Landmark Rebounds After Lagos Demolition 

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Landmark Rebounds After Lagos Demolition 

After trying unsuccessfully to save parts of its beachfront from demolition for a controversial Federal Government’s coastal highway construction, Nigeria’s foremost leisure center, Landmark Africa is rebounding and planning to expand to two locations in West Africa and states in other parts of Nigeria. 

In a statement to Semafor Africa, the Chief Executive Officer, Paul Onwuanibe disclosed that the company has been extended invitations: one from the Gambian government and from three state governments in Nigeria, to develop waterfront leisure hubs in order to improve tourism in the states. 

Among the commissioned projects are developments slated for Akwa Ibom, a rich oil-producing state which also has a beach situated along the Atlantic Ocean. Akwa Ibom had pitched to Landmark to explore investing in the state after its demolition in Lagos state. The completion of the Akwa Ibom project is anticipated before the year’s end, whereas the project in Gambia “will take a little bit longer,” Onwuanibe noted.

According to Akwa Ibom’s tourism commissioner, Charles Udoh, the state expressed interest on May 10 in “seeking a partnership” with the company to develop a portion of its shoreline for tourism purposes.

Additionally, Landmark is exploring various locations in Lagos for the construction of another leisure property. However, this may pose challenges as the CEO highlighted, citing the absence of compensation from the Nigerian government for the demolition of its beachfront.

The expanding projects, for which Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) have been executed, will be entirely financed by Landmark at $5 million apiece, with the land provided by the government partners. “My team met with the Gambian President’s envoy including the First Lady today to finalize plans,” Onwuanibe told Semafor Africa last weekend. 

Last month, the Federal Government demolished leisure and entertainment structures on the Landmark beachfront, sparking criticism from the tourism industry which questioned the decision to destroy “the biggest tourism spot in Lagos” in favor of road construction.

Nigerian government officials cited plans for a proposed 700-kilometer highway that would connect the country’s southwest through Lagos to Calabar in the east, with the beach lying in its path. A demolition notice for the beach was issued in March.

The construction of the highway, projected to cost $11 billion and span eight years, will be undertaken by Hitech, a company owned by the Chagoury Group, whose Lebanese-Nigerian owners have longstanding ties with President Bola Tinubu. Hitech has no construction history except for its investments in Eko Atlantic City, a low-budget replica of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

This move, despite the government’s rhetoric on attracting foreign investment, raised doubts about Nigeria’s commitment to positioning itself as a tourism destination.

Meanwhile, there is growing demand across Africa for tourism investment, indicating promising prospects for the sector. International tourism investments in Africa have tripled to at least $35 billion since the early 2000s, according to the World Bank. Despite pandemic-related restrictions, travel and tourism in Africa are forecasted to grow by 6.5% annually over the next decade, potentially contributing $168 billion to the economy during that period. The UN World Tourism Organization noted that only the Middle East outperformed Africa in recovering to pre-pandemic levels of international tourism arrivals in the first nine months of 2023.

The Landmark beach, visited by Nigerians and international tourists alike, served as a venue for music concerts featuring Nigeria’s top artists. Beyond the beach, the Landmark ecosystem encompasses a 9,000 square meter boulevard housing a mall, event center, and various restaurants and cafes, including the renowned Hard Rock Cafe chain, all of which Landmark has owned since 2007.

Onwuanibe expressed eagerness to replicate Landmark’s success in The Gambia, a country with a population of 2 million and a well-established tourism hub relative to its size. However, he noted that The Gambia “wants to be a tourist destination” and is creating an environment conducive to tourism.