For the first time in decades, hotel rooms are empty today, which is Good Friday, and will remain empty for the Easter season due to the lockdown and other efforts by governments across the world at curtailing the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).
While the empty rooms mean huge revenue loss, major hotels across the country are expecting the worst, as they move from scaling down operations to essential services and now to an imminent shutdown because of the lockdown in Nigeria.
The lockdown has resulted in the lowest room occupancy rate in decades, less than 20 percent, which cannot sustain operations, offering near zero revenue, hence some hotels have already shutdown.
In the past years, most hotels are fully booked two weeks to Easter as most holiday seekers take advantaged of the long Easter break to unwind.
As at today, which is Good Friday, guests are nowhere near hotels, not just because of the lockdown, but also for the fear of contacting the virus as hotels are public places considered high risk for the spread of Covid-19.
For the many hotels that have already suspended their operations until further notice, the rationale for the action is that if a hotel of 100 rooms struggle to run only 30 rooms, it would be a good business decision to close down because same operation cost goes into running 30 rooms.
As well, most hotel managements have suspended operations to safeguard their employees who are vulnerable in a precarious situation such as virus outbreak.
Speaking from his hideout, Simon Ntuli, a general manager of an Abuja-based boutique hotel, said that hotels usually make huge sales during Easter period, but that this year’s celebration is unprecedented with no sales.
“There are no bookings, the earlier ones we had have been cancelled by clients. No hotel should expect guests with the lockdown. No guest wants to die, so potential guests are all hiding for safety now”, Ntuli, said from the safety of his home.
Marcel Agada, a sales director in an international branded hotel in Lagos, disclosed that for the first time, guests were not interested in the hotel’s Easter promotion package.
“We had to withdraw the fun loaded and heavily discounted Easter package three weeks ago when we had several cancellations from guests”, Agada said.
Explaining further, he noted that the room was the major offering of the promo and when potential guests are cancelling their room bookings, there is no business to pursue again.
The likes of Transcorp Hilton, Federal Palace, Eko Hotel, Sheraton, Radisson Blu, among others that offer sumptuous Easter brunch and dinner in the past, may not be expecting guests this year as coronavirus ravages, lockdown in place and safety matters most to guests.
“If the churches are closed for Easter, why not hotels too. Yes, hotels are down, but I think safety matters now. Guests will always come back when safety is assured”, Agada said.
Stella Oyeniran, a traditional guest at Transcorp Hilton Abuja for the Easter package, decried the ugly situation amid regrets of the excitements her family would be missing in this year’s celebration that is suspended by the reality of coronavirus.
“Last year, we had family fun at Transcorp. From Easter brunch, dinner, Easter egg races, egg hunting, egg painting,for children to swimming. For now, we are staying safe, there will be Easter in 2021”, Oyeniran, a mother of three said.
Ruth Anadi, a medical doctor, said Easter is usually her best holiday period as a Catholic because she observes the lent and afterwards treat herself to the best pamper she can afford. This year, she is disappointed that she cannot complete her yearly ritual with a deserving Easter holiday.
“I have earlier booked for luxury spa treatment outside Abuja, but cannot travel again. I cannot even go out as I am on leave and need to rejuvenate before my resumption in May”, the doctor said.
Some Nigerians who prefer Easter holiday for family outing due to the less crowd are also happy staying safe, but regret missing their usual Easter excitement.
“Christmas comes with a lot of crowd and madness, but Easter holiday is mild and offers real exclusivity if that is what you desire. Hotels are less crowded, rates are also cheaper and bonding is better. We are missing all these now”, Jonah Aigbe, a father, said.
For Aigbe, 2020 would be the first time in the 10 years of his marriage that he is not going to take his family out for a special treat on Easter Sunday.
Expressing a contrary view, Edwin Egoro, a father of four, thinks that the current situation is offering people opportunity to rethink holiday and their lifestyle, which he said are being overstretched.
“If there was no coronavirus, many would have jetted out by now, and enjoying in resorts across the world. I think the situation on ground is encouraging family bonding without spending so much in hotels. People now eat together, play at home and pray for safety. There is no unnecessary pressure on the pocket now”, he disclosed.
In same vein, Jude Amahotu, a public servant, thinks that people can still celebrate the Easter, but at home, not loud and keep safe too.
“I have not experienced a year where Easter was not celebrated in my 50 years existence apart from this 2020. But it has also taught us to scale down our lifestyle. We can celebrate without spending all the millions on flight, luxury resorts and all that”, the public servant enthused.
Considering that many hotels have closed down due to lack of guests, Amahotu is concerned about job security for hotel employees in a country where unemployment rate is high.
“This is not a time to spend unnecessarily. There is going to be hardship after coronavirus is defeated. Let’s learn to be prudent now and use Easter to pray for God’s forgiveness and healing”, he urged.
Of course, there is a huge revenue loss from the suspended Easter sales due to the virus outbreak. Beyond the huge loss, Margaret Okwoh, a hotel sales manager, lamented that revenue targets for the first quarter of the year was not met and second quarter would never be met as well.
“If revenues were not met when operations were skeletal, they will never be met in the second quarter because of the shutdown across many hotels in Nigeria resulting in zero revenue”, she said.
For most hoteliers, the situation is unprecedented, as well as, overwhelming as no challenge in the history of the industry has been as tough as the impact of the virus outbreak.
They urged guests to stay safe at home and hope to welcome them to the rooms after the scourge is over.
Until then, Happy Easter!