Since its creation in 1976, Owerri, the capital of Imo State, the Eastern Heartland, has grown gradually but consistently to assume the status of the hospitality hub of the entire South-Eastern Nigeria and the tourism destination of the world.
Imo State was formerly part of East Central State, one of the 12 states created in 1967 by the then military Head of State of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon in an attempt to foster peace in a country bedevilled by civil crisis and on the verge of disintegration. That was just on the eve of the Nigeria/Biafra Civil War. In 1976, however, East Central State, which had its capital at Enugu, was split into Anambra and Imo States. Enugu remained the capital of Anambra State while Owerri became the capital of the new Imo State. Over the years, Imo has given birth to another state, Abia, with its capital at Umuahia, while Anambra gave birth to Enugu, and later Ebonyi State, which also comprises parts of Abia State. The new Enugu State retained its capital at Enugu; Awka became the capital of the new Anambra; while Ebonyi established its capital city at Abakaliki.
Among all these state capitals, Owerri has remained the most developed in terms of social life, arts, music, hospitality, entertainment, and tourism. Not even Enugu which became the capital of the Eastern Region in the early days of colonial rule in Nigeria can compete with Owerri in these aspects.
On ground to drive these hospitality and entertainment machinery is the over 25-year old five-star Imo Concorde Hotel. Following behind it, and also sitting very close to it are All Seasons Hotels, Links Hotels, De Legend Hotels, Sun City Hotels, Kelvic Suites, Bonbolini Hotels, all high-brow, with exquisite pool sides and snack bars for excellent relaxation. Just a short distance away, there are Owerri Hotel Plaza, located along Port Harcourt Road, Owerri; Newcastle Hotel, Dreamland Hotel, and Ideal Suites and Resorts, all located in the World Bank area, New Owerri. There is also Modotel located just at the Okigwe Road/Wetheral Roundabout.
For visitors coming from the Akwakuma area of Owerri, the first port of call is likely to be Elix Hotel, located shortly before Akwakuma Junction. As one moves down towards Owerri main town, there are Bestway Hotels, Mount Royal Motel, Rapour Hotels, Pinewood Hotel, and Horizontal Hotel. If by any chance one branches off into Works Layout, then one is likely to come face to face with Summer Suites and Resorts, Cradle Hotels, Milton Hotels and Suites, Triple M Hotels, and so on. Along Onitsha Road is the big masquerade, Disney Hotels and Suites as well as Chelsea Suites. Along Orji Road are Eastgate, Imo Paradise Hotels, Vivian Hotel, Heartland Resort, Stone Castle Hotel, Jaykay Hotels, and Executive Garden, along Okigwe Road. Ikenegbu and Aladimma areas boast of such exquisitely furnished hotels as Aladinma Royal Suites, Lodan International Hotel, Edinburgh Hotel, Benchmark Hotel, Royal Nordic Suites, and so on. The same applies to the Prefab area which has such tasteful hotels as Hollywood International Hotels, Grandeur Hotels, and City Tavern. There are also Hotel de Andrea, along MCC/Uratta Road, Shangrilla Hotels, along Aba Road, and Domino Hotel in the heart of town. The list is endless.
Besides these major hotels, there are also small guest houses and inns dotting every part of Owerri. These include Stayfine, Villa Maria Guest House, Alvan Guest House, etc.
There are also fast food joints, prominent among which are Renny’s Fast Foods, located both within Ikenegbu and along Wetheral Road; De Simeon’s; Mr. Biggs’; Mr. Fans; Crunchies Fried Chicken; Dickson’s; Trendy’s; Jevinik’ Place; KFC, Fish Island, Trance Garden, Destinee; Grill Chilli, Verse One, Entizer, Chicken Republic, etc. There are also smaller joints for good Africana. These include Classic Restaurant, Eferenkuwa, Ama JK Recreation Park; Ukwu Mango, Funniter Restaurant and Bar; and exclusive bush bars like Tropical Village Kitchen; Ibari Ogwa Village (for the best of ‘point and kill’ fish, chicken and goat); Tata Fish; Vandoz Place; Mbari Kitchen, etc.
There are nite clubs for your weekend relaxation after a stressful week. Clubbing in Owerri begins on Tuesday. There are Sugar Club, 40-40, Ace Nite Club, Heaven and Earth Nite Club (Dreamland), Ocean 11, Executive Garden, etc.
Furthermore, Owerri has produced the first female DJ in the whole of South-east, DJ Claire, and such highly celebrated musicians as Kelly Hansome, Saro Wiwa, Ugo Stevenson, Owigiri, Sony Bobo, Nze Dan Orji and His Peacock Band, Ababa Nna, Chima Eke, Dr. Sir Foreigner, Ederi, Pizzow Nwafor, Ogadimma, Oriental Brothers, and many others too numerous to mention.
With all these in place, who can contradict the fact that Owerri is the hospitality capital of the South-east and the tourism destination of the world? When next you have a reason to pass through Owerri, just try a stop-over, pass the night and enjoy the excellent hospitality which only Owerri can give. Only a trial can convince you. The taste of the pudding is in the eating. Welcome to the Eastern Heartland.