•670 suites, 20 meeting halls, 7 bars distinguish it
By KEMI YESUFU
It is where Nigeria’s powerful, moneybags and privileged few love to do just about everything. Their serious business, crucial meetings, leisure, frivolity and money-making all have space here. The Abuja Transcorp Hilton is the preferred location for people of high taste and high spending. No matter how viewed, the city will still take some years to get something that rivals the spot.
This explains why the Hiltonia membership card, which gives its holder access to all the facilities at the hotel is highly sought after even when acquiring it is costly. The Hilton hotel is an international brand of reputation. The multinational rivals among the best and most spread all over the globe.
Wherever it exists, it attunes to the international standards defined in the Hilton model. So, this in Abuja fits squarely into that mould. Regular folks often visit the five-star hotel located in the Maitama District thereby making it one of the most popular locations in the country. Even a JJC (stranger or uninformed) cab driver will safely drop off passengers at this popular spot.
But it is the big spenders most of whom are unbelievably unbending about hanging out at luxuriant settings that have kept the Abuja Hilton relevant. Expatriates and members of the diplomatic corps also love this cossy place. Despite a number of name changing from the days of Nicon Hilton to the present Transcorp Hilton, courtesy of changes in ownership, the persnickety lot who won’t stay anywhere else but the Maitama hotel has ensured that aspiring competitors postpone their day of takeover as Nigeria’s topnotch hotel.
Some would simply say that it is the effortless cool and sophisticated character of the Abuja Hilton that makes it tick; others would argue that its alluring appeal lies in the fact that you can bump into just about anyone at the hotel. From international celebrities to powerful Nigerian politicians, the Hilton lobby is one place that chance meetings have changed many lives.
It is no wonder that the immediate past General Manager of the hotel, Andre Herrenschmidt described his seven-year stay in Abuja in exhilarating terms. “At the Abuja Hilton, you meet the world”, he said. “It is actually an exceptional landmark. I have great memories of receiving so many key players in the world from Bill Gates, Bill Clinton to the members of the International Olympic Community to the organisers of FIFA Under-17 football competition.
But the highlight will remain the State Banquet at the presidential Villa held for the 50th Anniversary of Nigeria.” While Herrenschmidt take on the Abuja Hilton is irrefutable, tourism experts also point to the physical and operational size of this hotel which has 670 rooms, over 20 meeting rooms, seven restaurants and bar, a massive swimming pool, a play ground and courts for lawn tennis as well as three other games. Interestingly within the cultured class that lodge at this hotel, there still exists the ultra-sophisticated group who only stay at executive rooms on the 9th and 10th floors. The 10th floor also hosts the presidential suites.
Abuja Metro can disclose that aside from visiting global dignitaries, Lagos born billionaire Ambassador, Dehinde Fernandez stays in the presidential suite each time he lodges in the Hilton. Abuja Metro investigations also showed that rooms at these two exclusive floors start from N320,000 a night. This explains why the 10th floor has its own facilities, such as its receptionists, a bar and meeting room. To stay on these floors, you either pay in cash or in kind.
To pay in kind, the Transcorp Hilton management has a standing offer for a complimentary night stay in an executive room for any client that purchases a bottle of Hennessey Richard at N2m or Hennessey Eclipse at N600,000. Whichever of the rooms lodgers can afford or however they choose to pay for it, one thing that makes sleeping at the Hilton refreshing is the clear view of the city landscape from many of its rooms. Notwithstanding its largely impeccable reputation, what better way to scrutinize the Abuja Hilton than sneaking in on a Friday night?
Though the capital city had emptied out for the sallah celebrations when Abuja Metro visited, all of the restaurants and bars at the Hilton were busy on the night. Just as this reporter checked in for a night of exploration, the voice of a female crooner at the popular Piano Lounge engulfs a wide radius in the hotel’s main entrance. As you saunter in there to take a seat to listen to the singer and her back-up pianist, you pause to see what is happening at the nearby Lobby Bar where a jazz band is entertaining a group of fun seekers. Drumming that sounded like one from a village square can be heard around the Bukka restaurant.
It definitely would draw any curious mind wondering what a traditional group is performing in front of a restaurant well past 9pm. But, those that know the Hilton hotel well will tell that traditional groups routinely perform at the Bukka foyer. The successful recreation of the scenery at a typical local bukka ends with the dancers and drummers. Not only does the spick and span condition of the Hilton Bukka and its buffet styled service bring you back to reality, the cost of eating at the restaurant is ten times higher than any mamaput around. It takes not less than N4600 to eat at the Bukka. Away from the Bukka, it doesn’t take much thinking for many who want to party at the Hilton. For most revelers the best place to start is the Capitol Bar. Live-band music remains the favorite of the people of Abuja. T
hose who stick with Capitol Bar do so because it is the only raucous free place to enjoy a medley of live music. Unlike other often noisy hangouts in downtown or boring bands in some hotels, the Capitol Bar is a good blend of lively musicians, cold drinks and a livened audience that manages to stay civilized. The Capitol Bar is also the place you can get tasty chicken wings. But the hottest spot at the Hilton is its discotheque. You have to walk through the casino to get to Safari nightclub where all the action ends on Fridays.
Majority of fun seekers in the Hilton congregate in Safari nightclub once the curtain is drawn at all other in-house bars. The best time to go into Safari is a little after midnight. If the performers at the in-house bars were at their best the two DJ’s in Safari did not impress on the night. They committed a musical sin by not playing a hit song for the first 30 minutes of the club’s opening. I
t was much later that one of the DJs started dishing out tracks from rave acts such as Wizkid and P-Square. The below average performance of the Disc-Jockey notwithstanding, those at the club danced till the early hours of Saturday. It was obvious that they just wanted to have fun no matter what. There were also no complaints about the food or the drinks as orders were promptly served. It definitely is fun hanging out at the Abuja Hilton, though many would say it is costly to do so. But for those who want service of international standard here in Nigeria, the Transcorp Hilton remains the place to go especially as it is considered one of the safest places in the capital city.