Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Electronic gate controversy:Stakeholders may boycott Eko Hotels

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) stakeholders may shun future events organized at the Eko Hotels & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos over alleged exploitations associated with its electronic gate controversy.

ITRealms Online gathered that several industry stakeholders who were invited to attend events at the hotel decried the toll collection on them, in order to honour an event hosted at the premises, despite the organizers paying the requisite fees.
It was also gathered that even the organizers of such events themselves are victims of the toll fee collection.

This became evident since the reconstruction of the hotel’s gate into self-served electronic system, which allows visitors, especially car-owners to gain entrance through pressing of button, which prints out a pass containing the time and date of their accessing the gate.

Equally, this pass is presented at the gate on the way out, followed with the calculation of how many hours the car was parked in the premises.

Although the management placed a notice at the gate informing whom it may concern of the N200 charge per hour, while the first 10 minutes is free, it was not clear if event organizers and their guests were exempted.

However, ITRealms Online investigation revealed that the hotel staff at the gate still collect toll from people who have visited the hotel on official grounds, even after the organizers had paid the official price for the usage of some of the halls, thereby amounting to double taxation; both on the organizers and their unassuming guests.

Efforts to speak with the guest relations officers on duty, last weekend Friday, proved abortive as the two attempts could not find any of the supposed six officers who man the desk on shift to attend to our inquiries.

But coming to their rescue, the duty manager, Mr. Shola Ojeyemi, told ITRealms Online when contacted that the toll fee became necessary due to some unidentified persons who have turned the hotel parking space meant for customers only into their own and could even park their vehicles for endless hours, moreso when they do not have business in the hotel or recourse to the management.

He explained that any official visitor to the hotel, particularly invited for an event should not be charged further toll, because arrangement has been made to ensure that organizers have enough ‘free pass’ for their guests, depending on expected participants, which must be endorsed by the management staff or a manager.

Unfortunately for Nigerians, most event organizers are still ignorant of this option, thus not tapping it, even as the gate staff do not offer any explanation whatsoever.

Our investigation also showed that even organizers themselves still pay toll fees to avoid the attendant embarrassment, which have been confirmed on several occasions.
Factually, this has continued to scare some genuine car-owner visitors to the hotel away, hence forcing those who dare without knowing how long their meeting could take to find alternative parking space within Victoria Island and then ply commercial motor-bikes otherwise known as Okada to Eko Hotel’s gate.

Some of the stakeholders who commented on the development said that they have since the new gate stopped bringing their cars to the hotel, even when on official engagement, describing it as a double exploitation; taking from the organisers and guests alike.

Others, who spoke anonymously, lamented that it is disheartening that this kind of thing is going on in Nigeria without any government checking it.

“I have travelled widely both home and abroad without seeing where hotels charge toll on visitors, at the same time taking money for renting their space for a business meeting?” one of the participants at an ICT-industry event fumed.

“They are waiting until when an event is organised and there is no attendant to see reason,” he further declared.

According to some of the respondent, even if organizers at the hotel are ignorant of the offer, which borders on the public relations of the hospitality company, there is a need to alert them or at best attach it permanently to organizers benefits when booking.

“Since it’s rare for people to live in the hotel, which means most of their guests are visitors. So, how can you be tasking your visitors?” he wondered, warning that Eko Hotel should not result to exploiting Nigerians, rather than hospitality and called on the government, especially in Lagos State, to look into this kind of ‘extra-taxation urgently, even as the latest addition about the electronic toll gate has not been added to Eko Hotels & Suites websites.

Most of the participants, last weekend, made up of dealers of one of the electronic product brands, drawn nationwide for a forum, equally lamented on the toll fee, saying it is discouraging for potential customers, hence, leaving wrong impression on them since there is no other known hotel in the country charging official visitors to events for parking.

As the rainy season draws nearer, this situation is most sympathetic for those who eventually come to events early at the hotel, who may be ignorant of the ‘free pass’, because definitely their toll fee would amount the highest since every hour is N200 and the event may be delayed.

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