The Place Resort has been opened for 4 yrs. It came together just after I moved back to NY for grad school sometime in 2011.
I was really happy to hear of the news because it seemed a much needed addition to the hotel offerings on the Beach and Freetown’s Peninsular.
I had tried to stay on previous occasions but one way or another I wasn’t able to get there. Tokeh after all is not a hop and a skip away.
When a client asked that I go to Tokeh to take photos of the coast line to be used in their next billboard advertising campaign I figured this was my chance to spend the night at the Place; get some work done, kill two birds with one stone.
We got to Tokeh at about 5pm on Sunday. A line of cars were leaving. It had been difficult to find as there wasn’t adequate signage pointing the way.
The reception a large open pentagon shaped building had its charm. The ladies at the front were warm and welcoming.
I asked if my room was ready and they told me it would be in 10 minutes. They offered me a seat. While we were waiting a young white man who I later found out was one of the managers walked out of his office. He glanced my way and looked away, did not speak or greet or make an attempt to welcome me to the hotel. I felt he should have done. If I looked like a “tourist” from overseas maybe I would have gotten some hospitality.
I found out I was being given a room with a mountain view for $175. I told them that I didnt come all this way to not wake up on the beach.
They said they could try to make one available but that the chalets with beach view were about $100 more. In total I paid 2 million leones ($290) for my room. I asked if I could pay with a corporate check and I was told I could not. I asked why and was told a client they had extended the service to had come and charged up 40 million leones in one weekend and paid with a check. That check had bounced. It was still bouncing.
I got to my chalet and it was lovely. Lots of wood, great sturdy toilet fixtures. It was actually way better than I expected. The bathrobe and towels were not crusty as I was scared they would be, they were lush. My thoughts were that whoever built this place invested really good money on infrastructure and did not cut corners.
The chalet was correct.
The AC was on but I couldn’t find the remote to set the temperature to my preference. I turned that place upside down and nope, no remote. I picked up the phone to call the reception and it just wouldn’t ring. I disconnected the phone and reconnected it several times trying to troubleshoot and nothing. I tried to call the restaurant and I couldn’t call out.
I finally decide to walk out of my room to let them know my phone wasn’t working. At the restaurant I asked them who I could call to let them know I need my phone fixed and they tell me none of the phones in the rooms work. They haven’t yet been connected.
I say umm okay. Why didn’t they tell me this when I checked in? Sorry ma. I just walked back to my room.
The TV had mostly Arab Channels so I figured they had opted for free to air than the paid DSTV service. Who comes to the beach with views of nature and wants to watch TV anyway? Me! Alone in my chalet yes I want to watch TV.
The AC that was nice and chilled in the day time was freezing at night. I got up twice turned the room over looking for the remote control and again couldn’t find it. If only the controls for the AC were within reach maybe I could touch it and change it manually. If only I was 7 feet tall.
I didn’t sleep well. Between the really cold room and paranoid thoughts of how I could be taken advantage of in the chalet and not be able to call for help, I spent all night tossing and turning.
This however meant that I was up at the crack of dawn to watch the ocean, and darkness give way to light in the horizon. It was beautiful. Despite not having slept I was happy to be there. I walked on the beach, it was deserted. The whole beach just for me. When it was light out I walked to the restaurant and ordered local coffee and fruits and had a fabulous breakfast. I almost forgot that I had to go drive through Sani Abacha Street a couple hours later.
I finally pulled myself off the beach and jumped into the shower which was nice and hot. I came out got dressed and then I noticed a wooden stick in a raffia basket. It can’t be. No! I shake my head as it occurs to me that that is the control for the AC. I lift the stick and turn off the AC. If only someone had told me. Communication na something.
I think The Place is lovely. The building, layout, the infrastructure is great. What’s missing however is hospitality, the people to make the whopping $275 worth it. When I left,
I felt bad. As an entrepreneur I know how hard it is to start. As a Sierra Leonean I know how difficult it is to build anything. Some guy from the UK clearly believing in Sierra Leone’s potential and obviously willing to make a long term investment and provide jobs etc. has put millions into The Place. I wouldn’t come to Sierra Leone just to experience The Place but that’s how it should be. It needs better people, real service delivery for a resort, it needs water sports, Jet Skis, and the like. Right now as is, the resort doesn’t live up to its name, it is a place in Sierra Leone when it could be The Place in West Africa.
Alternatively if they can not deliver a high end experience, prices should be around $150 because that was the honest value of what I was offered.