By Dikachi Franklin, in Owerri
The long standing apathy exhibited towards the hotel and hospitality industry by past and present governments in Imo State may soon be broken as the state government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma may have seen the relevance and contributions of the hotel and hospitality industry to boosting the economy and helping to absorb a larger chunk of the unemployed youths and has now spoken publicly that it would work with Imo State Hoteliers Association (ISHA) to enhance the sector.
Since the industrial sector has been crippled in Imo State as a result of the state government’s failure to provide conducive environment for industrial growth, it is the hotel and hospitality sector that has helped the state government to sustain the economy.
It is also this sector that has been helping it to reduce the growing youth unemployment as the state now ranks first on the unemployment ladder among the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Chima Chukwunyere, the chairman of the Imo State Hoteliers Association (ISHA) said, while making remarks at the end of the year party of the association held at Harvester’s Hotel and Suites, Owerri.
He appreciated the government’s effort that has now realised the numerous contributions of the hotel and hospitality industry in sustaining the economy as well as government’s move to bring about a healthy environmental condition to make the hotel and hospitality industry thrive.
If that is done, Chima said, youths would be gainfully employed, more funds would go to the government purse and the multiplier effects will be high in the state.
“This is the largest industry in the state and the second largest employer of labour and Imo State Hotelier’s Association must continue to support the Imo State government to build a strong economy,” he said.
Chima, however, decried the low patronage being recorded by the industry in the state, attributing it to the security challenges as a result of lack of commitment of the police to their duties.
“Visitors who patronize the hotels do not come because of insecurity, the police are no longer doing their duties in the state,” he informed.
He stated further, “The more we are patronized, the more money will go to the government purse, but the patronage has been very, very low because of insecurity”.
Doris Akubuo Onyeali, the Imo State commissioner for Tourism, Creative Arts and Culture noted that the Coronavirus had adverse effects on the hotel and hospitality industry and had reduced their patronages but stated that the Imo State government has resolved to partner with the sector .
“Government will take the hotel and hospitality industry to be number one sector and government will also take the industry higher, government needs to partner with the Imo State Hoteliers Association, “ to build a strong and a healthy economy, the commissioner said.
She reiterated the resolve of the government to partner with the association and bring about an enabling environment for the sector to thrive so that they could create more job opportunities while charging the hoteliers to ensure they pay their taxes and rates as at when due.
“Let us not shy away from our civic responsibility, to pay taxes and rates, and feel free to tell government your problems for us to know,” the commissioner said.
Meanwhile, Charles Ezeala, the national treasurer of the Nigeria Hotels Association who incidentally is the chairman of the Nigeria Hotels Association, Abia State branch has charged hotel operators in Imo to ensure they are registered with ISHA to enable it register properly with the national body so as to get ISHA inaugurated by the national parent body .
Ezeala disclosed that the national body was working assiduously for the betterment of the association in the country even to the extent of working for their own fair share of the COVID -19 palliative as well as soft loans from the federal government .
In his remarks, Justus Okoye, the chairman of the Imo Internal Revenue Service (IIRS) had commended the role the hotel sector has been playing in the state and working as partners in progress for the economic development of Imo State.
Okoye revealed that the IIRS has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the 27 local government areas in the state, and had also made the ISHA to be incharge of revenue collection in the 27 LGAs as the government had resolved to work in partnership with the association.