Some hotel owners in Abuja have lamented how the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria has hit their businesses hard.
The hotel industry, after the aviation sector, has been badly hit by the impact of the pandemic.
Nigeria has currently recorded over 4000 infections and over a 100 deaths. Hundreds have also recovered in Nigeria from the ailment that has killed over 270, 000 across the globe.
The federal government and some state governments have imposed lockdowns to curtail the spread of the virus.
Since the lockdown, especially in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, a lot of economic activities have been halted.
In Nigeria, the aviation sector alone is reportedly losing billions of naira monthly. Hotels have also been shut down as a result of the pandemic.
Nigeria’s booming entertainment/event industry has also been affected as well.
With the usually busy entrances and lobbies of hotels like Transcorp Hilton now empty, perishable items stored by the hotels have been wasted.
‘8 million jobs lost in travel sector’
Due to the crisis, experts say that nearly 8 million persons in Africa’s travel and tourism sector have so far lost their jobs. This sector aids the growth of hotel businesses in no small measure.
This was disclosed in an appeal by five international air transport and tourism bodies. They had solicited support from international financial institutions, country development partners and international donors.
They said without urgent funding, the COVID-19 crisis could see a collapse of the sector in Africa, taking with it millions of jobs.
The request was jointly made by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA).
“Travel & Tourism is the backbone of many economies across Africa and its collapse will lead to hundreds of millions of livelihoods being impacted and enormous financial pressure for years to come. Now, more than ever, it is vital that governments work together on a globally coordinated approach towards a swift recovery and ongoing support for Travel & Tourism. It is critical that the most vulnerable communities receive international help.
“The speed and strength with which the international community comes together and responds through international financial institutions, country development partners and international donors will be paramount to provide support to the many millions of people whose livelihoods are heavily dependent on our sector,” said Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO.
Transcorp Hilton Abuja did not grant a formal interview when contacted as its spokesperson, Ijeoma Osuji, declined comments.
But some of the security officials said none of the staff was on the premises.
“We stopped operating since the last week in March, nobody is inside, we are just on duty because of a ‘newspaper (stand)’ that occupies a part of our lobby,” he said.
He did not say if salaries of those at home were being paid in full or has been slashed.
The general supervisor of Newland Luxury hotel, Uche Osongi, said despite sending their staff home, “the hotel is still running at a loss”.
“We still pay for light and water that is not being used by guests, it is a great loss to us.”
He said when operation resumes, “they may back-pay their workers but for now, no guests so they (staff) have been told to go home”.
The spokesperson of the Hotel Owners Forum Abuja, Funmi Kazeem, she said “it is only a matter of time before hotel employees will start dabbling into despicable acts”.
“The job of these employees need to be saved. As such, the government needs to intervene and stabilise the industry so as to avoid social cataclysm and total collapse which will be counter-productive.
“There is no way April salary would have been paid when we are on lockdown. This is why we are pleading with the federal government to come to our rescue, so we don’t start laying off staff outrightly, that is if some hotels have not already.”
‘Bills piling up’
Mrs Kazeem said despite the lockdown, hotels still receive outrageous bills from Abuja Electricity Distribution Company.
“Hoteliers are expected to still pay water bills, FIRS, PAYE, PIT, state and local government bills which include land use charge, all these run into billions of naira,” she said.
Mrs Kazeem said the association wrote a letter to the office of the vice president, showing interest in accommodating Nigerians who had returned to the country.
She said the letter was turned down.
“This would have helped cushion the effect of the lockdown on us and equally saved the government a lot of money they are now using to buy tents, beds, bedsheets, pillows, generators, security, which would have been provided by the hotels at a better rate compared to what government is spending now.”
The official said the hotels could be saved if at least N120 billion could be injected as lifeline by the Nigerian government.
Last week, the federal government announced its plan to inject N2 trillion stimulus into the economy. It also said it is considering ways to support the aviation sector considered the worse hit during the lockdown.