By Tola Gbadamosi & Bamidele Kolawole
The current coronavirus pandemic that has led to the shutdown of governments and businesses around the world is no doubt taking its toll on the hospitality, entertainment and printing industries in Ondo state as over 400 staff had been laid off in the hospitality industry alone.
Investigations conducted by The Hope revealed that the hospitality industry in the Sunshine state which had provided job opportunities for thousands of youths is gasping for survival due to low patronage.
The poor patronage coupled with high cost of logistics have forced many proprietors of hotels to sack their staff.
Our reporters gathered that many of the thriving hotels in the state capital have reduced their work force significantly just to keep body and soul together.
Since the restriction of movements and other measures put in place by the state government to contain the spread of the virus, some of the workers who and those supplying daily materials to most hotels have been disengaged, because they could no longer be paid for their services.
Some of the hoteliers have also gone spiritual and unless things returned to normalcy soon, they might return to downsizing.
Those who spoke with The Hope said they could no longer sustain the cost of maintaining their generators and other logistics and as such have no choice but to reduce their work force.
It was gathered that since late March, things have not been rosy for those in the hospitality, entertainment and printing sectors of the economy, as many of the hotels, night clubs and printing press have almost been deserted due to the lockdown and ban on all gatherings occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hitherto, artistes in the entertainment industry had a booming business as they regularly entertain guests at social gatherings and shows, while economic activities at the hotels and printing press were also high up and bubbling, but they are almost as silent as a grave yard now.
When The Hope visited some of the hotels in Akure, the atmosphere was somber with just a handfull of workers sitting around hoping for customers.
In some popular hotels at Ijapo Estate, their usually busy car parks were noticeably empty.
The Chairman, Association of Hoteliers in Ondo State, Mr Ebenezer Adeniyi, explained to our correspondents in an interview the debilitating effect the development was having on tourism and hotel business in the state, disclosing that members of the association are over 300, with each employing between eight to 50 workers.
He stated that the hospitality and entertainment industry in the state employed thousands of workers who are now doing little or nothing.
Adeniyi revealed that since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of workers who were engaged on daily jobs, and those supplying daily materials to most hotels have been disengaged.
The chairman said most hoteliers do not have the fund to continue maintaining their staff strength which they painfully had to reduce.
His words: “Even the remaining regular staff cannot collect full salaries again”.
He commended the state government for its support so far and pleaded for more intervention to help the situation.
Managers of reputable hotels in separate interviews, noted that the coronavirus pandemic in the country has led to the difficulty in running their businesses.
They said that the lockdown was associated with a lot of challenges such as difficulty in accessing transportation at night to get to hangout places and joints.
They noted that night crawlers have not been happy with the whole situation, especially essential night workers whose means of livelihood have been disrupted by the curfew imposed.
A Manager of a popular Hotels and Suites along Oba-Ile, Akure, who did not want his name in print, said the development has no doubt affected the hospitality industry drastically.
He expressed worry that customers no longer visit hotels due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown.
His words: “If this continues, we might shut down. Already, we have reduced number of workers by engaging them on shifts to observe the guidelines given by authorities”.
He however commended the state government for taking proactive measures to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
The Hope also visited Home Away from Home Hotels in Akure, where the management of the establishment corroborated the situation.
A music artiste, Taiwo Iwonimasin, lamented how COVID-19 has affected her in many ways.
She revealed that about three events she had been invited to play, were hurriedly postponed, and eventually held secretly without extending invitation to her any longer.
Noting that things were truly tough and hard at this period, she added that she has been surviving through the grace of God.
Iwonimasin stated that the current lockdown taught her to always save and not spend money unnecessarily.
The President of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria in Ondo State, Mr Jide Murphy, equally lamented how the lockdown has negatively affected the entertainment industry.
The entertainer posited that it has been difficult for them to move about since the pronouncements on lockdown were made by the Federal and state governments, saying they had exhausted all their savings, yet their business remained shut because of COVID-19
Murphy said: “Music is the only means by which we put food on our table, and with this development it has been difficult to feed our families. I therefore appeal to the government to come to our aid, and not leave us to our fate”.
One of the popular musicians in the State, Ambassador Yomi Bright, noted that entertainment is now widely sought through the use of the internet on social media channels, and Netflix is now experiencing an increase in its application usage.
According to him, most of the music producers have to find ways to earn money through online channels, so that they can get maximum revenue even during this pandemic.
A graphic designer and printer, Mr Ifelere Kolawole, lamented the effects of coronavirus to his business, saying the pandemic has caused him a lot of pains as he could no longer meet up with his financial obligations.
He noted that with the ban on social and other gatherings, there has been no order for wedding, burial invitation cards, no printing of programmes and souvenirs, making it almost impossible for many of his peers to feed their families.