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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
President Biden directs international air travelers must quarantine upon arrival
President Joe Biden has directed international air travellers to quarantine upon arrival in the United States.
The United States President Joe Biden has issued an executive order on Thursday that makes it mandatory for international air travellers to quarantine upon arrival in the US.
Similarly, the executive order also includes a directive that all interstate travellers in the US will be expected to wear a face mask. This travel order applies to airports and planes, trains, ferries, intercity buses and public transportation, but grants them the ability to issue exemptions.
What the US President is saying in the executive order
According to a report from Reuters, President Biden’s order says, ‘‘To the extent, feasible air travellers must comply with applicable U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines concerning international travel ‘including recommended periods of self-quarantine.”
However, the executive order does not explain how it will be enforced as the implementation still remains quite hazy.
The order also directs US agencies to engage with Canada and Mexico on public health protocols for land ports of entry including implementing CDC guidelines. Almost all non-essential travel at US land borders with Canada and Mexico has been suspended till February 21.
The CDC recommends a 7-day quarantine for people arriving in the United States from nearly all countries.
Biden is directing agencies to reconsider international contact tracing requirements for U.S.-bound passengers, which was abandoned by the Trump White House, as well as the possibility of follow-up Covid-19 testing for travellers after they arrive in the United States.
In addition, the US President has also directed that all travellers including US citizens, will be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before entering the country from abroad in an order that underscores the CDC policy announced last week.
What you should know
- It can be recalled that the Trump administration had resisted calls for the enforcement of a mask-wearing requirement.
- The Biden administration has also announced that it would reimpose coronavirus-related ban on most non-U.S. citizens arriving from European Union, Brazil, the United Kingdom.
- This follows the lifting of the restrictions by former US President, Donald Trump through an executive order on Monday.
Biden reverses US immigration ban on Nigeria, others
US President, Joe Biden has signed an executive order to repeal the immigrant visa ban on Nigeria and others.
Newly-elected President, Joe Biden has signed his first executive orders as US President including reversing a Donald Trump-administration travel ban on 13 countries which were mainly Muslim and African nations.
Biden’s executive orders, amongst other acts, also returns the US back to the Paris Climate agreement and stopping the construction of the border wall with Mexico.
This was disclosed in a report by Reuters after Biden signed 15 executive actions immediately after his inauguration.
“In the coming days and weeks, we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the president-elect’s promises to the American people,” Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary said.
Other actions by Biden include reversing the Presidential permit for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.
What you should know
- Donald’s Trump administration introduced a ban on citizens from countries which was upheld at the US Supreme Court, barring citizens of seven countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea — from obtaining any kind of visas, and largely preventing them from entering the US.
- Nairametrics reported that the US subsequently added six more countries to its travel ban list. They were Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar. The extra ban meant citizens were allowed to visit but were banned from settling permanently in the United States.
- US government gave conditions to get it to review Nigeria’s status on the ban list, including getting Nigeria to improve on its data intelligence such that it would be easy to investigate any immigrant wishing to visit the United States and meet information-sharing systems.
- In August 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari disclosed that it will take enormous resources to reverse the ban on immigrant visas for Nigerians by the United States Government. He also noted that the country was making some progress in that regard.
Biden’s reversal of Trump’s policies is part of an aggressive push to roll back some of his predecessor’s strict and controversial immigration policies which have been condemned by world leaders and civil groups in the past.
Transport Fare Watch: Commuters by bus journey intercity paid more in December 2020
NBS report indicates that commuters paid more for bus journey intercity in December 2020 than they did in November 2020.
The average fare paid by commuters for bus journey intercity increased by 4.98% from N2,240.66 in November 2020 to N2,532.19 in December 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report for the month of December 2020.
According to the report, commuters in Abuja FCT (N4,415.73), Sokoto (N3,255.20), and Lagos (N3,250.60) paid the highest bus journey fare intercity while commuters in Bayelsa (N1,550.73), Bauchi (N1,600.70), and Akwa Ibom (N1,700.54) paid the lowest bus journey fare intercity.
Other key highlights of the report…
- The average airfare paid by air passengers for specified routes single journey increased by 0.42% from N36,301.74 in November to N36,454.59 in December 2020.
- Passengers from Anambra (N38,700.00), Lagos (N38,550.00), Cross River (N38,500.00) paid the highest airfare were while passengers from Akwa Ibom (N32,600.00), Sokoto (N33,500.00), and Gombe (N34,750.00) paid the lowest airfare.
- The average fare paid by commuters for bus journeys within the city increased by 6.18% from N333.86 in November 2020 to N354.49 in December 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics(NBS) report for the month of December 2020.
- Commuters in Zamfara (N600.50), Bauchi (N526.30), and Cross River (N458.07) paid the highest bus journey within the states whiles commuters in Abia (N200.50), Anambra (N242.23), and Borno (N243.12) paid the lowest bus journey fare within the city.
- The average fare paid by commuters for journey by motorcycle per drop increased by 6.14% from N276.38 in November 2020 to N293.36 in December 2020.
- Commuters in Niger (N1,575.70), Yobe (N397.45) and Imo (N397.42) paid the highest journey fare by motorcycle per drop while commuters in Adamawa (N80.40), Katsina (N130.25) and Kebbi (N146.25) paid the lowest journey fare by motorcycle per drop.
- The average fare paid by passengers for waterway transport increased by 0.19% from N756.84 in November 2020 to N758.27 in December 2020.
- Passengers in Delta (N2,300.35), Bayelsa (N2,240.00) and Rivers (N2,200.00) paid the highest fare by waterway passenger transport while passengers in Borno (N240.73), Gombe (N293.24) and Kebbi (N349.64) paid the lowest fare by water way passenger transport.
Why this matters
Cost of transportation has been noted to account for the huge chunk of the budget for most lower/middle-class Nigerians and as well takes not less than 20% of their take-home pay packages.
The increase in transport cost for the month of December 2020 may not be unconnected with the yuletide seasons that come with an unusually high cost of goods and services.