The Federal Government has recommitted to enabling private enterprise participation in growing the tourism sector of the country, just as it also commended the efforts made by the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) towards that field of the country’s economy.
FTAN is the umbrella body of private sector operators in the tourism industry of Nigeria.
Minister of the newly established Ministry of Tourism, Ms Lola Ade-John, disclosed this when she met with a delegation of FTAN top executives led by its President, Mr Nkereuwem Onung, accompanied by the Directors General of the two agencies in the ministry; the National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Alhaji Nura Kangiwa, as well as, his counterpart at the Nigerian Tourism Development Authority (NTDA), Mr Folarin Coker.
The minister used the meeting to restate her task of making the tourism industry viable and attractive to private investors, which she said tops the list of focus she has been tasked with by President Bola Tinubu.
According to the minister, ‘tourism is set to take the number one space in revenue generation in the country,’ which she stressed can only be achieved through effective collaborations and result-oriented partnerships with private sector businesses and think-tank groups like FTAN.
Earlier, while proposing key areas of focus for the minister, FTAN President, Mr. Onung disclosed that suggestions presented to the Federal Government through her, for consideration are intended to assist the Tourism ministry in achieving its objective of repositioning the Nigerian tourism industry for growth and development, as a great contributor to the national economy.
FTAN in its suggestions urged the Federal Government to revisit stalled programs initiated in the sector, including the National Tourism Masterplan; hosting of the National Council on Tourism, the state’s tourism masterplan, as well as, the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), all of which had been abandoned by previous administrations for non-justifiable reasons despite the huge potential they portend for growing the sector of the economy.
It would be recalled that since the conclusion of the 61st Meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Commission for Africa (CAF) and Technical Seminar for Tourism Statistics hosted by Nigeria in Abuja, in June 2018, which recommended and harped on a TSA for African countries, the far-reaching resolutions of that gathering have remained in the dustbin of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (or Culture, Information and National Orientation).
Incidentally, that novel meeting was hosted by the immediate past minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. However, nearly five years after, nothing in that direction has been done by way of implementation of its decisions.
It is against this backdrop that FTAN reminded the new minister of the need to reactivate the project as a way of lifting and pointing out a new direction for the industry operators, in particular, and the country’s economy in general.
According to FTAN, the Federal Government has ‘to create awareness and understanding of the implementation of Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA) which is very important in tracking and keeping records of the National tourism growth and development indices, statistically.’
Onung further revisited the controversial National Tourism Masterplan, which since its official launch in 2006 under the tenure of Mr. Adetokunbo Kayode, in Abuja, has come under heavy criticism for being too alien, and copied from the UNWTO without adaptation to the Nigerian peculiar environment.
Subsequent tenures of ministers like Chief Edem Duke had attempted to ‘domesticate’ it by including the concept of ‘tourism clusters,’ an attempt which was also rebuffed by operators, until its present state of abandonment by various states and private operators.
FTAN seeks the Federal Government’s attention to revisit the master plan. This in addition to the idea of allowing individual states of the federation to draw up their own tourism masterplans, which FTAN posits ‘will equally serve as a roadmap and guide in the implementation of their tourism development programs and activities.’
According to Onung, the government needs to revisit the National Tourism Masterplan, as, according to him, ‘Nigeria cannot talk about developing the tourism industry without a roadmap to guide it to do so most effectively and efficiently which is the objective of the National Tourism Development Plan as a vital document.’
FTAN also sought the reactivation of the mandatory but now abandoned Federal Government’s hosting of the National Council on Tourism, which was a platform ‘where important national policies and programs on tourism industry are discussed, far-reaching decisions are taken, giving guide and direction to national tourism activities for sustainability and enhancement.’
This is further as the group backed the formation of the Commissioners of Tourism Forum, which it said ‘will bring all commissioners of tourism across the country together and afford them to discuss tourism development issues in their domains as well as offer the opportunity for synergy in national tourism development matters.’
The tourism operators’ group, in addition to its proposals before the minister, urged the Federal Government to come up with a calendar of events that will include all key tourism and hospitality events across the country annually.
“Besides giving national tourism events a line of focus and direction in preparedness, it will guide tourists to prepare their schedules to attend tourism and hospitality events in the country by both local and international visitors,” the FTAN president told the minister.
The business group also advocated the revival of the rested Presidential Council of Tourism, which it said was a platform that brings together key stakeholders from the public sector comprising lines of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies at all levels of government as well as the organized private sector in the tourism industry with His Excellency, the President, and Commander-in-Chief as Chairman of the council.
Continuing, Onung recalled ‘the thorny issue of Grading and Classification of Tourism and Hospitality establishments’ which he said needs to be in place to guide ‘standard operation patterns for tourism and hospitality establishments in the country in line with global best practices.”
FTAN also made a case before the minister to be carried along in programs, events and projects of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on tourism development matters and initiatives.
“We must be informed, keep pace, and be carried along in international tourism development issues. “This should be in collaboration with the organized private sectors for credibility and legitimacy.
“For instance, the UNWTO strategy on innovation and Education, Digital Transformation and Investments, and others, the group told the minister, as it further included the attendance of International Tourism and Hospitality Events.
“For instance, the World Tourism Market (WTM), FITUR, INDABA, and others,” adding that; ‘the Federal Government should organize and lead the country’s delegation and attendance of such events.’
In conclusion, FTAN advised the Federal Government ‘to key into the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda on Tourism of the United Nations and devise means to implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs, and promotes local culture and products.’
While commending President Bola Tinubu for ‘creating a separate Ministry for Tourism, which it said heeded ‘the cry of the industry,’ FTAN also hailed Ms. Ade-John’s ‘worthiest appointment,’ describing it as a good omen and literally the best thing that has happened to the industry in recent years given your pedigree and unalloyed commitment and dedication to the service of the country.’
The FTAN President, therefore, expressed the trust that Ms. Ade-John’s emergence ‘will bring to bear in positioning Nigeria as a country that should enormously rely on the Tourism Industry because of the immense economic values it has to offer.’
Responding, in her brief remarks, Ade-John reechoed President Tinubu’s charge to all the ministerial appointees to revitalize their sectors, even as she thanked the FTAN delegation for the courtesy visit to her office ‘despite the tight space in the meeting room.’
The minister assured FTAN of her commitment to ‘push in ways and modalities to make tourism in Nigeria work,’ with the cooperation of the private sector enterprise stakeholders like the group.
On the abandoned TSA, the minister explained that since she comes from a background of technology and data, she ‘will ensure the TSA works.’
“Presently, I am working closely with all the ministers to ensure that the mandate to which they were appointed by President Bola Tinubu was achieved and do all within their power to ensure they succeeded,” Ms Ade-John said.
On the issue of carrying FTAN along in government attendance at international events, the minister assured that she is working closely with all the parastatals and the ministry to attend those events in order ‘to tell the world that Tourism in Nigeria is back.’
In partnership with private sector operators in the industry, the minister assured of her readiness to ‘gladly talk to FTAN anytime’ and FTAN should feel free to come to the office to see her anytime.
Members of the FTAN delegation in the courtesy visit to the Tourism minister’s office included the executive committee officers and some presidents of affiliate associations.