Eye on West Africa

663

There’s a new kid on the block in Lagos.

The George, a 62-room boutique hotel, opened in June, and is managed by the Mantis Collection. It’s a stylish young thing, and was opened by the new Governor of Lagos State,  Akinwunmi Ambode, in early July, who said “This is a happy occasion because it has reaffirmed the status of Lagos State as the first choice destination of investment.”

And indeed it is, if the hotel development pipeline in Nigeria’s commercial capital is anything to go by. Data compiled earlier this year ranked Lagos as the number one city in Nigeria for new chain hotel development, with over 3,500 rooms in 18 hotels, ranging from the massive 350-room Centro by Rotana to the 76-room Mantis Ikeja. Yes, another Mantis hotel, and I hear that they are looking at a possible third property in the city.

Lagos hotels have had it pretty tough the last 12 months. First there was the travel warning issued by the U.S Embassy, warning of potential attacks on hotels, specifically naming the two Sheraton properties. Then there was the tragedy of Ebola, the oil price crash, the devaluation of the Naira, and the uncertainty over, and delay of, the February elections. It was one thing after another, and all of these troubles have been outside of the industry’s control. Hotel managers and owners welcome the fact that there is no further supply entering the market of any consequence this year – there just isn’t room for more competition at the moment.

Next year could see the opening of two new brands, at least new to West Africa – the Ramada Plaza in Lekki, and the African Pride in Ikeja. There’s a rumour that the latter might be launched as a Renaissance (another Marriott brand), but I wonder what the existing hotel of that name will say to that. When Accor opened an Ibis-branded hotel right next door to the Ibis Royale, a right royal(e) dispute ensued, with neither one budging. So we might be in for heated discussions if Marriott do decide to go with its Renaissance brand for this property.

Marriott will be making further waves in 2017 and 2018, with two more properties opening – the 251-room Marriott in Ikeja (their fifth hotel in northern Lagos) and the Marriott Victoria Island, their sixth in the city as a whole. This is concrete proof that the group is taking its African expansion seriously. From no representation in sub-Saharan Africa a few years ago, Marriott will likely dominate the hotel scene in Lagos in two to three years’ time. They are partly riding on the back of Protea, which they purchased last year, but they are finally, after years of trying, gaining traction in their own right.

Hilton, Le Meridien, Hyatt, Four Points, Fairmont and Best Western have all signed deals for new hotels under their brands opening… well, opening one day. Delays are commonplace in this industry, and it often pushes hotel openings back by years. Speaking of which, the Radisson Blu, which closed for renovations in January, remains non-operational. There is no solid explanation given, although some speculate the reason is the renovations, while others believe it has to do with labour issues. Whatever the case, it seems ironic that a hotel which took more than seven year to build had to close only a short time after opening.

Elsewhere in Nigeria, the capital Abuja has been the focus of much investigative and planning activity, but there are still only two internationally-branded hotels under construction – the 126-apartment Fraser Suites (a long-stay brand) and the 219-room Hilton Garden Inn, the first hotel at the airport. Both of these potential projects reflect the growth in the number of domestic and international flights into the area. 

And in Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil capital, Radisson Blu is on-site with a 200-room hotel, and Hilton are due to start constructing their 270-room property, with opening slated for 2018.

Starwood’s Four Points brand will open shortly in Ikot Ekpene, an oil city in the east of the country, and the former Gateway Hotel in Abeokuta, in the south west, is in the final stages of its transformation into a Park Inn by Radisson.

Onitsha, in Anambra State, just across the famous bridge from Asaba, will also welcome a Park Inn next year. And whilst in the region, Asaba, the capital of Delta State, will see the opening of the Best Western Plus hotel in August, with another Best Western in Warri, also in Delta State, later in the year.

Considering that 10 years ago, there were fewer than 10 branded hotels in the entire country, this investment and infrastructure is massively encouraging for the future of Nigeria’s economy and its continued growth.

Trevor Ward
CEO: W Hospitality