At the height of its fame, Nike Lake Resort was a touchstone of the hospitality industry, enjoying a reputation that went far beyond Enugu and hosted, literally, the who’s who of the company in business, politics and entertainment.
But over the decades, it has seen its own cycle of boom and bust, going through times when securing a reservation at the property was a challenge, and the embarrassing days of barely-functioning amenities where rooms were rarely fully functional. reserved. The latter has however been the most dominant image in recent times, with the hotel built in 1988 having literally overturned its enviable perch by new entrants who derisively call it a brand living simply on past glory.
Successive attempts to restore it to this old status have proved largely insufficient, or at best produced moments of short-lived rebirth. This time, however, a vast construction site, combined with the requisite political will, combined to give new grounds for optimism about the future prospects of the hotel. Its extensively renovated exterior and interior now offer standard accommodation options for families who typically return home for Christmas.
The massive upgrade saw an overhaul of furniture and sanitary ware in 126 rooms (the resort has 200 rooms and another 25 of its independent villas designed for families looking for a short but exclusively private stay.) moreover, carpets in the rooms which had become worn by long years of use were replaced by floor tiles. Indeed, with regard to world standards, the new Nike Lake look ticks several boxes: installation of CCTV cameras at strategic locations to further strengthen security; replacement of obsolete kitchen equipment with modern ones; water crosslinking system for adequate water supply; renovation and refurbishment of the Omenala Bush Bar with artistic works that give the establishment a more welcoming atmosphere.
This bar with its idyllic location on the edge of Lake Nike (the natural lake of about a thousand meters from which the name of the resort is derived), serves mostly traditional cuisine such as achicha, isi-ewu, nkwobi, abacha, ugba, point-and-kill, and palm wine. Its various pagoda-style huts with thatched roofs have been designed to create a country feel. Diners here can have a bird’s eye view of the lake and its pier, from where a boat could be hired by the intrepid guest keen to explore the lake. It’s no surprise that resort board chairwoman Ms. Ugochi Madueke cites the Omenala Bush bar as a major selling point.
And the rehabilitation is still only in the first phase. The impressive changes made so far indicate that the second step will easily take the hotel to the “next level”, as Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi urged the board and management during his visit to officially launch modernized facilities. Since the board’s inauguration last March, there has been virtually no day off for Madueke. “There was rot everywhere,” she said, noting that she inherited the “hulk” of the building almost in the literal sense. “It was obvious why a lot of hotel guests left,” she added.
There were more striking revelations: the taps in the bedrooms – that is, whenever they were on – produced brownish water; the laundry machines were all broken; none of the three cold rooms was functional. Worse yet, the condition of the kitchen left a lot to be desired. “If you walked into that kitchen at that point and were served a meal afterward, you are unlikely to eat it, no matter how appetizing it looked,” a- she declared.
Nine months after this image of desolation, a pleasant turnaround is very evident. From the 500-seat convention center to the main restaurant with seating for over 200 diners overlooking the pool to boot, and the main bar lobby where the scent of factory-fresh upholstery wafted lightly in the air, each section bore traces of rejuvenation. The kitchen, laundry room and cold rooms have also received a remarkable facelift. “We do a lot of things simultaneously. The hotel had suffered from leaks for a long time. So we started from the roof because we couldn’t make the rooms without fixing the roof. We also fixed the wings which were burnt in 2018, which was of course before our arrival, ”she explained, thanking the governor for the quick release of the grant which made the re-equipment of the hotel possible. .
Another point for which she is grateful to the Governor is the way he has helped ensure that Nike Lake Resort is run professionally as a business and is not viewed as an office benefit by employees. government officials. “We have a wonderful governor in the state who insists that government officials pay their bills when using hotel facilities. In fact, he always sets a good example by paying up front for government guests, ”she said.
The first phase of the turnaround completed just before December could not have come at a more auspicious time. Indeed, from the renovated gatehouse leading to the complex which sits on hectares of land, Christmas is in the air. “We’re trying to recreate what they would have traveled to get. So when you walk in you can feel that party feeling all around, ”said Doris Nwoha, hotel sales and marketing manager.
In addition to drastically reducing the room rate, the management has set a week of activities to provide both individual guests and families with a healthy Christmas experience. This includes a special brunch, a poolside barbecue, dance competitions and a diverse range of children’s games.
But Madueke is actually looking beyond this Christmas. “I have a great team who can take this hotel to the next level,” she said. She hopes that the complex will be a “strong competitor of the big hotel brands like Hilton, Radisson and will become the best in the east of Niger”.
It sounds daring. However, anyone who knew the kind of acclaim Nike Lake Resort enjoyed in the late ’80s and’ 90s would know it certainly has the potential.
Ani, former editor of THISDAY – The Saturday Newspaper and Saturday Telegraph, is a senior communications assistant to the Governor of Enugu State.