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Like the fabled Cheshire cat in Lewis Caroll’s literary classic, Alice in Wonderland, Jim Ovia’s Marriott Hotel project has no doubt turned to a white elephant project, literally though. Few people will forget the unusual buzz news of the hotel’s emergence in the highbrow hospitality sector generated few years ago.

The end might have come sooner than expected for Jim Ovia, chairman and founder of Zenith Bank’s ambition to play big in the hospitality industry. For a man who has succeeded in many of his endeavours, Ovia’s Marriott Hotel project might be a stillbirth after all. In 2012, Ovia’s Quantum Luxury Properties Limited entered a multi-billion naira agreement with the global hotel brand, Marriott, to have one in Nigeria.

Primed to be located beside the Civic Centre, also owned by Ovia, on the Ozumba Mbadiwe waterfront Victoria Island, Lagos, the proposed five-star hotel, he said, would comprise 150 star rooms with a 2014 launch date already set. “We identified a gap in the marketplace within the hospitality industry to support the burgeoning sectors. Nigeria is well known for its hospitality and Lagos as a mega-city deserves a world class facility to complement its status.

We are proud to have the opportunity to partner with a world-class brand like Marriott,” Ovia said excitedly, adding that the Nigerian economy continues to be an attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), particularly with the boom in the telecoms industry and the attractiveness of the banking sector.” That was in 2012.

What many didn’t know perhaps is that it wasn’t just Ovia that got the Marriott franchise; Taiwo Afolabi, the shipping magnate behind SIFAX Group regarded as one of Africa’s fastest growing multinational corporations with diversity in Maritime, Aviation, Haulage & Logistics, Oil & Gas, also got approval to site one in G.R.A, Ikeja, Lagos. Unlike Ovia’s which seem to be dead and buried, Afolabi’s 250-room Marriott Hotel has now been completed. The beautiful hotel was opened yesterday amidst pomp and pageantry.

Speaking at a briefing to herald the opening of the hotel, General Manager, Lagos Marriott Hotel, Janse Van Rensburg said the facility was delivered after six years of spadework in a partnership with SIFAX Group and the renowned global hotel brand Marriott International.

The 250-bed, five-star hotel built on 11 floors, has modern facilities, including exclusive flight crew lounge, VIP lounges, 1,000 – capacity ballroom, executive meeting rooms, 400- capacity car park, 206 standard rooms, 44 suites; including three presidential suites, well equipped gym, continental restaurants and other facilities.

He said a team from both groups had been working round the clock to use the infrastructure as a signature offering to redefine the nexus between the travel industry.

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