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Business News of Friday, 29 July 2022

Source: tribuneonlineng.com

FTAN AGM 2022: Public, private sectors resolved on purposeful collaboration for tourism growth

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Conscience is an open wound: only truth can heal it, this celebrated quote from Uthman dan Fadio, the legendry leader of thought that has stand the test of time, played out at the 25th annual General Meeting of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) as the public and private sector stakeholders who have worked dividedly for the progress of the tourism sector in Nigeria, buried the hatchet and told each other the blunt truth on taking Nigeria to tourism Eldorado.

The keynote speaker and former governor of Cross River State, Mr Liyel Imoke took the first shot, saying that “when there is a gathering like this, I know that Nigeria is serious and I have hope for tourism. We have so much to give to ourselves as a nation and we must work ways to make it succeed.

According to Imoke, the government, which are the enablers, sometimes become the drive and of course that is what bring a lot of challenges as we look forward.”

Speaking on the theme of the conference; Nigeria Tourism: The way forward, he outlined a number of challenges and prospects of the sector, stating that though tourism is private sector driven, in the case of Nigeria, the government end up being the mover rather the private sector.

Imoke decried this development, which he said has greatly hampered the growth of the sector in the country. To ensure its growth, he called on the government to look critically into its role and focus more on providing different forms of incentives for the investors and operators who are charged to grow the sector.

‘‘It has to be private sector driven with the government as the enabler but sometimes the government becomes the mover, while insisting that the government must create incentives as one of the mandatory roles otherwise we would not grow the industry.’’

He explained that Nigeria has all it takes to have a vibrant tourism industry, advising that “The disagreement between the government and the private sector should not define the industry. The industry is bigger than all of us and it will continue to grow.’’

Imoke, who sees data and statistics as key factors in setting the pace for practical tourism, highlighted the challenges posed by lack of data to plan and determine the contribution of tourism to the economy, the unattractive nature of Nigerian tourism, which he said is due to the lack of tourism culture among Nigerians, insecurity and cultural beliefs.

“The greatest challenge I find is insecurity and access to tourism, which the government has to provide and when the government fails then the investors and operators too fail.

‘‘These are critical issues that we must address. Why is the tourism budget shrinking when we have a sector that we want to grow? How and when do we create capital for the industry? Is tourism a luxury good or is it a necessity? All of these are part of the challenges that we face.’’

The Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mr Folorunso Coker, who many believe is a loner in the tourism industry, did not only spoke eloquently as usual but surprised all and sundry as he opened a new chapter in his approach on the way forward for tourism in Nigeria.

Coker who spoke with candour said “the way forward is for us all to stop, come down to a round table to make things happen practically for the tourism industry.

“The government should give the tourism industry the political will-power to thrive, rather than doing things like a jamboree.

“We need a full fledged tourism Ministry for things to happen in the country with a tourism budget that must be politically motivated and also improve on approving of tourism budget and funding to moving the sector forward.”

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He also cautioned on media reportage which he said must be carefully directed at projecting more of positive to put the country in the desired perspective.

“We should also start catching our population very young because we have the number and we must start the catch them young advocacy now.”

Coker emphasised on the need to have a codified data base for tourism industry and called on the everyone to embrace the new ‘T’ (Technology) in tourism promotion which is digital, saying that is the sure way to go.

“The tourism industry is over-regulated, we have to liberalise our operations in the sector as well as learn to be team players rather than trying to outplay ourselves in the sector.

On her part, the Director, Domestic Tourism, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Mrs Patricia Narai, explained that the tourism policy in Nigeria is obsolete because it was written way back as far as 2005. According to her “Tourism policy in Nigeria is overdue for review and update, we had held severally meeting among the agencies under the Federal Ministry of Informations and Culture to put the tourism document (policy) in a current and updated policy document.

“We have done so many works on it and we have a draft document right now,” we are hopeful that the stakeholders meeting will be hold soon.

“In fact, our proposal to hold the meeting with the public and private stakeholders in the month of August has budgeting constraint and our file is still kept in view, so we are hopeful that we will get the current national tourism policy.”

Speaking on the lack of tourism services attitude and culture, the Director-General, National Industry of Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Alhaji Nura Kangiwa, who was represented by the Director of tourism, DrMaga said the private sector should be involve in the regulation processes of the tourism business and its subsector.

He called for the identification of tourism low hanging products so that they can start its marketing and promotion, adding that packaging is imperative in order to help showcase Nigeria product to the world, which he said will help to attract investment to the sector.

The Lagos State Commissioner of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Uzumat Akinbile-Yusuff who was represented by Mrs Yetunde Simpson called for standards in the tourism and also said that the player in the industry must know the source market to explore while urging the government to create an enabling environment to boost tourism business and its subsector.

According to her, “the government has to create a short, medium and long time laws to help us run the tourism industry depending on the source market or products we want to develop and promote in line with the public and private sector partnership bid.”

She acknowledged the new pattern of FTAN approaching issue with one voice,” FTAN is speaking with one voice and I call on all other stakeholders in the industry to follow the trend.

“Data is a big problem because when you talk of tourism data in Nigeria it is hard to come by; it is an area we should focus on.”

She called for the urgent need for capacity building in the tourism industry, saying that it is a major factor that will give the sector the pride of place in service delivery.

“We have to stand by the mantra called domestic tourism, then work as a team and we should not let our individual achievement be that we go to the government, it is only through team work that we can strategically approach the government with one voice and get the attention and the goals we want to achieve.”

On the part of the private sector, it was all a moment of commitment as everyone bear their minds on the way forward for Nigeria.

According to the president of ITPN, Otunba Abiodun Odusanwo, who see policy formulation as a key move to reactivate activities of the sectorial players that there is need for the private sector to lobby for policy change through collaboration.

According to Odusanwo, the government cannot be allowed to orchestrate the industry because “we are also partner in progress.” He explained further, that “Tourism is like an orchestral and the government is the conduct and it is the way they conduct the music that we at the back (the private stakeholders) have to play, so we have to try and make sure that we lobby for policy changes”

“We also have to lobby the government to ensure that the environment that promotes tourism is there, make sure the arrangement for public and private sector partnership is promoted through strategic collaboration. Odusanwo, however called on the stakeholders to go back to the state since tourism products in Nigeria are domiciled in the state but encouraged FTAN to synergise with Federal Government policy that will engender an enabling environment.

In his submission, the CEO of Nexus 318, an hospitality management and investment Ltd, Mr Adedayo Adesugba Nigeria tourism ecosystem are more committed to doing paper work than the practical culture of policy implementation.

“I want to say that Nigeria is not a country that is bereft of policies, governance are brought for it and when it comes to paper work, we are good at that but we lack the wherewithal to see that all these policies which are guidelines are implemented; fundamentally, because our culture has relatively been ‘downgraded’ and we not a very law abiding people when it comes to following laws.

Talking from the tourism planning and logistic point of view, The founder and senior Adviser, Resclay Advisory, Dr Doyin Okupe said for the people to develop the content of the Tourism Master Plan, there is need to sentisise the larger ecosystem to understand what tourism is about.

“Similarly, if you want the investors to come to your country, you have to provide them with data, which will show their expected input and output. They need to understand the investment aspect of tourism in the country, may be it is a short, medium or long.

“So for us to attract people to come and spend their money in Nigeria, the four things to take note of, Okupe said, set the need for data, human capital, need for understanding the tourism ecosystem and the need for us to understand competitiveness.”

Earlier in his address, the President of FTAN, Mr Nkereuwem Onung, said “I acknowledge and appreciate the confidence of members extended to me to pilot the affairs of the federation in the past year.

“It is impossible for us to ignore the fact that the global pandemic-COVID-19 brought so much destruction to the business of tourism on a wider note since 2020. But as resilient stakeholders, we have navigated all these times of difficulties and I want to use this opportunity to appreciate our partners, council members, the press and stakeholders for the great collaborations and commitments we have all shown in this trying times.

“Theme of this conference-Tourism in Nigeria; The way forward,” it will help us to address and probe and proffer solutions to enhance the growth of our sector.

“Looking ahead, we anticipate an AGM that guaranties inclusiveness of members associations and all stakeholders without discrimination, but being forthright in doing things that protect the stakeholders’ interest.”