With the opening of at least one hotel every other month, influx of international hotel brands, and high employment capacity, the hospitality sector seems to be the only thriving sub-sector in the travel and tourism industry in Nigeria.
In the past years, there seems to be many challenges (some of which are still lingering), than fetes.
While there is a remarkable growth in the sector (which is a recent development), all is not well as challenges, especially in electricity power supply, importation of majority of the products and furniture, and dearth of skilled personnel, and recently, security still pose problems to the sector for 51 years now.
Some stakeholders cast their minds back to these fetes, how to improve on them and possibly proffer solutions to the lingering challenges that seems to give Nigeria a space in the infamous list of over-priced hotels in the world.
In the past 51 years, Ikechi Uko, publisher, ATQ Magazine, organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market and foremost hospitality consultant, thinks the hospitality sector received shocks like other sectors of the economy, and yet thrived with new hotels opening in different cities in Nigeria.
The banking sector reform, according to him, was most hit as it shrunk the activities in the economy, and these activities create business for hotels. Despite that harsh business climate, the likes of Protea, Golden Tulip, Best Western, among others, added a number to their repertoire in their preparation to take on the big players and multinational brands such as Sheraton, Le Meridian, and the most awaited Intercontinental Hotel that will open soon in Lagos.
So many two-star and three-star hotels, he says, opened all over the place with established hotels adding more rooms and expanding facilities, as Calabar and Enugu saw increased hotel development surpassed only by Abuja.
But in 2012, more hotels are expected to open in Lagos and other parts of the country with hotel room rates falling because of the shrinking economic activities and availability of more rooms.
It is expected that work will progress on the Hilton Hotel at the Lagos International Airport, Le Meriden Ikoyi, while Eko Hotel & Suites prepares to open its gigantic new tower hotel. The influx of these international brands, according to George Lucky Esiekpe, public relations consultant to African Sun, and CEO, travelafricanews.com, is a testimony that the sector is growing. But, it is also sad that the indigenous hotels are yet to wake up to the competition by foreign brands.
At 51, Esiekpe says instead of building and handing over a hotel property to a foreign brand for management, indigenous owners should think of developing Nigerian, but internationally rated hotels.
The seeming growth witnessed now may be stunted in the nearest future if indigenous brands shy away from quality, facility and manpower development that will equip them to compete alongside foreign brands in the country.
The new hotels which will open mainly in the cities will, according to him, add about 1000-1500 rooms to the estimated over 30,000 rooms in the industry.
Explaining the reason for more hotel openings, Esiekpe says no hotel in Nigeria is running at loss despite the huge over cost that is occasioned by epileptic power supply among other infrastructure challenges that eat deep into their profits.
It is expected that the sore point of hotel classification and standardisation will happen in 2012, and hotel rates will fall and standard of services improve. Abuja is still the focus of quality. More states should invest in major development as resorts drive tourism more than any other product. As states develop their festivals to world-class standards the resorts will be in high demand.
Guests have cause to rejoice because most of the stakeholders assure that with more hotel openings, there will be more rooms, more competition will set in, leading to slash in room rates. But hotels that will maintain or increase their rates must provide additional services that will keep guests from looking elsewhere.