It was a sunny afternoon when I walked into the Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja. Just as I got to the entrance of the hotel, the Janitor politely stopped me, asked me to drop my purse for scanning, and then checked my temperature with the hand-held thermometer.
Afterward, I had to submit myself to be disinfected. For about 30 seconds, I stood in front of a fan-like fumigator with my mask on, as it sprayed its contents all over me. That was not all, I still had to thoroughly sanitise my hands before I was allowed into the reception arena.
This is the situation in most hotels as you enter into the premises for any form of business or visit. There appears to be a consensus among them that they cannot afford a slip at this time, as the discovery of even one case in a hotel can cause it to be shut down for as long as the authorities deem it necessary.
When the Federal Government shut the economy down in April, all businesses in Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun States were directed to cease operations, except for the essential services providers. For the purpose of the lockdown, essential service providers were limited to health workers and those in the food industry.
Hotels, being in the hospitality sector, were not considered essential and were asked to shut down operations as well. Only a few were kept open, to be used as isolation centres in the efforts to contain the spread of the virus and keep infected patients. The adverse effects led to a drastic slide in revenue and subsequent loss of jobs in some cases.
When the government announced a gradual and phased reopening of the economy, hotels were still not included in the list of businesses allowed to open. After the second phase of the gradual reopening, hotels, and other businesses in the hospitality industry are already opening up while some have announced dates.
With the lift of the ban, hotels across Lagos state have resumed operations, albeit with the highest regards for the guidelines spelt out by the relevant authorities and agencies.
Eko Hotel for instance has already re-opened operations, along with Raddison Blu (VI and Ikeja), Sheraton hotels Ikeja. The George Hotel (Ikoyi) is also opened for business.
Southern Sun hotels and Wheat baker hotels have slated its resumption for 1st September, while Intercontinental hotels and Federal Palace Hotel are yet to fix a date for resumption.
The question now is how prepared are they to deal with the influx that would follow their reopening, as well as the resumption of international flights.
One thing common to all the hotels visited is a visible improvement in hygiene practices. Though the hotels have always maintained clean premises, there are obvious efforts in place to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 infection, or at least ensure that it does not get spread through their premises.
At the Radisson Blu hotel, for example, the hotel premises looked as though it had only been recently disinfected. In addition, the spray disinfectant used on all visitors to the hotel is targeted at ensuring that the highest hygiene standards are maintained.
The same was the case at Sheraton hotels, Citiheight hotels, Airport hotel, Watercross hotel, and Purple crown hotels. Nose masks are a compulsory requirement before one can be allowed into the premises.
Just as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 have directed, all of the hotels have their janitors check visitors’ temperature, and flag down any that might be suggestive of a fever.
In addition, visitors also have to sanitize at the entrance and at the reception, disinfecting both hands and luggage before any staff handles them.
Visits to the hotels showed that while some have resumed dining services, others are still making critical observations before they do.
Radisson blu hotel already has dining services ongoing. In the short time spent in the hotel, one could easily see that a table meant for 4 persons was not allowed to have more than 2 persons seated. Also once a table was occupied, the attendants tried to ensure that the next table was vacant.
About hosting a small gathering of 10 friends, the staffs showed us an enclosed space where we could have some privacy if we desired, but insisted that in line with the physical distancing directives, space (which I estimate to be about 10ft by 24ft) could not hold more than 6 persons.
We were instead offered the general dining room to use, on the condition that the tables would be spaced with not more than 2 on each table. How that arrangement amounts to a get-together is the question no one could answer.
The same was the situation at Citiheight hotels which is only a short distance away. The hotel has started receiving dine-in guests in the dining room and the bar. When asked if they could make arrangements for a get-together of 10 persons, they offered to arrange some tables together, but with each of the seats surrounding the table adequately spaced.
For Sheraton hotels, however, dining is not yet allowed inside the restaurant. According to a staff who spoke to Nairametrics, the management is still making critical observations, before deciding whether it would be a profitable decision to resume operations in the restaurant or not.
Instead, the lounge and bar behind the hotel is being used so that customers can dine in an open space, where even the tables have been physically distanced, one from the other.
When we inquired if we could host a small get-together with 10 friends in the dining room, the staff declined to explain that giving the directives they now had to work with, they could not allow 10 persons in an enclosed space. They suggested instead that we use the lounge or the poolside where there would be sufficient space and ventilation.
With the resumption of commercial activities, patronage has resumed in the hotels. The hotels surveyed have started receiving guests for lodging, although skeletal.
Though none of them offered comments on it, they have not yet been booked to capacity. The staff however sounded hopeful that lodging activities would pick up in September.