Globally the hotel industry has been hit heavily by the dreadful impacts of the novel Corona Virus. Yet the industry is also doing its best to partner with the appropriate authorities in the fight against Covid 19 pandemic.
Luxury hotels once filled by billionaires, are now empty and in some cases turned into emergency hospitals and holding/isolation centres to cater for suspected Corona virus cases or quarantine travellers who have recently returned from certified high ris#k Covid-19 countries, in the mandatory isolation period stipulated by health authorities.
In Nigeria, while many hotels are shutting down hospitality related operations due to the government ordered lockdown, they are also assisting the authorities in the fight against Covid 19.
For instance, Eko Hotels is said to be donating 300 plates of meals per day to the government to feed coronavirus patients and health workers who are in the frontline of taking care of the suspected and infected patients. That is a good example of the kind of partnership hotels can offer in the collective effort to manage and contain the spread of this unexpected yet deadly pandemic in the country.
On the other hand, it has also been reported that the Central Bank of Nigeria is thinking of how to alleviate the huge loses of the hotel and hospitality sector occasioned by the outbreak of Covid-19. Businesses are renegotiating debts. Banks are revisiting interest rates and restructuring loans. Fresh business strategies are coming on board and there is a flourishing of ideas for effective start ups and other lucrative mini engagements as the lockdown and stay-at-home persist…
Yet in Imo State, unfortunately, hotels are being sealed in a lockdown season with a 2018 court judgment on Tennement/Property/Capitation. Who seals hotels/businesses in a lockdown period because of unpaid revenues? A judgement procured in 2018 was not executed till 2020 without a court bailiff and in the midst of a global plague.
In truth, if government was actually interested in enforcing the judgement, this would have been enforced long ago as delay defeats equity and equity aids the vigilant not the indolent.
On the other hand, how do you maintain social distancing when these task force agent go sweating about, sealing hotels with guests inside?
Isn’t that a dangerous trend? Who trails this kind of path? Who advises the government on these kinds or decisions. Does the government really care about its image? Do the actors in government really understand the concept of business diplomacy?
The impression is that these Task Forces are acting on and executing orders from above so it becomes imperative that the Governor should advise the relevant arms of government to desist from this unwholesome display, especially in a difficult time like this.
His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodimma does not need this bad publicity at the moment. He needs to lead with both his head and his heart as thousands of our youths are employed in these facilities.
As a key player in the hospitality sector in Nigeria, it is important to state that hotels, bars, restaurants will be heavily affected by the change in the supply chain; the harsh reality of lesser demand means that some of them might partially or even fully shut down until the recovery can take place.
Therefore, instead of sealing off these facilities, Imo State Government should think of smart ways to engage and help cushion the impact of Covid 19 on the Hospitality sector.
Outside education, Hospitality and tourism is Imo State’s biggest industry. Therefore, this is the time to develop a blueprint that will help to “recover” and “rehabilitate” a near battered hospitality sector that is already literally sucking air from a ventilator as a result of Covid-19.
Sealing these hotels at this time will in no way guarantee shared prosperity via the phenomenal planks of “Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery” as promised by Governor Uzodimma. Except, someone in government wants to smear the new leadership in Imo State.
Chibuikem Diala is a Hospitality Enthusiasts and the Executive Director, International Hospitality, Tourism and Eco-Sustainability Forum (IHTEF). He writes from Asaba.