Dr. Wasiu Babalola is the Managing Director, Africa Swiss International Hotel and Resorts, which just signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Aba Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture to resuscitate the ailing Enyimba Hotel, among other projects. In this interview with Sunny Nwankwo, he speaks on the prospects and opportunities in Aba, the hub of commerce and industry in Southeast.
Attraction in Aba
Swiss International has been in Africa since 2012 and we have been to different states, but we have not been to the South East. So, it is a strategic move considering the location of Aba, being so close to so many areas in the South East and South South. Secondly, most international companies believe that if you are not in Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos, which are the primary markets, you cannot make it. But it is not true.
But more specifically, we are in Aba to kick start the remodeling and expansion of former Enyimba International Hotel, now Swiss International, Enyimba, Aba. I said so because it used to be Enyimba Hotels, but since we entered into partnership with the Aba Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA), the identity of the place changed automatically.
It is going to be developed into a five-star hotel and probably would be turning Aba into, not only a commercial centre of the Southeast, but also a conference centre that can accommodate people of about 1000 capacity. There will be swimming pool, squash course and shopping arcades, amongst others. What we are doing is that, we are trying to change the face of hotel business in Aba and the state at large. Aba should not only be known as a business city, but a place where people can come to relax.
Terms of ownership
The hotel is under a private partnership arrangement. But in terms of ownership, it belongs to Enyimba International Hotel and Aba Chamber of Commerce. Of course, after the inuaguration, a sizable percentage will be owned by Enyimba International Hotel and Aba Chamber of Commerce. The contract is something that we have been discussing for two years considering the interest of Aba people in terms of employment. We are coming with the first hospitality school in the Southeast that will have an international backing. It is direct investment and we will be injecting N6billion into Abia State’s economy. Other things being equal, this project should be delivered in about 18 months.
At last count, we were looking in excess of N6billion because the one (building) we already have is in carcass. Only the building is standing. We are going to also complete the extension and on the other side of it. We intend to build executive suites and a presidential lodge. You know that Abia is surrounded by four states, namely: Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi. So, if their governors should attend events at the same time in Aba, they can comfortably pass the night at the presidential suites.
We are also going to increase the rooms from 105 to 141. There will also be a conference hall that will contain over a thousand people and this will prove that we are ready to host international conferences in Aba.
By the end of the remodeling, there will be a swimming pool, a squash course, shopping malls, a club house at the basement, and we are also creating what we call Enyimba Village or city, a lawn tennis course and a football field so that the idea of Aba being a football loving city, which hosts Enyimba Football Club (FC) will be maintained. We anticipate the school to be open like four to six months before the hotel becomes operational so that we will train the manpower that will fit into what we are looking at.
Our antecedent in business
This is not the first project that we are embarking upon since we came to Nigeria. There is a 320-bedroom hotel in Abuja that we are also handling. When it comes to Swiss International, we don’t talk to clients because we are only interested in your money. We understand the financial situation in Nigeria, that Nigeria doesn’t have a long term investment strategy for those investing in a hotel. And that is why we have on our platform investors, financial consultants, who have access to different kinds of funds that will protect a long-term interest of whatever venture we want and they all work with us.
On the fund we are infusing into Aba Enyimba Hotel, it is an investment fund that Aba people may want to pull out after seven years, even if you want to buy any fund you can and take full ownership and I can tell you that Abia people own a very sizable number of investment in this property that you cannot change anything without their consent. The Sun