The Nigerian tourism industry is already counting its losses with the death of the founding pastor of Synagogue Church Of All Nations.
United Bank for Africa image maker, Ramon Nasir, who perhaps first made a public assessment of the possible impact of the late pastor on tourism in Nigeria, wrote on his Facebook page: “My admiration became more telling on a Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi to Lagos three years ago, when I realised that half of the passengers in that big plane were on religious visit to Synagogue Church of All Nations…. Pilgrims to his church were virtually from all parts of the globe….”
Nasir went on to narrate how the airline attendant told him that the church remained their biggest market in Nigeria and concluded that “the country has lost a good ambassador.”
A similar story would be how Air Namibia had to, at some point, suspend its schedule to Nigeria the moment the Nigerian embassy in that country (due to some diplomatic row) stopped issuing visa to visitors headed for the West African country.
Uguru recalled: “I was in the team that met with the Prime Minister of the Southern African country, Mrs. Saara Kuugongelwa, during an effort to revive its tourist sector. We found out that 95 percent of the travellers to Nigeria were headed the Synagogue; and once the embassy stopped issuing visa, the airline had no choice but to suspend its operations to Nigeria.”
Assessing the impact on hotel businesses, Okorie said 80 percent of non-business tourists who come into Lagos and Ikeja environs were headed for Synagogue Church of All Nations. As at 2016 when he did a rough assessment of hotel facilities around the church, he said there were about 3,500 bed spaces. And that is excluding informal lodging business that is known to thrive in the environs.
“Between 2016 and now, we have had nothing less than 1,500 additional bed spaces. The question therefore is how are these businesses going to survive if there is a sudden stop to the activities that attracted them in the first place?
Solomon Andrew, Assistant General Manager, D One Lodge Hotels on Adamo Street opposite the church, reflected the mood of hospitality business owners in the axis, when he said, “The whole place has been quiet since his death was announced. In fact, it’s as if his death occurred right here, because it is affecting our business both in the area of lodging and patronage to our restaurant.
“I tell you, we have not overcome the shock. Up till now, we are still looking forward to someone coming from nowhere to tell us that the story is not true. We know how his person impacted our business. Since he started skeletal activities at the prayer mountain, we had started seeing a steady inflow of tourists coming into this place; but now that he has passed on…” , Andrew left the statement hanging.
Asked if he was aware of any succession plan, Andrew said, “With the kind of person he was, he must have had something in the pipeline for the future of the church. TB Joshua is not a selfish person that would want whatever he was doing to end with his death. He always made it clear that whatever success you have, if you don’t have a successor, it is failure in disguise. So I want to believe he made arrangements for his succession.”