By Franklin Ihejirika
The impact of culture, partnerships and governance on Nigeria tourism development was the focus of the just concluded 2019 Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Ile Ife, Osun state with the aim of promoting co-operation and collarborations among the culture and tourism stakeholders.
In view of the fact that the tourism industry lacks the culture of trust and partnerships, the theme of the AGM becomes apt to see the stakeholders collaborate and work together through partnerships that will help the industry grow.
In his presentation on the impact of culture, partnerships and governance on Nigeria tourism development which was the theme of the AGM, the keynote speaker and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market and Accra Weizo, Mr. Ikechi Uko called for partnerships and trust in the tourism industry to move it forward.
Uko noted that the industry is suffering because of lack of trust among the key stakeholders.
He observed that the industry lacks the culture of partnerships and cooperation which are vital In tourism business.
The promoter of Akwaaba Travel Market said there are about 500 cultural festivals in the country that they become so difficult to sustain.
According to him, these cultural festivals are so many because every community wants to do their own, every state wants to do their own carnival that it becomes difficult to get people to attend them and that also makes their sustainability too difficult.
In her welcome address earlier, the president of NATOP, Hajia Bilikisu Abdul stated that NATOP is devoted to development issues in the area of policy, advocacy, promotions as well as development of tourist destinations and attractions, including creation of enabling environment for her members to thrive and engage in activities and events that aim to add value to the Nigerian society.
Hajia Bilikisu said in the past, NATOP has used her AGM to promote destinations as a drive to grow domestic tourism in Nigeria.
She expressed optimism that the theme of the AGM which is discussing the impact of culture, partnership and governance will enable the association to achieve sustainable tourism development in Osun state and Nigeria at large.
She commended Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife for graciously hosting the AGM in Ife.
At the event, the director general of the National Council for Art and Culture, Otunba Segun Runsewe charged Nigerians to show commitment and seriousness to the growth and development of culture and tourism in the country.
Otunba Rusewe said the stakeholders must come together to promote the growth of culture and tourism In Nigeria.
He said the theme of the AGM, impact of culture, partnerships and governance on Nigeria tourism development is very apt and in sync with NCAC’s mandate to reposition culture and tourism in Nigeria.
The NCAC boss pointed out that every state in the country is to be blamed for the problems of tourism in Nigeria.
He tasked the tour operators on good tour packaging.
In the words of Runsewe: “We want to start a new brand new product for the country, everyone in this hall agrees that we need to do something, but there is one point missing, if all the tourists come to Nigeria what are we going to show them, what are they paying for, most time we blame the tour operators that they don’t package enough tours, but we must tell ourselves the truth, every state in Nigeria is responsible for what we are facing.There are seven states in United Arab Emirates, but only three states, Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi are doing well, they are not competing with themselves, instead, they allow them to run by themselves. I remember in 2011, I made a speech, I said why can’t we make Calabar our Dubai, as at today, Calabar is the cleanest city in Nigeria and it host Carnival Calabar. So I ask, why must we compete in everything, it is not fair, we must come to terms and agree on what we must do.”
He stressed the need for Nigeria to have a national carrier to grow its travel and tourism sector.
Runsewe cited the example of Ethiopian Airlines using aviation to promote and develop Addis Ababa as a top destination in Africa by taking passengers on a stop over to Addis Ababa.
The NCAC DG explained that as a result of this, there in no way passengers will not spend money while on transit for an hour or more at the airport.
Speaking also, the former president of NATOP and its chairman Board Of Trustees (BOT), Nkereuwen Onung applauded NATOP president for keeping the visibility of NATOP high.
He said It was an agreement to give the association optimum visibility and to use its AGM to explore and promote states and their different attractions in the country.
He advised all the members to bury their hatchet and come together to move the tourism industry forward and let bygones be bygones.
Onung noted that the best thing to do when one looses election is to work for the next election.
He observed that tourism in Nigeria has not really feared well, coupled with the Supreme Court Judgement that made tourism a regional instead of national affair.
Onung urged Nigerians to work harder in order to promote the growth of tourism in the country.
He called on the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC to take tourism associations serious.
Onung frowned at the situation where NATOP has to pay all the time to use NTDC bus for their events when they are supposed to be partners in progress working for a common goal.
The BOT chair called for collaboration, strong advocacy from the private sector to move tourism forward.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to prioritise the growth and development of tourism in the country.
Speaking also, the chairman of Calabar Carnival Commission, Mr Gabe Onah said the private sector players needs government protection.
Onah maintained that the Public Private Partnership, PPP arrangement must be followed to add value and in order to promote our culture and tourism through innovation.
He called on the government to show the way so that the private sector can follow.
The Chairman of Calabar Carnival Commission said the stakeholders must continue to advocate this way till the tourism narrative in Nigeria changes for the better.
He advised the federal government to harness the opportunity in the tourism sector in the country.
In his remarks also, the president of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, FTAN, Alhaji Saleh Rabo while congratulating NATOP on a successful AGM, called on the government to use the opportunity of their second term to bring tourism on board.
He urged the government to use tourism to turn the fortunes of the country around so as to reduce criminality.
In his comments, the president of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies, NANTA, Mr Bankole Bernard re-echoed Uko’s observation on the lack of trust and partnerships in the tourism industry.
Bernard maintained that one of the greatest challenges facing the industry is the inability of the playes to work together.
He said rather that fight, it is okay for the players in the industry to work together.
Bernard commended Runsewe for uniting culture and tourism in the country.
He said the stakeholders in the industry has a common interest which is to grow tourism in Nigeria.