Chido Nwakanma reflects on his experience with five hotels in Aba and Umuahia during recent visits to Abia, God’s Own State.

I like to check out hotels in the cities I visit for what they say about the places. Other factors come into play to determine where one lodges in a town. During my first visit to New York for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) world conference, I stayed in Hotel Edison, one block away from Times Square, Manhattan. It was to enable me to check out the city’s attractions. The cost was also a factor in preferring Hotel Edison to the Hilton Manhattan, the host hotel.

Hospitality experts list ten must-haves of good hotels. They include cleanliness, adequate safety/security, Internet, comfortable beds, and bathroom plumbing. Others are lighting, particularly in the rooms, aroma, simple and tasty food, and an excellent front desk for easy check-in and check-out.

Umuahia and Aba are the two significant cities in Abia State. While Umuahia is the state capital, Aba is the torchbearer for commerce and entrepreneurship. Aba and Umuahia share a similar approach to hotel patronage. They flock to the newest place, the new kid on the block.

Rixos Continental Resort shines and dazzles in Umuahia

In Umuahia, Rixos Continental Resort is the new belle. Occupancy is high, and rooms go off the rack quickly.

Rixos Continental Resort by CBN Junction off Bende Road, Umuahia 440324 is eye candy. Its modern building delights, and it offers standard facilities in the rooms. The standard room is, well, standard—the current offer of tea facilities in the room, decent plumbing, and many towels.

Its Blue Caribbean Swimming Pool is inviting. Then there is a poolside bar and an Irish garden on the other side and plenty of room for gathering near the pool and bar. There is an elevated space on the first floor above the bar. The ambience is salubrious.

Dum Hall is the conference facility of Rixos Hotel, and Rixos declares that it “affords you  a unique opportunity to meet in style.”

The website of Rixos Continental Hotel announces a gym. It boasts that it is the only hotel in Umuahia with an elevator.   Rixos is one of three trending hotels in Umuahia. The other two are Hotel Royal Damgrete and Golden Olives Hotel.

However, the average waiting time for meals we ordered at Rixos Continental was one and half hours. We experienced the same at Ibiza Resort Hotel, the comely new bride of Aba hotels.

Ibiza Hotel & Resort is the new bride of Aba hospitality

Ibiza… is luxe and modern, sits on Okigwe Road and has become a significant attraction. Its architect converted a small space (for the scale of its ambition) into something elegant and appealing. The car park tells of the constricted space as vehicles jostle.

The rooms are well-aspected. Ibiza offers good free high-speed internet (WiFi), a swimming pool, a fitness centre and gym, a children’s activities space and a business centre.

The poolside Aba is a key attraction in Ibiza. Customers gather here more than in the restaurant or bar. The offering is good with a barbecue stand to grill stuff.

Ibiza Hotel seems to have moved the crowd from Hotel Du Golf, Old GRA, Aba.

Hotel Du Golf radiates quality and timeless elegance

The exquisite Hotel Du Golf radiates quality and timeless elegance. The promoters built it in the best fashion.

Hotel Du Golf appeals despite the toll of age. It was the place to be a few years ago, near the Aba Golf Club and the Governor’s Lodge. We came in late to lodge and tested its claim to 24 hours service. I ordered snacks and coffee. Then I called laundry to do a quick turnaround with my clothes. Hotel Du Golf staff delivered on both counts.

Facilities include a standard swimming pool, a gym, a minimart and boutique, and spacious halls that the hotel describes as a “classic place for all events.” Meals are African cuisine and continental/oriental cuisine.

Abia Hotel should be better

Abia Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in the state. It started as the Catering Rest House of the colonial and immediate post-colonial days. There are two in Aba, but we stayed in the main one opposite the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Binez Hotel, an old player in hospitality in Aba, won the concession to manage this hotel. They have not started. The less said about Abia Hotel, the better. I scribbled in my notebook that Abia Hotel is in a time warp. It is like stepping into the 1980s.

The rooms are big with substantial 6×6 beds. I changed from Room 207 to 203 because of the noisy wall unit air conditioner, an otherwise unclean room, a television without remote control (same as in the next room) and the lack of a writing table. Of course, it did not have WiFi.

Yet, Abia Hotel has extensive grounds for outdoor parties. There are chalets with suites or rooms that people rent for meetings and socials. It should have healthy patronage in this political season. Binez should activate its concession and make it work.

Quality speaks even after many years at Hotel Royal Damgrete

Twenty years later and with new solid competitors, Hotel Royal Damgrete can still claim its self-assigned moniker as the best hotel in Umuahia.

Quality speaks and lasts—Damgrete benefits from the excellent finishing of its exterior and interior many years later.

I was here first in 2000. It is still spick and span. The marble finishing has helped it age well without the disfigurement and loss of colour that often happens with similar facilities.

Each hotel defers to its environment. Hotel Royal Damgrete offers mainly local cuisine, from breakfast to dinner. It is just as well.

It is one of a few hotels in Abia State and the South-East to offer local delicacies such as ukazi with achara. They are niggardly with the achara, but they had it to serve.

On this visit, Ikeddy Isiguzo and I hosted the Umuahia chapel of the Correspondents Association to break bread and bond. It was an exciting evening.

The next day, April 8, I shared drinks with my schoolmates at the Federal School of Arts & Sciences, Aba (Class of 80-82). Our school no longer exists because Nigeria phased out A-Levels, but it exists in our hearts and minds with shared experiences.

On hand for the evening meeting were Joy Utah, Onyebuchi Nwoko aka Oncle, Chuks Onuoha and class captain Johnson Owanta. The Class of 80-82 plans a 40-year Reunion on 22 – 24 April 2022.

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service at Hotel Royal Damgrete is courteous. The staff are helpful. They are available and willing and do not disappear as in some other hotels.

The rooms are spacious and outfitted with the right mix of facilities. They now offer standard air-conditioning, desk, WiFi, and television with many channels. The bathroom is neat; it reflects its age with a bathtub and handheld shower. They would do better with more recent wash facilities and showers. And more than one towel, please!

Hotel Royal Damgrete offers reasonable grounds. There is a swimming pool, a lawn tennis court, and a gym. People sit out as we did poolside with a bar. Then there is a well-equipped gym.

I found some of the art furniture on the grounds alluring.

Hotel Royal Damgete on Factory Road, Umuahia, deserves many repeat visits and stays.

Hardware sans software and no tourism promotion

The hospitality industry in the South-East generally has shown great capacity in hardware. The hotels are often attractive physical specimens. The service software is a significant drawback, with few exceptions.

It’sService. Service. Service.

The hotels and facilities in the two towns say that Abians are up-to-date and contemporary.

None of the hotels had any tourism promotion of any kind. No one in Umuahia offered guests, including on this trip many guests from the South West and South-South as well as renowned journalists and educators, any journey to tourism spots in Umuahia or Aba. The government’s tourism promotion agency should have at least information desks in the more hotels. Such desks are standard in South Africa, Kenya, and even Ghana.

The hotels are vibrant with patronage. Do hotels reflect the economy, or are they bubble zones removed from the reality of the larger society? Big debate. However, the construction standards speak to the desirable.

Have you booked your accommodation and tourist site for Easter 2023?

About hotels

The primary purpose of hotels is to provide travellers with shelter, food, refreshment, and similar services and goods, offering things furnished within households but unavailable to people on a journey away from home, says Encyclopedia.com

“Historically, hotels have also taken on many other functions, serving as business exchanges, sociability centres, public assembly and deliberation, decorative showcases, political headquarters, vacation spots, and permanent residences”, it adds.

Globally, hotels as industry and institutions transformed travel, creating new areas of activity while extending the influence of urban culture. Great hotels have contributed to the beautification of the landscape of their cities. They are also an index of real estate, construction standards and modelling other virtues.

Significantly, hotels speak to the living standards of a city. You can tell about the living index of a city by the quality and type of hotels within it. It may even be aspirational.

Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel opened to great acclamation in 1986 in Abuja for bearing the hopes and visions of a capital city in the making. It was huge, classy, and international standard. Yet, Abuja was a city in the making.