Abuja Airport closure: Hoteliers groan as patronage drops by 70 percent

Hoteliers in the Abuja metropolis are beginning to grapple with the reality of the closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport as guest traffic into hotels has dropped by 70per cent, causing serious financial drain.

Indeed, many hotels in Abuja have began downsizing and reducing their staff strength from three shifts to two shifts. It was gathered that hotels might not be able to pay workers’ salaries during the six weeks closure of the airport because many of them are running at a loss and hoping that the federal government would make good their assurance of re-opening the airport by April 18.

Transcorp Hilton hotel that used to be full of various activities has now become a shadow of itself, as the reception hall is virtually empty. Sources have it that the hotel has placed all its casual workers on compulsory leave, asking them to return when the airport re-opens.

Nightlife in parks and gardens in Areas 2,8,7,10, Wuse Zone 4 Garden, Zuma Garden in Utako, Maitama Garden and Eden Garden, among other parks in the Abuja metropolis, has really gone down.

Some of the managers lamented that “nightlife in Abuja is no longer what it used to be, the guests we have now is less than 50per cent of what we used to have, we are really incurring a lot of loss.”

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Speaking with The Guardian the General Manager, Reiz Continental Hotel Abuja, Ray Opara, lamented that March is one of their peak periods, but unfortunately what they have now is like 30 per cent of what they used to have.

He said: On the 1st and 2nd of March, we had 80 to 90per cent of our guests but as at last night what we had was just 36 percent. Of the 209 rooms that we had, only 76 were booked and it’s still going to drop.”

He added that, “some hotels in Abuja like Chelsea, Nicon Luxury among others are having guests as low as 19, 32 or 20. If you work it out with their percentage, you will see that it is very low.

Opara further lamented that since most foreign airlines have refused to fly into Kaduna and most of their guests who are NGOs have participants drawn from outside Abuja, it is very difficult to get the participants to come in through Kaduna and this has resulted in the cancellation and postponement of several events pending the opening of the Abuja Airport.

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In addition to this, many Nigerians abroad are wary of travelling via Kaduna because of the security crisis in the state. “For instance, one of our guest was booked to arrive from the UK with his family two weeks ago but did not come in until yesterday because he had to be double sure that he and his family are safe,”

“What has happened to us is that most events that were supposed to hold last week have been rescheduled to May or June, they want government to finish with whatever was being done at the airport, they don’t want to go through the hassles of landing in Lagos, going to Kaduna, and then travelling from Kaduna to Abuja by road for another four hours. I don’t even know how we are going to pay salaries for this month.”

He, however, said there are no plans to sack any of their workers. “What may happen is that payment of our staffs may be delayed by two weeks as we usually pay by on the 25th and 26th of every month.

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Relatedly, robbery attacks have also increased on the Abuja-Kaduna road, instilling fear in the hearts of many passengers plying the route. Two drivers of The Guardian, who simply identified themselves as Mr. Solomon and Mr Abaji, recounted the tale of how they were almost robbed while returning from the Kaduna Airport where they went to pick up newspapers.

Solomon said: “Around 11:00pm, while returning from Kaduna airport, we were almost approaching Jere junction when we saw some armed robbers who were in Army uniform trying to double cross the luxurious bus in front of us. The luxury bus driver swerved off the road and ran into a ditch, we also swerved with the bus and began to speed, the armed men tried to stop us, shot at our car, but we were speeding so fast they could not catch up with us.”