L-R; Chief Executive Officer, Koray Construction Company Turkey, Samil Capar; Chairman, Robert Dyson and Diket Ltd. Chief Sonny Odogwu and Minister for Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke, on the occasion of launching and upgrading the Le Meridien Grand Towers to the Starwood Luxury Collection Brand in Lagos.
Nigeria is fast becoming the new frontier in the hospitality industry in Africa and nothing compliments this status than the addition of a 7-star luxury hotel in the next two/three years. OMOLOLA ITAYEMI witnessed the launching and upgrading of the Le Meridien Grand Towers to the 1st Starwood 7-star Luxury Collection mixed Resort and Apartment
Last Friday at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Lekki, a very small select set of individuals including the honourable minister of culture, tourism and national orientation, Chief Edem Duke; the Chairman, Robert Dyson and Diket Ltd & SIO properties (promoters of this development), Chief Sonny Odogwu; General Manager Nigeria, Starwood Hotels and resorts, Alexander Gasseur; CEO Koray, Samil Capar; BIDC president, Bashir Ifo; President AfriExim Bank, Jean Louis Ekra; CEO Six Continents Travels and tour, Yomi Jones; Yinka Akinkugbe the MC; Ken Odogwu; Obinna Ekezie, former NBA player and CEO wakanow.com, to mention a few attended the launching and upgrading of the Le Meridien Mixed Resort and Apartment to 7-star status.
It started with a cocktail on the terrace of the conference hall, before guests and partners were seated to speeches and multi-media presentations. Currently there is only one 7-star hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai which began in 1994 and was modeled after the sail of a famous Arabian ship. The hotel is an architectural masterpiece whose foundation was constructed on an artificial island and is home to the world’s tallest atrium. While the Burj Al Arab likes to believe it is the world’s only seven-star hotel, it is officially known as a five-star deluxe hotel on the standard star system.
But Nigeria is not the only country inching towards the 7-star hotel status as Spain is set to start construction of its own between late January and early February next year to finish in 2015. The resort, called “Bahia Fenicia”, will involve an investment of 230 million euros and will create over 600 direct jobs. The hotel is to be built near Marina del Este on a surface of 13,000 square meters, will have 200 rooms and 32,000 meters for residential housing, as reported by local sources.
Unlike Spain which is yet to embark on this project, the 1st Starwood 7-star Luxury Collection mixed Resort and Apartment in highbrow Ikoyi is already a work-in-progress. The project, promoted by hotelier and business man with over 40 years real estate development and insurance industry, Chief Odogwu is currently projected at half a billion dollars. Assumed to be the most luxurious hotel project in Nigeria despite its controversial beginnings (Ikoyi residents were formerly against the erection of a big hospitality project in their neighbour hood and this involved some legal battle), this is one project that will change the landscape of Lagos in no small measure.
The occasion presented the perfect opportunity to show the public what kind of magnificent edifice the twin 15-storey hotel of 340 rooms will be like.
A very excited Chief Odogwu described this edifice as a jewel in the crown of the tourism sector of Lagos and the country as a whole. In his speech, he welcomed guests and partners and also appreciated Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola and his commissioners for erecting adequate infrastructure and enabling environment, which enticed the developers and investors to invest over US $350 million in the project at the vicinity situated at No 31-35 Ikoyi Crescent, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Refusing to allow the slow pace of tourism in the country cast a dull pallor on the event; Odogwu however mentioned his disappointment at the slow pace of tourism in the country. He said, ‘’Tourism has very much been neglected in this country. Tourism in other countries is a top foreign exchange earner; I can’t say same for us. Oil is considered number one but for those that don’t have oil, tourism is number one. Though, tourism is not properly promoted in this country, things are beginning to change. One of such is the presence of the ministry of tourism in this occasion.
‘’During the construction of the project and whilst the development was on the 14thfloor, the promoters and developers had the intuition to visit other foreign countries in Europe, American and Asia to ascertain whether their thoughts and designs of the ongoing project fall within the standard visualised to be the finished 7+star development. The enlightenment and success achieved during the trip convinced us to return to the drawing board, if we were to achieve the envisaged objective. This resulted in re-designing the interiors, by utilising newly developed materials and technology, thereby enhancing the aesthetics and re-arranging the financial structure and the appointment of a renowned foreign contractor to achieve a first-class finishing. On completion of the construction, you will all agree that the delay of the finished product was worth it.
‘’Consequently, Starwood considered it prudent to upgrade the product from Le Meridien Brand to luxury Collection Brand, which is being launched today. Furthermore, it is the custom of Starwood to identify with or give the development the name of the historical founder of the town on which the property is located. This will be done with the cooperation of the Lagos State Government who are fully represented here in this occasion.’’
SIO Properties, one of the subsidiaries of Odogwu Group Africa, was incorporated in 1962 and has grown to become one of the largest property and estate development companies in Africa with several residential and commercial developments in the Africa, USA and UK in its kitty. It developed, owns and manages Grand Hotel, Resort and Convention Centre, Asaba, Nigeria. SIO Properties previously owned Radisson Plaza, Manhattan Beach, LA and No. 1, Times Square, New York.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc, managers and operators of this property was represented by Alexander Gasseur.
Gasseur emphasized the importance of the Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts in unlocking the world’s most treasured destinations. ‘’Our core values define how we create the rare memories each hotel curates. Each hotel in The Luxury Collection is an iconic landmark that offers the promise of the authentic, with the assurances of a global brand. ‘’
‘’Today is a great day for Lagos, Starwood hotels and Resorts and the future of Nigeria as a destination. Starwood has a presence in Nigeria for 27 years represented by three brands namely Le Meridien, Sheraton and Four Points which caters to budget, mid-market and luxury guests.’’
Arrangers and leader of the Consortium of Banks – African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim Bank) – Consortium consisting of ECOWAS Development Bank (EBID), Nigerian Export- Import Bank (Nexim Bank), FinBank/FCMB, especially the Diamond Bank of Nigeria were well represented. Jean Louis Ekra said in his speech, ‘’we are delighted to be part of this world class hotel which will support cross-border trade and generate income and employment.
The minister of culture, tourism and national orientation, Chief Edem Duke said, ‘’I stand as the greatest beneficiary of this type of project and also the greatest loser today because the minister of finance couldn’t make it to this epoch-making occasion. If Nigeria deserves to be one of the top 20 destinations in the world, then it deserves to do what others are doing in tourism by providing an enabling environment.
‘’A short while from now, the landscape of Lagos will be enhanced and the quality of hospitality facilities will be vastly improved. The time for Nigeria has come, the time for hospitality to be the catalyst here and a project like this is an eloquent testimony to this statement. It gives me great hope. An investment like this must be given soft landing and appreciated to stimulate investments like these all over. Nigeria is the new frontier in the hospitality industry.
Other experienced consultants working on the hotel project are NAIRDA, 16 foreign and 3 Nigeria-based consulting including GHL Architects, Del Qs, Percept Communications, WSP, Metex Interior Designs, Besutti Associates, DPA Lightings, KOA Associates, IAA Associates, EL-Rifai & Associates and a host of others.
GAMBIA CELEBRATES AT AKWAABA
- Akwaaba slated for 22nd to 24th october
As part of the ongoing efforts to increase awareness within the sub regional market most especially Nigeria as a strategy to ensure an all year round tourism, The Gambia Tourism Board is yet again poised to participate in this year’s AKWAABA Trade Fair in Nigeria, which is slated for the 22nd -24th October, 2012.
AKWAABA Travel Market in its 8th edition is West Africa’s travel and Tourism event that brings together key players in the travel and tourism industry at both regional and international levels for 3 days. It will be taking place at Eko hotel and suites from the 22nd to the 24th of October 2012. 1, 500 travel agents, 100 tour operators, 300 travel personalities and thousands of visitors are expected.
The opening ceremony will have the First Lady of Cross River state as the Chairman while Mr. Peter Igho of the Lottery Commission of Nigeria will declare the event open along with the Social Secretary of FCT Mrs. Blessing Onu. The other events for Monday 22nd of October are the Aviation day with Theme “aviation and Tourism in Africa: the true story. With papers on” The Passenger Bill of Rights.’’ “The Airports and the Passenger” and “The Weather and Tourism among others’’
A high powered delegation is expected from Gambia to grace the event featuring prominent personalities from both public and private sectors on the 2nd day. In a bid to increase the impact, The Gambia will also organize a “Gambian day” on the 23th of October, 2012. This day is yet another platform to showcase what the Gambia has to offer including its wonderful cuisine and the flagship dish called “BENACHIN” will be served.
Day 3 the 24th will have the Nigerian day hosted by Ntdc will have training for tour operators in Nigeria and the hospitality seminar with theme “(1) 5 star or fallen star: Standardizing Hotels in Nigeria with Mr. Alex Gassuer The Area Manager Starwood Group (owners of Sheraton, Le Meridien and Four points hotels)
NCAT PARTNERS AKWAABA FOR TRAINING IN AFRICA
The Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) is coming in as a partner to Akwaaba African Travel Market 2012 as a way of reaching out to the West Africa region in the areas of training.
NCAT was recently rated by IATA as the best Aviation Training School in Africa and has seen tremendous growth in its services over the past 12months under the leadership of the first lady pilot in Nigeria, Capt Chinyere Kalu.
According to Capt Chinyere Kalu “the current growth of NCAT and its excellent positioning in the region is a reflection of the vision of the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah who has supported the college tremendously, and Akwaaba helps us reach more organizations to take advantage of the wonderful training opportunities available in Nigeria.”
Nigerian photographer discovers South Africa for NGC
Nigerian born Sweden-based award-winning photographer, Lola Akerstrom is one of the three National Geographic Channel photographers currently in South Africa for the shooting and filming of Through the Lens campaign, a collaborative production of National Geographic Channels International and South African Tourism.
Lola Akerstrom, a fiercely passionate as well as compassionate photographer has appeared in publications such as National Geographic Traveler, Forbes, Vogue, Travel + Leisure and New York Times, documenting projects in Nicaragua, Sweden, and Cambodia.
The ‘Through the Lens’ campaign aims to take the viewer on a journey, delving into three of South Africa’s most landmark destinations; Cape Town, Drakensburg and Durban, discovering some of the most breath-taking scenery on earth. National Geographic Channel today sets out to film three remarkable short films, in which some of the finest National Geographic Photographers capture and portray the beauty of South Africa and the warm nature of its people.
Following the shoot NGC will create 3 short content pieces which will air on NGC around the globe in January 2013.
Deborah Armstrong, National Geographic Channel’s Snr VP, Media Sales & Partnerships comments “National Geographic Channel has a long history with South African Tourism and we’re delighted to be extending our partnership to 2014, which will be our 10th year of working together.