Raymond Ozoji, Awka
As part of efforts geared towards ensuring that Anambra state remains the light and industrial hub of the nation, the state Ministry of Culture, Tourism, Diaspora Affairs and Indigenous Arts in conjunction with the Youth Empowerment and Creative Economy Ministry coupled with stakeholders in tourism and hospitality industry, have all joined forces to give a facelift to hotel businesses in Anambra state.
At a stakeholders’ parley held at the conference hall of the government house Awka, hotel owners and key players in the hospitality industry cross-pollinated ideas as well as propounded useful recommendations as to how hotel and hospitality business would be improved, to correct the wrong impression that there are no good hotels in Anambra state.
Although a number of factors militating against the successful running of hotels in Anambra state were identified to include bad roads, poor power supply, insecurity to mention a few, participants at the meeting concurred that there was need for government to intervene in road infrastructure as some of the hotels do not have access roads to their respective locations.
Chief Victor Okay Agbasi, the Chairman Dolly Hills hotel Onitsha, noted that the meeting was a timely response to the needs of hotel businesses in the state. Agbasi explained that his hotel is about the biggest hotel in Anambra state but he is currently losing customers because the road to his hotel is horrible. He said he has spoken to the powers that be to help build connecting roads to hotels in the state as well as grant hotel owners tax holidays to enable them to stabilize and contribute their quota to internally generated revenue. Agbasi equally suggested that government should encourage conferences, seminars and symposia in Anambra hotels and not hotels outside the state to curtail capital flights and tourism deficits.
Also, the vice president of Anambra State Hotel Owners Association and Managing Director Jolly Hotels Awka, Chief Henry Onuorah, said the parley would go a long way to solving problems associated with hotel businesses in Anambra state. Onuorah said the meeting was a veritable platform for government to assure hotel owners that roads would be fixed and that they would also assist hotels in providing cab services to boost their businesses.
The Managing Director Toma Star hotel Onitsha, Revd. Dr. D.C. Okwuonu, opined that the fundamental problems of hotel businesses in Anambra have to do with insecurity, lack of electricity supply and excessive billings from government agents. He however urged the state government to streamline taxes for hotel managers to save them from the whims and caprices of fake revenue collectors he described as nightmares to the hotel industry in Anambra state.
In order to douse the tension as well as assuage the feelings of hotel owners and managers in the state, Barr. Sally Uwechue Mbanefo, the Commissioner for Culture, Tourism, Diaspora Affairs and Indigenous Arts, assured them that the state government was fully poised to revamp hotel businesses in Anambra state. Mbanefo said while addressing hotel owners at the meeting that her ministry embarked on hotel inspections where she discovered that there were about 500 hotels in the state and most of them were not registered.
She said her first assignment was not to register unregistered hotels and issue them certificate of registration. The commissioner stated that the idea was to change the status quo and ensure that hotel services met internationally acceptable standards. Amongst other numerous innovations she spearheaded, Mbanefo pointed out that her ministry invented an ICT tourism product that would be useful to hotel and transport businesses in the state and that youths would be trained to handle such products for hotels.
The commissioner said that the governor was passionate about youth empowerment, which is the remote reason the ministry collaborated with the ministry of youth entrepreneurship and creative economy to train over 5000 youths on the ICT skills that would be deployed into the hospitality industry to boost hotel services. She also disclosed that government ventured into private sector partnership where among other numerous things, partnered Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing to provide 100 cars to enable hotels to use vehicles to offer shuttle services to their guests and customers.
She also revealed that government wanted to extend partnership to other states of the federation where Anambra would have a tourism information desk where there are airports so that people would know how to come and visit tourism sites in Anambra state.
Another innovation she mentioned was Project Smart Jobs, where youths would deploy their smart phones to connect to an e-commerce portal for hotel jobs and earn a living. On some of the pertinent issues raised in the meeting with hoteliers as it concerns insecurity and others, the commissioner noted that Anambra State had won awards for being the safest state in Nigeria judging from the smart security vehicles he donated to the police and other security agencies. The governor, according to her, has been working assiduously to finalize 300 vital roads he targeted, stressing that government is introducing a new dimension to the hospitality industry.
For the commissioner for youth entrepreneurship and creative economy, Hon. Afam Mbanefo, the ministry has a mandate to make youths employable and employers of labour. Mbanefo said Governor Willie Obiano has graciously approved the training of over N2, 500 youths as a pilot start-up, who will engage in the ICT sessions for online hotel and transport businesses and other utilities too. Indeed Anambra state hotel industry is on a mission to rediscover its true essence of providing home away from home.