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Hospitality & Travel

COVID-19: Transcorp Hotel loses about N1 billion every month – CEO

Transcorp Hotels has seen its revenues ravaged by COVID-19 induced lockdowns and implementing measures to save itself from further losses.

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COVID-19: Transcorp Hotel loses about N1 billion every month- CEO

Transcorp Hotels, owners of one of Nigeria’s largest hotel Transcorp Hilton reports it loses about N1 billion every month due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was disclosed by the Managing Director/CEO of Transcorp Hotel Plc, Dupe Olusola, during an interactive session on Thursday. According to her, the management of the hotel met and decided to ensure that it kept costs down by restructuring its business strategy, diversifying into asset-light business models, and reducing the workforce, among others.

Olusola further disclosed that the company had suspended further commitment to buy fixed assets and operating equipment, as well as reduced its energy consumption and maintenance costs. She also confirmed Transcorp will be cutting back on all capital investments this year and in the foreseeable future until the outlook for the economy improves.

READ: Nigerian hotels count revenue losses due to pandemic-induced plunge

The hospitality sector has been one of the hardest-hit since the Covid-19 broke in late February. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics also reveal the sector contracted by as much as 40% in the second quarter of 2020, officially falling into recession.

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Nairametrics participated in the stakeholder’s session and noted a few critical remarks from the interview.

Below is the excerpt of the interview session:

How much has COVID-19 eaten into the fabric of Transcorp Hotels?

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We had a drastic decline of over N9 billion. In March alone, we witnessed a N456 million loss. We have to remember that in March, there was a partial lockdown when everyone was trying to figure out what was happening. We were at N1.03 billion loss in April alone and this has continued to be the story every month. In June, we dropped by about N840 million.

READ: As Hotels resume operations, how prepared are they?

How will this development (loss) affect your staff strength?

We struggled to ensure that we would not ask people to go initially, that was our priority. We paid staff that did not work during lockdown 50% of their salaries and the ones that worked then were paid full salary. To keep the business running, we definitely have to let go of at least 40% now.

We engaged the staff Unions, both the Junior and Senior staff, before the implementation of that. We will ensure that employees are properly taken care of. The occupancies we have now are below 30% and with that, it’s impossible to have everyone around.

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What is important to us is that we must ensure we are able to keep the hotel running as a national asset, because it has been in existence for over 30 years.

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We have ensured that we keep as many jobs as we can within this time frame, so this is an opportunity for us to engage the media and carry you along before such exercise. We have engaged actively with our employees and other key stakeholders. At the occupancy level that we are seeing, it is impossible for us to sustain the employees that we have to keep our doors open.

Precisely, how many will you lay off?

It is definitely a great burden to even consider a lay-off but we don’t have a choice but to keep the business afloat. We have over 1,000 staff and it appears we will not need more than 400 staff to ensure we keep the hotel running. What is happening is beyond everybody and it is just a situation we have found ourselves in.

What is your outlook for 2020, any hope of returning to the pre-COVID era?

We expect to get to the pre-COVID era by 2024 globally, because it requires the gathering of the people in preparing for events, etc. The new normal is real. We expect things to go back to what they used to be in Nigeria by 2024 also. We are not expected to do more than 30% of our occupancy this year and that is significantly low, and by this time next year, we don’t expect to see anything more than that. So, this is our trying time.

Strategy to sustain Balance Sheet before the end of 2020

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We are a hotel business, the food, room and the events we hold are our sustainers. We are definitely going to end at a loss in 2020. As I said, COVID will still be around in 2024. We will try as a business to be innovative, to look at different ways. We are reporting losses of almost N1 billion on a monthly basis and this is significant to us. We hope they can come up with some vaccination to help reduce the impact of the pandemic so that businesses can begin to pick up.

READ: Transcorp Hotels Plc Retains Positive A- (NG) GCR Rating

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Any palliatives from the government to hotels?

Governments across the world have given palliatives to hotels, but here there is no such package for big hotels in Nigeria. We have engaged at all levels of government on payroll support, tax rebate, support for employees, actively and widely as possible. Yet, these have not yielded any support, unfortunately. This is really why we have gotten to the point of disengaging our own staff. We have not seen any support from the government to actually help us.

How do you aim to restructure your loans and are there plans to raise funds?

This year is really just about losses. We have met with our stakeholders and lenders to work out how we can restructure our loans, considering some palliatives CBN brought on board like interest rate of 5%. We met the Bank of Industry (BOI) to get interest rates on our loan reduction. Some of these got a couple of positive responses. We are also considering raising funds through the right issues. We are raising N10 billion in order to pay off some of our existing obligations.

How will virtual tools affect your business model and future plans?

We are working round the clock to bring in solutions in line with the new normal to our guests and customers. How do we provide what they are looking for? How do we provide physical and virtual conferencing? We have also come up with Drive-in Movie Cinema, among others. We are going to ensure we run asset-light strategies to bring in new initiatives that can continue to help us remain standing in the business.

On our future plans, we have suspended our expansion plans. For instance, we initially planned to set up hotels in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, which has been suspended for now. Also, we suspended further commitment to buy fixed assets and operating equipment as well as reduced our energy consumption and maintenance costs.

Bottom Line: The hotel faces a tipping point and as things stand survival is what is its priority.

  • To do so the hotel will have to make tough decisions some of which as job cuts, reduction in overheads, and suspension of capex related activities.
  • This will be a very painful restructuring process for the hotel group but it appears this is the only way it can survive.

Abiola has spent about 14 years in journalism. His career has covered some top local print media like TELL Magazine, Broad Street Journal, The Point Newspaper. The Bloomberg MEI alumni has interviewed some of the most influential figures of the IMF, G-20 Summit, Pre-G20 Central Bank Governors and Finance Ministers, Critical Communication World Conference. The multiple award winner is variously trained in business and markets journalism at Lagos Business School, and Pan-Atlantic University. You may contact him via email - [email protected]

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Hospitality & Travel

Arik, Dana Airlines to resume flight operations after curfew

Dana Air and Arik airlines to resume flight operations from Lagos airport tomorrow.

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Arik Air resumes flight schedules to Asaba after one-year break, Proposed Arik and Aero merger to form National carrier disapproved  

Dana Air and Arik airlines are set to resume flight operations from Lagos airport on Saturday, as the Lagos State government relaxed the 72-hour curfew imposed on the state.

The curfew was imposed by the State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Tuesday to forestall further breakdown of law and order, following series of EndSARS protests.

READ: SAHCO, Arik Air renew contract to boost services 

Communications Manager, Arik Air, Adebanji Ola, in a statement issued on Friday, explained that flights across the country would operate as scheduled, and passengers were advised to arrive at the airport early to have ample time to complete boarding formalities.

He said, “Customers who could not use their tickets during the period of the curfew can modify such tickets at no extra cost.

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READ: Local Airlines tell staff to forget April salary

“The management of Arik Air thanks customers for their understanding while the cancellation of flights lasted.”

Also, spokesperson for Dana Air, Mr Kingsley Ezenwa announced that the airline was pleased to inform its passengers that the company would resume full flight operations from Saturday, the 24th of October 2020.

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READ: Chinese automobile maker, GAC Motors to set up assembly plant in Lagos 

He said, “The tickets purchased for flights within the period of the curfew remains valid and can be rescheduled for free by sending an email to us.”

Back story: Nairametrics reported earlier on Friday that the Lagos State Government had eased the 72-hour curfew which was earlier imposed on Tuesday, October 2020, to run from 6 pm to 8 am.

READ: Lagos to support owners of looted, vandalised stores

This was disclosed by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Friday, October 23, during a press briefing at State House Marina, after a tour of the state to inspect the level of destruction of public and private infrastructure during the #EndSARS protests that later turned violent.

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This means residents can go out between 8 am and 6 pm, with effect from Saturday, October 24, 2020).

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Hospitality & Travel

Nigeria set to lose on latest Bilateral Air Service Agreements

Experts have explained why Nigeria is at the losing end of yet another Bilateral Air Space Agreement.

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Nigeria set to lose on latest Bilateral Air Service Agreements, United States announces changes to work permit visas that could affect Nigerians

It is no longer news that Nigeria signed Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) with the United States, India, Morocco and Rwanda. However, who benefits more from the agreements has been a topical discussion amongst Nigerian stakeholders. Some of them, who spoke with Nairametrics in separate interviews, argued that the development would favour the partner countries more than Nigeria.

They argued that Nigeria has signed this deal with over 80 countries across the world, but has turned out to be disadvantageous to Nigeria. Most of the agreements are only beneficial to the countries and their foreign carriers, without any reciprocal benefits to Nigeria. This is allegedly due to the failure of the Nigerian representatives to put Nigeria’s interest first at the BASA negotiating table.

READ: CBN to sanction exporters who default on export proceed number

In most cases, Nigeria does not really benefit from the deal, especially with no National carrier or a domestic airline that has the required equipment to compete with their foreign counterparts.

Managing Director, Starburst Aviation Limited, Capt. David Olubadewo, who was once Nigeria’s youngest pilot, admitted that he has not seen the agreements. However, he told Nairametrics that the nation does not have the capacity/equipment to compete favourably with the countries it signed the deal with.

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READ: FG to inject over N198 billion on capital projects in power sector in 2021

Capt. Olubadewo said, “In most cases, BASA entails specific agreement between two partners, where parties involved will agree on exchange of flights. It could be 10 flights weekly from Country A and same from the other Country.

“So, if US for instance, has done 10 flights to Nigeria as agreed and Nigeria has not, it will not affect US in anyway.”

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In his own case, Muyiwa Lucas, another stakeholder in the industry, claimed that the aim of the international carriers and their countries is to make sure that indigenous carriers do not rise to compete with them on those lucrative routes like Lagos-London, Abuja-London, Lagos-Dubai, Lagos-Paris, Lagos-Amsterdam, and Lagos-Johannesburg.

READ: Nigeria, India to conclude Bilateral Air Services Agreement deal

In an interview with Nairametrics, he said that the partners are always quick to choose a favourable destination in Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja), while they dictate to Nigeria the airport to land its aircrafts in their countries.

Lucas said, “Nigerian flights are only allowed to drop passengers at Gatwick, which handled 46.1 million passengers in 2018. They don’t allow such in Heathrow airport, which is London’s main hub and also one of the world’s busiest airports with 80.1 million passengers in 2018.

“Arik Air was stopped from operating from Abuja to London, unless it paid for slot allocation, which cost a huge amount of money.

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READ: Nigeria, Ethiopia sign visa waiver agreement

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“But, while British Airways was and is still flying to Abuja, enjoying grandfather rights; Arik Air was paying for slots and when the Nigerian airline deemed that operation unprofitable, it stopped, leaving only British Airways to be operating to Abuja from London with minimum load factor of 85%.”

Lucas argued that while some of the countries introduced clauses to jeopardise Nigerian airlines operation to their countries, Nigeria rarely retaliated in the spirit of diplomatic principle of reciprocity.

READ: Just in: FG bars Air France, KLM and other foreign airlines

However, Pranjal Pande, an Indian Aviation Expert, sees the development from a different angle.

According to him, Nigeria is home to a substantial Indian expatriate population, and India sees thousands of yearly visitors from Nigeria but noted that the lack of direct flights has meant passengers fly mostly with Middle East carriers.

Pande said, “Popular routes from Delhi and Mumbai to Lagos are over 4,100 nautical miles, putting them out of the range of the current generation of narrowbody aircraft. This means that, from India, only Vistara and Air India, the only airlines with widebodies, could start flights to Nigeria. Neither airline has signalled intentions of doing so soon.

READ: Nigeria @ 60: The Aviation sector and its travails

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“It’s most likely that Air Peace will be the first to start flights to India. However, the timing remains up in the air due to the current crisis.”

Backstory: On October 6, 2020, Nairametrics reported that the Federal Government announced the signing of Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) with the United States, India, Morocco and Rwanda.

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A copy of the agreement showed that it was signed in Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari on September 30, 2020.

The disclosure was made by the Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, through a tweet on his official Twitter handle on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

What they are saying

The Minister said, “The agreement is the instruments of ratification of the bilateral air service agreement between Nigeria and USA, India, Morocco, as well as Rwanda.”

He added that Nigeria will take advantage of the agreement to strengthen economic, social and cultural ties with the US.

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Hospitality & Travel

Transport fare for motorcycle “Okada” more than doubled in 2020

Data from the NBS reveals the average fare paid by commuters for a journey by motorcycle more than doubled year on year.

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Transport fare for motorcycle "Okada" more than doubled in 2020, Lagos State bans Gokada, ORide, MaxNG, others from 15 local governments 

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveals the average fare paid by commuters for a journey by motorcycle per drop more than doubled year on year (September 2020 vs 2019 respectively).

This was contained in the recently released data on Transport fare for September 2020 in Nigeria. This covers bus journey within the city per drop, bus journey intercity, state route, charge per person, airfare charge for specified routes single journey, journey by motorcycle (Okada) per drop, and waterway passenger transport.

READ: Nigeria’s manufacturing sector contracts for 5th consecutive month – CBN 

Motorcycle Fares

  • According to the report, the average fare paid by commuters for the journey by motorcycle per drop increased by 10.47% MOM and by 111.11% YOY to N255.51 in September 2020 from N231.29 in August 2020.
  • The states with the highest journey fare by motorcycle per drop were Niger (N1,467.49), Kogi (N362.47), and Rivers (N345.80); while states with the lowest journey fare by motorcycle per drop were Adamawa (N76.55), Katsina (N100.84), and Kebbi (N125.60).
  • Similarly, the average fare paid by commuters for bus journeys within the city increased by 7.92% MOM and by 63.88% YOY to N309.73 in September 2020 from N286.99 in August 2020.

READ: These 3 states are the most expensive to travel from in Nigeria

READ: NBS discloses States with highest bus fares in Nigeria (Full List)

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Bus Fares

The states with the highest bus journey fare within the city were Zamfara (N579.84), Bauchi (N492.14), and Cross River (N416.32); while states with the lowest bus journey fare within the city were Abia (N188.50), Kebbi (N192.48), and Borno (N200.80).

  • The average fare paid by commuters for bus journey intercity increased by 0.36% MOM and by 24.30% YOY to N2,022.70 in September 2020 from N2,015.50 in August 2020.
  • The states with the highest bus journey fare intercity were Abuja FCT (N4,315.22), Lagos (N3,073.25), and Sokoto (N3,000.00); while states with the lowest bus journey fare within the city were Kwara (N223.45), Benue (N274.64), and Ondo (N291.07).

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Air Travel

Average fare paid by air passengers for specified routes single journey decreased by -4.59% MOM and increased by 20.60% YOY to N36,884.59 in September 2020 from N38,659.86 in August 2020.

  • The states with the highest airfare were Lagos (N39,750.00), Rivers (N39,520.00), and Anambra (N38,950.00); while states with the lowest airfare were Akwa Ibom (N32,500.00), Sokoto (N33,700.00), and Benue (N35,000.00).
  • The average fare paid by passengers for waterway passenger transport increased by 7.06% MOM and by 34.13% YOY to N734.26 in September 2020 from N685.82 in August 2020.
  • The states with the highest fare by waterway passenger transport were Bayelsa (N2,250.23), Rivers (N2,200.64), and Delta (N2,150.30); while states with the lowest fare by waterway passenger transport were Borno (N200.48), Gombe (N264.29), and Abuja FCT (N294.10).

READ: Nigeria’s inflation rate hits 13.71% as food prices soar

What this means: According to the NBS, transportation makes up 6.4% of consumption expenditure of millions of naira next only to food at over 50%. Transport is also a key input cost for determining food prices and conducting business in the country contributing to the inflation rate. A combination of bad roads. poor infrastructure, exchange rate devaluation, removal of fuel subsidies, and a general rise in prices of goods and services have impacted transportation costs across the country.

 

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