…as parent company moves to reposition hotel
By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA & SESAN LAOYE
Lodgers and fun seekers with fond memories of the good time they had at the iconic Premier Hotel, Ibadan, have welcomed the move by its owners, Odu’a Investment Company Limited (OICL), to remodel the edifice into a 5-star hotel.
The stakeholders, while reflecting on the glorious past of the hotel currently undergoing renovation into a world-class hospitality centre, said efforts at reviving it through a partnership with a global hotel and hospitality brand is the best for the edifice to witness a proper turnaround.
It would be recalled that the management of OICL had recently announced that it had entered into a joint venture agreement with a seasoned international hotel development and management company with the requisite expertise, technical and financial capacity for the redevelopment and revamping of the hotel.
According to a statement by the group’s Head of Branding and Communication, Mr. Victor Ayetoro, made available to Business Hallmark, Premier Hotel, Ibadan, will be shut down for two years to ensure uninterrupted work that will transform it into a 5-star facility
“This is to notify our stakeholders and the general public that in pursuit of excellence and commitment to reposition the hotel, the company has entered into a joint venture agreement with a seasoned international hotel development and management company with the requisite expertise, technical and financial capacity for redeveloping and revamping the hotel.
“As a result, Premier Hotel will be shut down immediately in order to have a safe environment for the commencement, execution, and timely completion of the project.
“The hotel redevelopment project will entail remodeling, renovating, and upgrading the existing structure as well as adding new and modern facilities befitting of a 5-Star world class hotel.
“This will take place in phases with anticipation that the first phase will be completed within 24 months’’, Ayetoro said in the statement.
He added that the ‘’New Premier Hotel’’ when completed, will transit into additional upgraded rooms, equipped with international standard conferencing facilities, modern recreation and fitness centers, multiple restaurants serving African and Continental cuisines.
“We have sought all necessary statutory and regulatory approvals from all relevant agencies.
“All obligations of the hotel are being fulfilled and appropriate stakeholders in this respect are fully engaged in line with best practice”, he added.
Also speaking on the development, the Group Managing Director of Odu’a Investments Limited, Adewale Raji, said the edifice was temporarily shut down for it to be renovated and its facilities upgraded.
According to the GMD, the move was to make the hotel and others owned by the company world-class.
“We are renovating Premier Hotel and upgrading its facilities to make it a five-star hotel in collaboration with a global brand chosen by the board with the help of KPMG and approval of the shareholders.
“We want to increase the number of rooms we have, and increase the capacity of the halls. We are conscious of health and safety of the people, so we had to disengage the employees. We had to pay all of them off”, he stated.
Raji further said that the decision to temporarily shut down the hotel and renovate it was taken in the best interest of the region and its people, adding that the company was working with an international partner to improve the hotel’s services and reputation.
While debunking insinuations that the hotel had been sold, the Odu’a Group boss said the decision to close and renovate the facility was approved by all the owner-state governors.
He assured that all stakeholders will be happy with the decision to renovate the hotel when eventually unveiled.
Meanwhile, stakeholders, including past lodgers and fun seekers with fond memories of the good time they had at the hotel, while speaking with our correspondent on the move to redevelop it, said they can’t wait to see the edifice regain its past glory.
On his part, a Nigerian born physician based in the United States, Jide Atobatele, who described the Premier Hotel, Ibadan as the Pride of the Yoruba people of the South West, warmly remembered that his first visit to the magnificent edifice was in 1984.
He stated that as a young and adventurous medical student at the Oxford University, United Kingdom, he had flown into the country with his friends to watch the 2nd-leg of the African Champions Cup final match between IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan and Zamalek of Egypt.
“The memories of that visit will continue to linger in my mind for several years.
“Though the match was played at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, I decided to move straight to Ibadan after my arrival in the country two days to the match since my family were based in the city.
“Since I came in with three of my student colleagues, my family house was a no go area as it could not contain us. We decided to lodge at the Premier Hotel for the duration of our stay in the country.
“For the initial two days prior to the match we stayed in Ibadan, we lodged in the hotel, only going out to visit my family and friends in the day and returning to the hotel at night.
“We even left the hotel on the morning of the match for Lagos. That time, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was still motorable, taking only about 45 minutes to 1 hour to traverse.
“We returned to Ibadan that same day after Shooting Stars lost the trophy to Zamalek FC of Egypt and buried ourselves in the hotel for another week before jetting out of the country for England to continue our studies.
“Apart from the sorrow of our team loosing the trophy, we really enjoyed our stay in the hotel.
“Is it the ambience of the rooms, restaurants and bars, or the hospitality of the staff, or the height that afford you the view of the city, or the warm and cozy pools I should mention?
“The meals, especially local cuisines were excellent. I made several trips to the hotel during my other visits to the country until I started noticing signs of decay in the early 90s.
“I appreciate the efforts of the owners to bring the hotel back to life and I pray they will succeed”, Atobatele said.
Another fan of the hotel, Rotimi Adebambo, said as a young boy, he used to visit the hotel with his parents during festive periods to watch films by Nigerian theatre groups.
“That time, it was cinema that was reigning and not home videos that we have today.
Theatre groups led by Chief Herbert Ogunde, Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala), Adeyemi Afolayan (Ade Love) and others used to bring their films to places like the Cultural Centre in Mokola, KS Motels, Total Garden and Premier Hotel in Mokola, among others.
“But I usually prefer Premier Hotel for its ambience, sumptuous meals, strategic location on the Mokola hill which give visitors grand view of the city, as well as its serene atmosphere, totally detached from the noisy world.
“I will be glad if they can bring back the old times, at least for memory sakes”, Adebambo prayed.