In its determination to create a new tourism destination proposition for Lagos State and a unique hospitality experience for local and international tourists, the Babatunde Fashola administration of Lagos State, on Wednesday 20, February 2008, made history when it officially finalised the process of acquiring the world's first boat hotel - the Sunborn Yacht Hotel. The cost of acquisition, transportation and up-grade of the spectacular hospitality facility has been put at about _25 million when delivered by the third quarter of this year.
The deal, initiated by the Fashola administration through the state's Ministry of Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations, was bank-rolled by Diamond Capital Ltd, the investment banking arm of Diamond Bank Plc and facilitated by MIDC Ltd and Westcom Ltd, two Nigerian venture capital advisory firms. When delivered, the facility will bring Lagos State into the league of major cities of the World such as New York, Paris, Barcelona, among others, with prestigious yacht hotels, signaling the high points of their tourism earning efforts.
Speaking at the brief occasion of the final sales contract signing ceremony for the acquisition which has a Lagos-based firm, Planet Project Ltd as Project Managers and Consultants, at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, who represented the governor at the event, described the dream of the present administration to acquire a heritage hotel such as the Sunborn Yacht Hotel as indicative of the administration's desire to transform the tourism landscape in Nigeria and assume sector leadership in Africa and beyond.
He said: "The Hotel we have just acquired for Lagos with the support of Diamond Capital Ltd will be the first of its kind in Africa and indeed the Middle East and put us in the league of the first five major cities of the world with similar hospitality facilities and tourism earnings capabilities. This hospitality facility is the first that was custom-built. So it is a piece of heritage that we are buying into."
According to Afikuyomi, the success of the Lagos State government bid is a proof of the correctness of the often expressed belief of Fashola, that, what will move Lagos forward is, "a combination of the talents, assets, resources and potentials of the public sector and the private sector. Hence, this project is driven as Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative."
Afikuyomi ascribed the success of the acquisition bid, which saw Lagos beating the cities of Doha and Dubai respectively, two renowned tourism destinations in the world, to the inspiring leadership of Fashola (SAN), his colleagues at the Water Front, Physical Planning, Justice, Environment, Works and Infrastructure Ministries respectively as well as the encouraging efforts of the Special Adviser on Taxation and indeed the entire members of the Lagos State Cabinet who bought into the bold vision.
He said that "but for their support, Lagos would not have been able to make this history, as the quest by Dubai to acquire a QE2 Boat Hotel would have meant that the first Boat Hotel in the African continent and the Middle East would have gone first to Dubai. But today, we have positioned Lagos on the world tourism map and the results would be self-evident for all to see."
In his remarks, Hans Niemi, Executive Director, Sunborn International, commended the Lagos State government for the warm African hospitality his visiting team had been treated to. He described the move by the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations to acquire the Sunborn Yacht Hotel for the City of Lagos as "a demonstration of uncommon bravery and courage on the part of those at the helm of affairs in the State."
According to him, "since we arrived in Lagos, we have seen what the term 'African hospitality' means. It's been truly wonderful to see the work you are doing in Lagos. It seems true that this is the right time, a very exciting time to be part of this industry in Lagos."
Hans further explained the vision of Sunborn International. "As a company, we are a very innovative company. We like to do things in creative and innovative ways. These are the kind of partners that we like to do business with and will do business with. Thanks for sharing the vision of Sunborn International. It means so much to us."
Speaking in the same vein, Lasse Heikkinen, the architect who designed the floating spectacle, described the experience of having the Sunborn Yacht Hotel in Lagos as very exciting, given the peculiar warmth and character of the people.
Mr. Tony Onwu, the Managing Director, Diamond Capital Ltd, praised the professional brinksmanship displayed by the Lagos State government team led by Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, describing the conduct of the government team "as promising that the administration is a trust worthy partner the organised private sector can do business with."
Onwu expressed the determination of his banking institution to continue to work with public sector players as the Lagos State government in the transformation of the key sectors of the state. He said: "We have absolutely no doubt in our minds that the vision of multiple tourist destinations in Lagos was achievable and achievable within a short time frame. We have absolutely no doubt that the asset we are jointly acquiring today as fast track executable transaction was something that was financiable and bankable from our perspective."
He expressed confidence in the Fashola administration saying, "this administration and its team are going to lead Lagos to the horizons we are thinking about."
The final sales contract signing ceremony, which followed two days of inspection of the proposed Marina waterfront site for the floating hotel facility by the team, was attended by key officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations, Diamond Capital Ltd, MIDC Ltd, Planet Project Ltd and legal Consultant, Mr. Ovie Ukiri of Ajumogobia & Okeke.
The 105 luxury suites floating hotel is fitted with such breathtaking facilities as two exquisite royal suites with private sauna, separate bedroom and a living room, terrace balcony overlooking the water in 58 rooms, a central air-conditioning system for all the rooms and public places, fully equipped 5th deck restaurant with kitchen and cocktail bar for 100 people, a yacht club lobby bar for about 70 people, another upper deck banquet hall capable of seating over 200 people, and two inter-connected conference rooms, amongst others features.