Experts Charge FG To Create Tourism National Policy, Stand-Alone Ministry On Tourism At NTIFE 2022

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From left, The keynote speaker, Professor Michael Ikupolati; Former Director, of FTC Tourism Department, Abuja, Dr. Uchechukwu Agbanusi; President, of Aircraft Owners, and Pilots Association of Nigeria, Mr. Alex Nwuba; Chairman/CEO, Tropicana Beach Resort, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye; Principal Partner, Sustainable Eco6tem, Mr. Chibuikem Diala; President of FTAN, Mr. Nkereuwem Onung and Member FTAN BOT, Dr. Munzali Dantata, at the sixth edition of the Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE), held at the Rockview Hotel, Abuja, recently

Stakeholders have been advised to push for the establishment of a National Policy on Tourism to strategically build a fulcrum for the development and promotion of a sustainable tourism sector that will grow the Nigerian economy.

The keynote speaker, Professor Michael Ikupolati, who delivered a paper on ‘Budgeting and Funding: Effective Tools for Sustainable Tourism at the just-concluded Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE) disclosed this in Abuja on Tuesday.

Prof Ikupolati explained that for tourism to drive the economy, there must be strategic planning of the tourism industry in Nigeria in a way that there will be a development of priorities based on strategies for planning to develop and market Nigeria as a tourist destination.

He said the strategic plan must include the 7Ps of Tourism, which includes the product, price, place promotion, process, physical evidence, and people, adding that improvement in the security situation and the creation of an enabling environment for rapid growth and development of tourism in Nigeria, government policies specifically targeted to tourism development in Nigeria.

To make this practical bid worthwhile, Prof Ikupolati said “Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), must set up a Tourism Action Plan Committee for engaging, empowering and enabling tourism stakeholders in Nigeria toward reinventing the wheels of tourism development in Nigeria.

According to him “The Committee will develop a framework for tourism development through effective budgeting and funding of tourism activities and templates for tourism stakeholders in Nigeria as well as develop a capacity building template for tourism budgeting and funding.”

He identifies budgeting and funding as one of the most important financial habits the industry can adopt, to improve its current dismay performance, adding that it will help the industry to achieve its financial goals, keeping the industry from getting financially overwhelmed, and even helping them avoid or get out of debt.

Ikupolati re-emphasized that culture and tourism can contribute significantly to the economic development of Nigeria if the government can provide a platform and enabling environment for the promotion and development of culture and tourism in Nigeria. Also building collaboration with the private sector (PPP arrangements) to promote culture and tourism in Nigeria government should therefore increase funding to tourism agencies and rejig their operations, so as to increase their contributions to national development.

“Nigeria has great potential in the tourism sector and the time to take positive steps in the right direction is now. All of the above can only be done if we are good leaders in Government and in the various organizations operating within the Culture and Tourism sector of the Nigerian economy.”

Giving an overview of the government budget for tourism, the keynote speaker said “Nigeria recorded a total of five million tourists in 2021, ranking 35th in the world in absolute terms. The fact that larger countries regularly perform better in comparison to the absolute number of guests is obvious.

“By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of Nigeria, the result is a much more comparable picture; with 0.025 tourists per resident, Nigeria ranked 164th in the world. In Western Africa, it ranked 8th.

“Nigeria generated around $321.00 million in the tourism sector alone; this corresponds to 0.073 percent of its gross domestic product and approximately 34 percent of all international tourism receipts in Western Africa.

“Government budget on tourism in Nigeria has been at a very low level in the last decade, compared to countries like Kenya, Egypt, South Africa and even The Gambia.

“As a result tourism contributes about two percent on average to DGP during this period. 75 percent of the Government budget for Tourism in Nigeria is spent on recurrent expenditures. About 3.5 percent of DGP that went to government intervention did not come to private tourism.”

Ikupolati who was not happy with the tourism budgetary scenario said that situation at hand cannot be the ultimate potential of Nigeria in Tourism, and urged the government to therefore increasing funding to tourism agencies and rejig their operations viz-a-viz investing in tourism brand development and digital tourism in Nigeria.

He called on the government to strategically align with the economic and social impacts of tourism to successfully build a sustainable industry to scale up the economy, according to him” When these impacts are netted off, tourism process is sustainable at any particular destination and Nigeria can’t be an exemption.

Nigeria simply needs to go back to the tourism drawing board and redesign our model of tourism promotion and development, Ikupolati added.

The panelists for the forum include the Chairman/CEO of La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye, President, of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria, Mr. Alex Nwuba, Former Director, of FTC Tourism Department, Abuja, Dr. Uchechukwu Agbanusi and the Principal Partner, Sustainable Eco6tem, Mr. Chibuikem Diala as the moderator.

Taking the first shot, Otunba Akinboboye explained that the only way to celebrate the rich cultural potentialities that abound in Nigeria is mainly through tourism, adding that to do that effectively Nigeria must waive the entire tourism ecosystem around the diverse culture of the country.

He said the private and public sectors must come to terms with the fact that tourism promotion and development is a process and those processes must be given relevance.

“Tourism is a process and you must follow that process to get to the next stage. At every stage you get to, you must follow the process to a logical conclusion before going to the next one. When you jump a stage there will always be a problem.”

Akinboboye agreed that government plays a pivotal role in tourism development but said that if the government refused to fall in place for tourism to work as expected, the stakeholders who are the drivers of the industry have to do their best to stimulate activities to position the industry to attract the relevant government agencies if they are serious about their obligations. In his submission,

President, of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria, Mr. Nwuba said that FTAN and other organizations can become advocates in engaging the government, just as you have come to Abuja, FTAN should be sitting with FTC Minister and telling him that our finding is that you are not supporting the industry the way you ought and we are demanding that we see a certain percentage of the budget going into this sector because we can show the derivable.

One of the things we are forgetting is that tourism is also an income earner, it is something that you put money into that you will get money from; if you refused to invest in tourism, you will not get the inflow most those big countries in tourism earn. So what we need to do is essentially engage the government

So we as FTAN and other engagement associations in the industry need to engage the government and say we expect an ‘x’ percentage of the budget across the board to be applied to the tourism sector because we can demonstrate the impact on the economy by giving the information available in the number of localities.

Nwuba said Dubai may be too extreme considering the kind of result and approach the government has used to get to the present state. So we can look at the Gambia, Ghana and Benin Republic which are not too far from us.

“So we can start from a progressive level by saying we expect ‘x’ percent on a progression level, we don’t need to ask you to put 20 percent budget today but put five percent in the first year and in the second year, you can make it seven percent so that in five years, we can see 20 percent of your budget going into tourism.

In his contribution, the Former Director, of FTC Tourism Department, Abuja, Dr. Uchechukwu Agbanusi said “Human capacity is the most important resource you need to develop tourism and this I did during my stint in my place of assignment by embarking on training and building capacity backed up by practical field work which I deliberately mandated for the trainees every week.

In the same vein where others call for a stand-alone tourism ministry for tourism to have a voice in the scheme of things, Agbanusi also called for the revival of tourism boards in the FCT to stimulate the needed tourism activities to practically contribute its quota to the economy.

He said that the structure of tourism in Nigeria is wrong and with such a situation, there is nothing anyone can do to make things right. So he called for a statutory structure with ministry and board in place with the right peg in the right hole backed by good budgeting and funding.

Speaking earlier the president of FTAN, Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, welcomed the audience cut across all tourism allied businesses and core stakeholders, experts and professional bodies to the NTIFE 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the hosting of NTIFE and we are happy to meet members and stakeholders again at the 6th edition of the investment forum.

“NTIFE is designed to offer B2B opportunities among member associations and showcase the products/services of the industry.

“This encourages the association members to run vibrant businesses and take advantage of the collaboration and synergy that NTIFE provides.

“This informs the Federation’s position of not registering associations who perform the same task or do similar businesses within the sector.

“NTIFE also has the mandate of assessing/encouraging/promoting private and public sector investments.

“The private sector has continued to make huge investments into the sector while the government in the last 15 years has made little or no investment into the sector. We can therefore state the sector has not grown at the pace expected and this has affected her contribution to the GDP of the national economy.

“Whilst the private sector is poised to make more investment using technology into areas such as

Online Travel Services, cruising, Hotels, Mega Resorts, and Casinos among others. the public sector budgets are large to fund recurrent expenditures.

“Another key objective of NTIFE is to stimulate the activities of Public Private Partnership (PPP) since there is hardly any well-defined structure/ procedure for doing so.

“We see some parastatals make minimal efforts to key into some private sector businesses/ events and the impact is also minimal.

“We, therefore, use this opportunity to call for a structured Public Private Partnership (PPP) between governments and the private sector. We need strong partnerships for the development of the sector.

“I believe that our most valued resource persons will do justice to the subject and proffer ways and means to fund tourism in Nigeria, especially from the perspective of the private sector.”

In his remarks, the  Chairman, of the FTAN Board of Trusty, Chief Samuel Alabi thanked the executives of FTAN led by the president Mr. Nkereuwem Onung for his innovations and consolidation of the progress of his predecessors in taking the federation to a dignified level.

“He thanked Mr. Onung for still keeping alive the NTIFE which he established during his leadership as the president of FTAN and pray for more strength and innovation to make the MICE event bigger than what it is today as it hosted the sixth edition.

The gap that is between when I was the president and your time was like a gap between heaven and earth but I must tell you that you have raised the bar beyond expectation and I have to congratulate you on this milestone

 


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