An Eye on West Africa

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By the time you read this, the brand new Lagos InterContinental Hotel should have opened. With almost 360 rooms, it’s the largest internationally-branded hotel in the city, and the views are stunning. They are also offering an introductory Internet rate of $360 (or ten times that in the Presidential Suite, if you need more space!), which isn’t too bad for Lagos. It’s safe to say that just about everyone, both from within and outside the business travel industry, has been looking forward to the opening of the InterContinental for some time now. Actually, make that for a couple of years now, as completion of the hotel kept getting put back, for a number of reasons. Most importantly, in the same way that other new openings have raised the bar, it’s going to be pushed even higher at the InterContinental.

Now, I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, least of all that of Mr Didier Coeln, the General Manager of the hotel, but I have a concern about the impact that the infamous Lagos traffic is going to have on the hotel. In fact, I have a concern about the impact that traffic congestion is having on all the hotels in Lagos, prompted by the fact that I missed my flight again this morning. Nothing like a missed flight to ruin one’s day, or week! Not without resistance, I have been telling people that the horrible Lagos traffic has got a lot better in the past couple of years. I take it back, it hasn’t. And, I’ve seen a massive increase in traffic in Accra, too, which is taking its toll on some of the non-central hotels, such as those near the beach.

From my house on Victoria Island in Lagos on a Sunday morning, to the Southern Sun Ikoyi hotel, which is on the way to the airport, it should take about 15 minutes in the car, tops. Well, it should, but it doesn’t. A couple of weeks ago it took me two hours on a Friday night, on my way to Murtala Muhammed International airport. I left almost six hours before my flight was due to take off, and I still had to run to ensure I was there before the check-in closed. Yes, I had checked in online, but at the airport in Lagos, you still have to physically check in. Don’t ask me why – it’s just the way it is, as it is with many things in Nigeria.

From my house to the domestic terminal at MMIA in the early morning, it’s a one-hour drive, max. This morning it took me nearly two hours – hence the missed flight and hence my frustration.

You may think there’s a complicated reason for the traffic in Lagos getting so out of hand. But, there isn’t. The reason for the delays is simple – it’s rubbish driving, and I’m afraid it will take forever to change the habits of several million drivers.

Let me be clear – Lagos has a problem on its hands and so does the InterContinental. The hotel is on a fairly narrow road, and it just needs one rubbish driver to clog it all up, and you won’t be able to get there, or out again. The same goes for the Four Points by Sheraton Lagos, which suffers from a badly timed traffic light just outside the property, and the Southern Sun Ikoyi has the same problem – you can see your darn hotel, but just can’t get there! And I don’t want to hear you tell me that I could walk, because it’s the rainy season…

I guess that this is a fact of life. Economic growth brings more traffic, and as fast as you build new roads (drive the Lekki-Epe Expressway, very smart), the traffic grows faster, and goes slower and slower. I say all of this and I rant like a mad man, because it’s important to know if you’re travelling to Lagos for the first time, or you’re entertaining the idea of staying at the InterContinental and sampling the new addition to the Lagos hotel scene.

Very simply, if you’re travelling to Lagos, and you want to stay at the InterContinental (and you should), you’d better leave yourself plenty of time – or buy a helicopter.

 Trevor Ward MD: W Hospitality Group

www.w-hospitalitygroup.com