Management, ActionAid in Nigeria, Mr. Ola Gbenro, also confirmed the falling patronage among organisations which are shying away from hosting or attending events in most of the hotels as a result of the security situation.
“I don't attend every event I am invited to or organised there (referring to one of the major hotels). I am very careful where I go these days,” Gbenro said.
THISDAY also learnt that the prevailing feeling of insecurity in the FCT has become a blessing in disguise for smaller hotels, which some high profile visitors now patronise.
The big hotels are also being hurt by the loss of patronage of foreign airlines such as British Airways and Lufthansa, which now take their flight crew to Lagos and Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, respectively to spend the night.
Lufthansa, THISDAY gathered, keeps its crew in Malabo, where it goes to drop a few passengers that are a mere appendage to the high load destined to Nigeria, while the flight arrives in Abuja to fill its cabin. Besides the British Airways and Lufthansa flight crew that are shunning hotels in Abuja, THISDAY also learnt that Delta Air Lines, which flies the Lagos-Atlanta frequency, prefers to keep its crew outside Lagos. Delta Air Lines is said to keep its flight crew in Accra, Ghana.
In March, when Delta Air Lines started keeping its crew in Accra, the airline had complained that the hotel it was using in Lagos had a broken down air conditioning system.