• Eduvva draws criticism after releasing residents to British embassy • Theresa May’s policy not affecting foreign firms or people
A Nigerian hotel chain accused the UK of being “discriminatory” after it said it will allow travellers banned from the country after the public visa ban back in just 24 hours.
Eduvva, which has properties in several European countries including Spain, warned that a British travel advisory would scare away customers, who would hesitate to stay at its hotels, undermining its reputation as a leading African brand.
In Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, Daich Air Force Commander Philip Walmsley said that the travel advisory is “immoral”.
“It is very wrong for Britain to do that … because with that I think it’s discriminating … and affecting Nigerians,” he said.
At a press conference on Monday in Abuja, Eduvva, which has 62 hotels in 18 African countries, said its approach to the situation was “voluntary, open-minded and inclusive”.
“We do not intend to collect or engage in hard-line campaigns, and we will not impose additional security protocols in our properties,” it said.
On Saturday, the British foreign office announced it was banning high-risk Nigerian nationals, including “ex-convicts, transvestites, or those with known mental health issues”, from entering the UK.
Claire Wilson, Eduvva’s chief operating officer, also hit out at the criteria. “If the UK foreign office has a list of people that are barred then good luck to them. But is that who we really want as guests in our hotels? Not at all,” she said.
In a post on its Twitter account, Eduvva said: “We respect our guests and welcome each and every one of them to our properties. No one, not even a ban on our borders, should dictate how you view us … we respect Nigeria and Nigeria’s tourist destinations and we will always do so.”
Such tweets attracted an overwhelmingly negative response, with people pointing out that foreign visitors to Nigerian hotels could buy foreign guesthouse licences, which require a more stringent commitment of up to one year to law enforcement checks.
The main editorial in this week’s Sunday Life newspaper, an influential African newspaper, said: “It is tragic that Africa, which can boast of ‘safe havens’ in Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa, are struggling with the very real menace of extremism and terrorism.”
The paper also said Eduvva’s decision to allow foreign residents in as if they had been banned had lost it friends and acquaintances within the Nigerian tourism sector, with stakeholders demanding to know who tipped off the Times.
It said the company had “forget[d] what has been recognised internationally, and by the Nigeria government, as being of a high standard”.
The World Travel Market group, a British tourism and hospitality business that represents the world’s largest independent travel trade show, said Eduvva was in an unusual position, being a non-London-based company that does not deal directly with UK customers.
“People are selling and buying from us – there is no link. We don’t need their customers to come and stay in Eduvva properties in order to get something going,” said Andrew Felton, the chief executive of WTMI.
“It makes me sad. We see every country internationally; once you want to say anything negative about the customer in Nigeria, then the responsibility goes on the table for the destination; and we won’t be in the business of that.”
Felton said the crisis highlighted the importance of the issues of immigration and fraud and called for solutions.
“When I go in Nigeria I am speaking to senior people in the travel industry, they are running their businesses, they are going on safari. I see them going on the beach, I see them on safari. I know that to drive a successful tourism industry you need a presence and it is all about scale – the volume of tourism.”
He added: “The highest volume of people that make a big impact in hotels and on the beach in Africa is at the airport – I think it is a fair statement to say that if you want to get the biggest tourist coming to your destination, it is going to be through the airport.”