As Lagos state government promises to transform Badagry into a major tourism hub in the state, residents and investors are already preparing for the bust in the expected activities.
One of such investors is Mr. Fatai Sokunbi, who has built a fifty room hotel, FAMS EXECUTIVE SUITES, in the town. In this interview with JIMOH BABATUNDE, he talks about the choice of Badagry for the hotel and the role of good infrastructure in the development of tourism.
Here is an excerpt from the interview
On the hotel’s location in Badagry
This hotel was initially planned to be at Seme, the Border town between Nigeria and Benin Republic. We see the place as an international hub for trading, but in the process of doing the documentation with the Benin government, I decided we needed to do it in Badagry, Nigeria.
So, I chose Badagry as a Tourism destination, even though it does not have companies that can use the hotel. I did so, because I believed in the future of Badagry. We had the feeling that the future of the town was bright for tourism and business.
I also chose this place to encourage others that we can all build in cities. I believe having the hotel here will stem rural urban migration.
On challenges he faced
The hotel will be three next February, but the first challenge was with the local people. I expected it base on the people’s attachment to land, but we were able to resolve that and we are all happy.
Starting here was not encouraging. When we came to this site, there was no good road, at a point they came to fix the roads.
The road has a big role to play in people coming to Badagry. So, it is important to the growth of tourism and business in Badagry.
We hope the ten Lane roads from Orile will get to Badagry soon. I believe with the investments coming into Badagry that it is inevitable to have the road from Mile 2 getting to Badagry
In terms of encouraging hotel investment, I think the government needs to do more. They should encourage direct foreign investment. Lots of people want to come here to invest despite the lack of good infrastructure.
I know of many Nigerians that want to come home to invest. It took me time to do that as Rome was not built in a day. Many people want to come home, but our government should do more to attract inventors.
For example they can give tax incentives for about five years after construction of hotels. There is great unemployment in the country and direct foreign investment can help in reducing it.
Here we have employed over 100 people including women. We have to have full occupancy to pay these people.
We have bills to pick like diesel; we run this place with about eight to nine million naira every month. And we have been doing it for the past three years.
The good thing is that since we commenced operations here the hotel has been funding itself except for the generators fuelling.
But now I am proud to say the hotel is taking care of itself. But we have not been able to recoup the money used in building the hotel.
On what should be done by government to attract more business to Badagry
I think it will happen with the expected investment coming from the deep sea port. I believe when the sea port takes off many people will invest in Badagry.
Already, I learnt from my guests that that they are investing in Technology village here in Badagry
That is good news. So, having a deep sea port here will bring lots of investors. For example Alaba traders will bring in their goods through here as it is close to them.
With that port taking off, business and tourism will grow.
I have always been an entertainment person and passion for the industry which includes hotel.
I have always seen hotel business as a retirement investment, in terms of having something to put food on my table. So, I believe it is a life time investment.
It is all about rendering of service to your guests, who come to sleep, wake up and go.
I have passion for entertainment and hotel. So, we will be expanding the facilities here.
We will be providing theater here as there is none in Badagry. This will boost the hotel as family can afford to come to Badagry for weekend. We are also building a mall here too.
On his experience running hotel
When we started we decided we were going to stay here and develop it ourselves. I want to thank my mum for the business skill she impacted in me.
My brother and I decided not to give it out to any management company, if we had done that in two years this hotel would have gone down.
What is lacking in hotel management in Nigeria is maintenance, but every kobo we have made here we have put back.
So we have been maintaining it on our own. And am happy and fulfill but we need more business.
On governor Amode holding Council meeting in Badagry
It was like the seat of government was moved here when Governor Ambode held the council meeting in Badagry. We recorded full occupancy as most of the people stayed here.
I was at the forum he held with the people and what he said about transforming the town and tourism here is gradually coming through.
The Governor is interested in the development of tourism in Badagry and he said much about that then, though we have not started seeing that, but I believe it is a matter of time before we start seeing that too.
With the discovery of oil here in Badagry and from people I have been interacting here in the hotel, I know we are in the right path.
Pix: tourism and tourism1