Nigerian tourism sector needs strong representation in government — Efa
Tourism is one of the growing sectors of the Nigerian economy. The industry was accorded priority status in 1990 when the National Tourism Policy was launched, but despite its potential, players in the sector are of the opinion that it has been neglected in recent years.
The General Manager, Victoria Crown Plaza (VCP) Hotel, Brian Efa, lamented that the sector is suffering due to lack of support from government.
Efa disclosed this during the Cocktail Dinner held at the hotel to announce the return to its original name VCP, a few months after it joined the Swiss International franchise.
“We joined the Swiss International brand, with a lot of expectations, unfortunately, the expectations were not met. So, we discovered that we would do better, serve better and be more profitable being an independent hotel.
“We have improved our manpower; we have a world-class executive chef so, we are well fortified to deliver service, and I think we will do better as an independent hotel,” he said.
Speaking on hospitality sector post-COVID-19, he said the pandemic has a devastating effect on businesses, including the hospitality sector.
“People are not ready to pay the complete rate; everybody is beating down cost. COVID-19 forced us to reduce banquet events, as people switch to online meetings and virtual trainings. However, that is returning.
“We are now faced with the challenge of hike in diesel price and those of us in the business are choking. Staff members are asking for increase in remuneration, as a result of that, we just need to increase our rate to improve our services and reduce cost as much as possible.”
While speaking on the need for bailout for hotels in Nigeria, Efa said, “It is unfortunate that each time we talk about bailout for our sector, it is often swept aside. But in Niger Republic, they reduce tax for hotel businesses; also Value Added Tax (VAT) was reduced from 15 per cent to five per cent. Nigeria should also consider tax reduction, so we can charge customers less and remain afloat. Right now, the business is suffering because people that suppose to patronise us are cutting down on cost.”
On why the hotel returned to its former name, he said: “We are back because we want to be more profitable and we are going to be more marketable; can channel our energy into developing the brand. Swiss International Hotel was just a franchise, we were doing the work ourselves and we will improve in what we have been doing.”
On what the government needs to do to improve the hospitality sector in Nigeria, he said, “We have to be holistic. First of all, we do not have Federal Ministry of Tourism; even though it is called Information and Culture, the tourism sector does not have a representative; the current Minister is an information person. So, over the years, we have seen that he has paid more attention to information than to culture and tourism. So, the tourism sector is suffering.
“Even at the state level, they give tourism to weak link to run. Hotel investment is a long-term investment and at the other side, investors borrow on the short term with the maximum of five years for loan payment. Anybody investing a long-term investment with a short-term fund, is not going to reach equilibrium and at the end of the day, he is going to bleed to make sure the loan is paid.
“If we have a special fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the sector like it is in the agriculture sector, it will help to stabilise the sector. The reason a lot of Nigerian hotel are selling off their asset is because they can’t meet up with the loan payment; it takes a minimum of 15 to 20 years to recover the investment in hotel, but a loan of N1 billion has to be paid in a space of two to three years or maximum of five years.
“But I must give it to the government; there is tax holiday for hotel investment, but a lot of investors do not know. So, a three-year holiday can be given, but 90 per cent of hotel investors do not know that it exists.”