When the Abuja-Kaduna train service stopped and the Kaduna International Airport was shut down following attacks by bandits, many did not know the adverse effect it would have on the economy of Kaduna State. Daily Trust examines how insecurity has slowed down the states’ hospitality business.
Due to the shutdown of both air and train services and the fear of plying the Abuja-Kaduna road over the activities of bandits, Kaduna’s economy is facing daunting challenges, especially in the hospitality business.
Our correspondent who visited some of the major hotels within the metropolis gathered that the current shutdown as a result of insecurity is massively affecting the hospitality sector, which largely depends on large turnout of visitors to the state.
It was gathered that while some hotels have already shut down, many are planning to follow suit if the situation does not improve.
Most of the hotels visited by our correspondent looked like ghost towns; generating sets were unusually off, the staff had worried looks on their faces while others entertained relief, thinking a customer had arrived.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that many hotels have suspended their services pending the return of both rail and air services. Those that are open are operating at a loss, while bills are piling up as there is no money to pay.
Our correspondent reports that before the attacks on the airport and train service, Kaduna experienced a beehive of activities as many non-governmental organisations, ministries, departments and agencies patronised many hotels in the state during different activities.
It was learnt that presently, there is an embargo on all events by non-governmental organisations in Kaduna State; hence many of them have diverted their activities to Abuja, Nasarawa and Kano states after a foreigner was kidnapped along the Kano-Kaduna highway. He is said to have flown to Kano after arriving Abuja from the United States of America, only to be kidnapped on the highway.
Already, many hotels are considering retrenching staff over low patronage, an action that is expected to further increase the rate of crime in the state.
To save the economic situation in the state, a concerned citizen, Oladipo Tolani, suggested the reopening of the old airport located within the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) base so that flights can come in pending when the international airport is certified safe.
He said, “Using the old airport is our best bet because even the idea of driving to Kano and catching a flight to Kaduna is still very risky. It is better air carriers are given a better alternative so that they can provide services to residents.
“By doing this, the economy of the state is sustained, unlike the situation now where the state is gradually shutting down. I think it is important I bring this to the attention of the government. The government should hold talks with the NAF to see how the airport can be used for commercial flights.”
Mr Peter Nnamani, the manager of Hotel 17, one of the major hotels in Kaduna, with over 100 rooms and patronage of over 100 per cent, said that since the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train, they had been servicing only 10 to 20 rooms.
He lamented the present economic setback at a time when most businesses were bouncing back after the COVID-19 lockdown. He blamed the government for not taking the right steps to address the security challenges that are gradually crippling the country.
“Usually, our hotel would be filled to capacity, or at least 90 per cent. We used to even feed other hotels when fully booked, but unfortunately, since the attack on the train and the closure of the airport, patronage has dropped to a drastic level.
“You can imagine that right now (Thursday), there are only 9 guests. People are afraid to come to Kaduna. This is not good for hotel business.
“Our hotel has staff strength of 450 who are now idle because we cannot continue to keep them while they are not doing anything as there are no guests. Some of them would have to go,” he said.
He called on government to strengthen the country’s security architecture so that the economy can thrive.
The secretary, Nigerian Hotel Association, Kaduna State chapter, Mr Jijiwin Akpovwovwo, said hotel business in the state was suffering a lot.
Akpovwovwo said the industry would only thrive when people come into Kaduna, but unfortunately, the reverse is the case.
“There is security alert on Kaduna, that no visitor should come into the state following the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train,” he said.
He disclosed that most hotels were thinking of retrenching their staff so that they could keep their businesses running, and appealed to the state government, especially tax authorities, to see reason with hotels in Kaduna and thread softly with the sector.
“We still have staff of tax authorities going to hotels in Kaduna and demanding taxes of all kinds when they can clearly see what is happening.
“There are over 1,000 hospitality outfits, including hotels in the four major local governments in the state, comprising Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Chikun and Igabi.
“Last year when we met with Governor Nasir el-Rufai even before the train attack, we brought to his attention the fact that the four major entry points to the state had security threats. Kaduna-Abuja, Kaduna-Zaria, Kaduna-Birnin Gwari and Kaduna-Kachia are all under security threat, a situation that is forcing many people to boycott the state and take their businesses elsewhere.
“A survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2017 showed that the tourism business contributed 34 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by generating up to 30 per cent employment. That goes to show you how important the hospitality business is to any economy. I cannot aggregate our losses now, but I can tell you that we have lost a lot of money and conferences.
“The National Council for Communication and Digital Economy under the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy was slated to hold its conference in Kaduna this year, but because of security challenges, they had to move it to Kogi State. At that conference, we were expecting over 10,000 participates, which means that all the hotels in Kaduna would have been fully booked,” he said.
He called on the government to address the issue of multiple taxation on hotels in Kaduna so that they would continue to contribute their quota to the development of the state as the highest employers of labour.
The story is not different for Assa Pyramid Hotel, which has been struggling since the COVID-19 lockdown.
The assistant general manager of the hotel, Ibrahim Idris said, “If not by the grace of God, most of the hotels in Kaduna would have closed down. Some are closing down temporarily, and if things continue this way, we might also consider following suit.
“With the high cost of diesel and huge electricity bills, we can no longer continue to operate at a loss. You can see that our generator is off because we do not have guests in the rooms. Kaduna is now a no-go-area for non-governmental organizations, and they are the major clients in hotel business.
“We have over 178 rooms and there are only two guests there. I cannot run the generator for them, so I had to beg them because I need funds to pay my 200 staff and run the hotel. We are looking at how we can reduce cost, but sending staff away is not the best solution as it will increase the rate of crime in the state and the country.”
He said government should be more proactive, adding, “We had one or two hits on the train; that should have been a wakeup call on the government, that the train could be targeted;, but instead, they waited until it was attacked. It is now that they are thinking of getting drones that would protect the train.”
He urged the government to speed up the construction of the Abuja-Kaduna road, saying, “If the roads are good and the grasses are clear, I believe the cases of attack on the road would be reduced.
“Government must also address that issue of blockage of the roads by bandits as abandoning the road for the train is not a lasting solution to the problem at hand.”
On how much the hotel has lost since the train attack, he said, “When the market was rosy, we made over N100million in a month, but in the last three weeks, we are hardly able to make N2million, I am about to write Kaduna Electric now to plead with them because they brought a bill of N3.5million, which we do not have.
“Our lowest room is N22,000 and our highest is over N100,000, but we are giving the lowest room out at N12,000 just so that we can have something to survive on, so everything is in a shambles and the hospitality industry is dying.”