Baring any change of mind by the managers of Enugu State government, the state’s economy and the hospitality industry are set for big boost as the state government sets to breathe new life into the moribund Hotel Presidential—an iconic hospitality facility in the coal city.
Before its present woes, Hotel Presidential was the pride of eastern Nigeria being one of the first iconic post-independence buildings built as part of the Eastern government’s industrialization plan created under the late Michael Okpara administration. With a unique offering of recreational and lifestyle elements, the hotel quickly became a popular destination for Nigerians and foreign visitors.
The collapse of that pride of the East led to the decision to concession the Hotel to capable hands to bring it back to life and upgrade it to world class standards expected to cost over N4 billion. The Hotel sits on prime land within the Independence Layout Enugu and is approximately 15 minutes by car from the Enugu International Airport.
At the time it was opened to the public, the Hotel offered 100 rooms on 4 floors with recreational facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and a night club considered best in class. Many people growing up in Enugu and other eastern states have fond memories of Sunday lunch in the hotel’s restaurant as well as attending functions in the grand ball room.
These memories however, quickly fade once the reality of the Hotel’s current state of disrepair is revealed. Many years of poor management, particularly during the many years of military rule, culminated in a complete rundown of the Hotel and subsequent closure of the once iconic facility.
But the state government, recently at its executive council meeting, decided to take back the hotel and resuscitate it not just to boost hospitality, but also for the much needed revenue that could be generated from the operations of the hotel and for its place as one the state’s enduring monuments.
Godwin Udeuhele, the state’s Commissioner for Information revealed in Enugu recently that the property which was leased to Status Symbol for 35 years six year ago had been a subject of litigation between two parties claiming to be the authentic managers.
The commissioner claimed that since the state government leased the property, it had never remained the same in terms of functionality, lamenting, “this property was leased for 35 years to Status Symbol. After sometime, the same government gave the same property out to another company known as E-Hospitality Services Limited (EHSL).
Udeuhele also disclosed that efforts by the current administration to commercialise the enterprise had not yielded the desired results due to ongoing litigation between the two contending parties, noting that barely one year the state hosted an investment summit where it pre-qualified the enterprise, nobody has entered into it due to the litigations.
“So, we had to think out of the box to own our property before we talk of people that will manage it”, he said, pointing out that the council also approved that all parties that had expressed interest in the management of the hotel should be engaged with in order to mutually resolve outstanding issues.
Hospitality industry close watchers have hailed the decision of the state government to bring this hotel back to life considering the massive infrastructure development in the state for which investors are already showing interest in the economy of the state.
They however advise that private sector operators should be given a chance to run the hotel for both efficiency and profitability, noting that these were what EHSL which was to undertake the project through a special purpose company – Primeview Hotels Limited was planning to do.
Given the strong demand for quality hotel, leisure and conferencing facilities in the region, EHSL aimed to bridge this supply gap by providing what would be, undoubtedly, the premier business and leisure facility in the South-East zone when the renovation was completed.
by Chuka Uroko