As Nigeria’s economy continues to sluggishly recover from the last recession, many small hotels are finding ways to change their story.
While lodging used to contribute to the larger chunk of the revenue of many small hotels in the past in some parts of Lagos, these days, the situation is changing, and very fast, too.
In the Ojota, Ikeja, Pamlgroove, Ketu, Ikorodu and Ogudu areas of Lagos, Saturday PUNCH observed that many hotels now make more money from ‘short-time’ service than actual lodging. With ‘short-time’ service, hotel rooms can be hired by the hour by amorous couples.
During a visit to a handful of small hotels in these places, one of our correspondents observed how male customers seeking to ‘relax’ with their female friends awaited their turns to use one of the rooms, which usually goes for between N1,000 and N2,000 per hour depending on the quality and standard of the hotel.
In the process of such waits, the drama that ensues, can best be imagined.
For example, in one of the hotels visited in the Palmgroove area of the city, one of our correspondents observed how some of the male customers eager to ‘spend time’ with their female friends, gave the bartender in charge of the rooms N200 tips to jump the ‘queue’. And soon after receiving the tips, the bartender sigalled to such customers and their partners to go through another entrance from where they would be taken to available rooms.
For the others still waiting for their turns to be ushered into a room, alcoholic beverages, fried meat, pepper soup are usually their companions during such periods. It was almost a similar scenario at hotels visited in the other neighbourhoods.
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Manager of one of the hotels in Ogudu, Tobi Adedotun, told Saturday PUNCH that it was indeed through ‘short-time’ or ‘short rest’ service that they were making the bulk of their daily and weekly revenue.
“Any small hotel that does not offer ‘short-time’ service will only be killing their own business because it is what brings money the most. How many people have money to lodge overnight in hotels now? Not so many.
“But with ‘short-rest’, we record more than N50, 000 in a day. This is aside from the drinks, pepper soup and other things that those waiting to use the rooms will buy.
“This is what has been keeping our business going, otherwise maybe by now, we would have closed down,” he said.
Similarly, around 8pm on a Thursday evening around Wilson Street in Ogba, Lagos, one of our correspondents posed as a potential customer who had come to book a room in a hotel for ‘short-time’ service with her partner who would later join her. The hotel reception was filled with men and a few women who were there for the same purpose. According to the receptionist, who identified herself as Sarah Filani, two rooms were dedicated for that purpose alone.
“Most of the people you see here are waiting to get the rooms ready for their use for ‘short-time’ service with their partners,” she said.
The price of a standard room in Snxk hotel (not real name) is N8, 500. However, it is cheaper when people only want ‘short-time’ service which according to Filani, is the highest request they get from guests who come to visit their hotel in the evenings.
“We hardly receive guests who are ready to stay the night, so that was why we decided to use most of the standard rooms for ‘short-time’ service,” she added.
Asked why they usually had more guests for ‘short-time’ service, she noted that it was due to the fact that most of the guests coming for the service were usually there with their mistresses and wouldn’t want to be caught in a “hotel” because of the stigma attached to it.
“You would hardly see any genuine couple coming for ‘short-time’ service, they are usually people who have mistresses. In fact, there is a man we have a deal with who visits the hotel at least twice a week with different women,” she told Saturday PUNCH.
Also in Ojuelegba, Chinedu Obi and his colleague who work in Bnx hotel (not real name) in the area, said they often turn to ‘emergency counsellors’ because of the many quarrels they have to settle between lovers after the use of their facility.
“We have had to settle several quarrels between women and men, especially after some men refused to pay the women as agreed. We don’t have a choice because these are the kind of people who still keep our business afloat. Due to the poor state of infrastructure in our hotel, we don’t record a high number of guests who are ready to stay the night. We have tried to rebrand the hotel the little way we can, but we are still stuck with these ‘short-time’ guests,” he told Saturday PUNCH.
Obi explained to our correspondent that he and his colleagues get paid based on commission.
“Our monthly pay is determined by the number of guests we get every month so we cannot even discourage the guests that come for ‘short-time’ service. If we do, then how are we going to be able to raise enough money to earn our pay,” he noted.
During the day, if one goes to Ayo Elegbede Street, Surulere, it is usually deserted. However, by 7 pm, it takes on a new look and there is an intimate, crowded feel to the place. A hotel around there becomes a beehive of activities. During one of our correspondents visit to the hotel, it appeared that virtually every man that walked out of its gate had a smile on their face.
Shortly after the correspondent settled on chair to watch a football match that was showing on TV, a man approached with a smile, saying, ‘Oga, good evening. I sell chicken, fish, and chips and I am sure you would like it.” Declining his offer, the unhappy young man retreated to his spot and continued to grill his fish.
While the match was going on, it was observed that after about every 15 minutes, once a batch of ladies and men exited from the rooms in the hotel, which were quite visible to one of our correspondents, another batch of couples would finish their drinks and head for the available rooms.
The correspondent later beckoned to the guy selling grilled fish to bring some. The young man later introduced himself as Segun. While interviewing Segun, he said, “This hotel has been around for a while and we offer the standard services that other big hotels offer but I would not lie to you, what really helps us is the ‘short-time’ service that we offer. If you look around, it is mostly young girls that are from tertiary institutions around Yaba that are here with their sugar daddies.
“The men just want to ‘blow off steam’ before they go home so it pays them to pay for a room of N1,000 or N2,000 depending on the standard. Once they are done, they either drop the girls off or get them a cab.”
Segun further explained that aside from how the ‘short-time’ service helps to improve the hotel’s revenue, it helps his business. “Most of these men hardly stay for the night so while they are waiting for their turn, they would definitely buy drinks and chicken and chips. Even when the men do not want to buy, I make sure I advertise them to the women who will always urge the men to buy from me. That is my marketing strategy,” he said.
A female receptionist in the hotel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said anyone who wished to spend the night would pay at least N6,000 for a room while the ‘short-time’ service only cost between N1,000 and N2,000.
After pretending that the correspondent’s date had disappointed him, the lady assured that it was no problem as such things sometimes happened and that they were also there to help out.
“If your babe no dey come, we fit help you arrange for one but you go settle us after o (if your babe fails to show up, we can get you a babe but you will also give us some money for the service),” she said as she beckoned to a male colleague who apparently had some sex workers he could call.
Even the popular posh Omole Estate Phase 1 in Lagos also has at least one of such hotels used for ‘quickies’. One could easily pass the building without noticing that it is a hotel as it has a small signboard on which the name of the hotel is written.
Located around Adeyemo Akapo Street, like most hotels of its kind, activities hardly begin till about 8:30pm. Saturday PUNCH learnt that the hotel has been operating for over a decade with a reputation for keeping everything that happens within the facility in the facility.
One of the hotel workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the facility was built for overnight lodging but business was not good for a long time. He, however, noted that since they started offering ‘short-time’ service to customers, the hotel’s fortunes had drastically improved.
“If the hotel had not started offering ‘short-term’ service, it would have been closed down by now, but after more than ten years we are still here. We have girls that come to lodge here just to meet patrons while we also have some people who bring their women here.
“For ‘short-time’ or ‘short rest’, we charge about N2,000 and we expect that the occupants would be done with their business in two hours because we have other guests waiting to use the rooms. And if you don’t have a babe, we can get one for you that you will like,” the worker said.
The worker later revealed that the ‘short-time’ service does not only benefit the owners of the facility but the receptionists too.
He said, “When someone comes to spend the night, proper documentation has to be taken seriously, most especially for auditing sake; but when it comes to the short rests, to be honest, we can pocket some of the money without the knowledge of management,” he revealed.
For over a decade, a hotel situated around Ajao Road, Ikeja, Lagos, has been in existence, providing accommodation, restaurant and bar services. But while it announces that it provides these services, one thing it always leaves out is that for N1,500, it also offers ‘short-time’ services for interested lovers for about two hours.
One of its workers told one of our correspondents, “’Short-time’ service is not something any hotel can announce but many small hotels offer it. It helps to augment our revenue and it is only the big hotels that don’t offer the service.
“Even if the managements of some small hotels tell you that they don’t offer the service, they may be lying or not be aware that the workers are doing it and putting the money in their pockets,” the worker said.