At the recently concluded Annual General Meeting of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) focus was on raising the bar of quality products and services delivery in the tourism sector, with Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), leading the way, writes ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA
The Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), which is the umbrella body for registered travel and tourism trade associations operating in the country, recently held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
This year’s event, which played host to the different member associations, stakeholders and a number of government officials, including the Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe, was celebrated in colours, with a lot of excitements and cherishing moments at the Kapital Klub and Apartment in Asokoro area of the Unity City.
As a non – elective AGM, it gave some latitude for the members to seat together under a convivial atmosphere, devoid of the usual tension and political brick bats, to take a critical look at the challenges facing the federation and the tourism industry, under the theme: Developing sustainable tourism through standardisation and security.
Pushing the frontiers of tourism – Rabo
The President of the Federation, Alhaji Saleh Rabo, in his welcome address opened the floodgate to the day’s discourse. First, he welcomed the members to the gathering and urged them to have fun and enjoy the grand and rich ambience offered while sharing ideas and networking as those are part of the AGM’s goal.
He also attempted to put across the score card of the Federation under his watch in the last one year: ‘‘So far, we have attained some of the milestones we espoused in our campaigns, and we are still making considerable efforts to consummate even more of our strategic plans. So far, we have secured a befitting national secretariat for FTAN and have since improved the structures and processes of the Secretariat functions and administration.
‘‘We have recently setup of a Department of Tourism Research and Advocacy, as well as, trained some FTAN staff on diverse professional subjects,’’ disclosed, even as he added that: FTAN is on the verge of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The MOU will cover both capacity development of the new FTAN Research Department, as well as, partnership on tourism industry research, including the Nigeria Tourism Satellite Account (TSA); promoted by the Ministry of Information & Culture.’’
He also spoke of the successes attained in the areas of building structures and enduring processes for furthering the activities of the Federation, as he referred to the recently held UNWTO/CAF Meeting 20018 in Abuja, in which the Federation members actively engaged.
‘‘The improved structures and processes we introduced at FTAN Secretariat were evident in the commendable level of our participation at the last UNWTO/CAF event in Abuja, which held from June 4th to 6th 2018. I represented FTAN as one of the panelists during a UNWTO/CAF technical session. Overall, FTAN members’ participation were visible and our contributions were well received at the UNWTO/CAF event.’’
On the efforts at building linkages, developing and promoting Nigeria tourism, Rabo revealed that: ‘‘Talking about Nigeria tourism development, and true to our promise of opening up new destinations, we have started moving the quarterly FTAN Governing Council Meeting across Nigeria’s geo-political zones. So far, we have had two Council Meetings in Lagos and one in Port Harcourt. In fact, the next Council Meeting in October this year would be hosted by FTAN South-East Zone, precisely in Owerri.’’
Aside the level of successes recorded, he spoke of a number of challenges, which among others include the none-payment of membership dues by the federating associations; and none-committal of FTAN members’ to their assignments in the respective standing committees.
However, Rabo said the challenges are not enough to deter the Federation from pushing the frontiers of Nigeria tourism, to which it is committed and that of building the federating unit as well. ‘‘We are committed to continually being pragmatic and to evolve innovative ways of fulfilling the mandate you gave us.
‘‘Going forward, we would seek your active support, as we explore new frontiers. Specifically, we want to engage some national and international funding organizations to secure grants or investment funds, something akin to what the Agriculture sectors in Nigeria benefits. Specifically, we have plans to engage relevant organisations including the Bank of Industry (BOI) and Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to support FTAN Clusters.
‘‘Eventually, our goals are to facilitate tourism investments for operators in our industry. Hence, we plan to coalesce our members into recognisable Tourism Operators Clusters for harmonisation of standards and work with investment funds to benchmark our financial support needs, such as designing transparent framework for qualification and access to investment funds/grant, and bankable conditions for collaterals or group guarantees.’’
On the national front, he spoke of the security challenges facing the country, which he said is affecting the tourism industry and the nation’s economic development. ‘‘I cannot end this welcome address without mentioning the troubling issue of rampant insecurity in Nigeria, especially at tourism destinations where our members operate. While, the national debate for State Police is ongoing, we recommend that governments should also consider the establishment of Tourism Police at major tourist destinations in Nigeria.
‘‘Most international tourist destinations, such as Turkey and Kenya, which have entrenched Tourism Police structures have been able to ameliorate attacks on visitors/tourists, thereby gaining the confidence of tourist source markets and eventually increasing tourist arrivals and expenditures at their destinations.
‘‘As a Federation, FTAN is willing and prepared to provide basic training for such Tourism Police detachments in areas of ‘tourism operations’ and ‘visitor management’ as they pertain to tourism in Nigeria.’’
A call for harmonisation of standards in hospitality and tourism industry, SON Director
With the stage set by the president of FTAN, it was time to dissect the theme of the gathering with a director of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Engineer Felix t. Nyado, presenting a well – researched and detailed paper on: Harmonisation of Standards in Hospitality and Tourism Industry.
Nyado’s scope of presentation covered such areas as: Conceptual clarification; Overview of the hospitality and tourism industry in Nigeria; What is a standard?; Harmonisation of Standards; Why harmonize standards?; Benefits of harmonised standards in hospitality and tourism industry; and How to demonstrate compliance to hospitality or tourism standard?
Ensuring quality and standard in the industry just like in any other, the SON’S director said is very important as it has its roles and advantages for advancing the course of the industry especially noting that tourism is a global industry, which operates based on international best practices.
Some of the reasons advanced by him for harmonising standards in the industry, given that there are numerous quality and standard requirements that the industry is supposed to comply with, he, therefore, said that: ‘‘Complying with multiple standards can be costly, slow down product or service launch, result in redundant testing and, if requirements are mutually exclusive or conflicting, may require manufacturing different product models.
‘‘Conversely, requirements or guidelines comprising different standards that apply to the same industries, devices or initiatives (such as efficient energy use) often overlap.’’ To achieve the required harmonization, he involves looking at what operates at national, regional and international levels.
‘‘Harmonization can be achieved through adoption of standards of another country, or even via the alignment of national standards with those set by specialised standardising bodies such as ASME or ASTM International, Consortia and private companies such as IBM or Microsoft.
SON, he revealed is interested in partnering with industry stakeholders to harmonise standards while adding that: ‘‘International harmonisation remains an important aspect of SON’s standards development strategy.
Furthermore, he disclosed that there already exist for the hospitality and tourism industry in Nigeria a standard harmonisation Technical Committee on Tourism and related services chaired by the Director General of the National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality (NIHOTOUR), Mrs. Chika Balogun, with membership drawn from across the various aspects of the industry.
The work of this technical committee, he said is that: ‘‘They are to mirror all standardization activities; to aid the promotion and implementation of standards projects when they are completed and they establish Nigeria’s position in regional and international standards.’’
Some of the committees where Nigeria is currently involved include: ISO/TC 228- Tourism and Related Services; ARSO/THC 12- Service/Finance; and ECOSHAM/THC 06- Tourism. According to him, some of the benefits derived from standard harmonization include: Identify commonalities, critical national requirements that need to be retained, and provide a common standard.
‘‘For businesses, harmonisation cuts compliance costs and simplifies the process of meeting requirements; Reduces complexity for those tasked with regulatory authorities and auditing standards compliance; Declare the service’s performance (service providers); Provide common assessment methods for tourism and tourist products; Results in process efficiency and effectiveness; and Open access to new markets.
In conclusion, Nyado urged that: ‘‘It is an undisputable fact that the hospitality and tourism industry is a major contributor to nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, with tourists destinations becoming very competitive among nations.
‘‘Quality of service offerings is the decisive factor for the attraction of tourists to a country. Countries like Spain, France, United Kingdom, USA, China, etc. attracts more tourists because the quality of their service offerings is in line with global standards set for the industry.
‘‘For Nigeria to benefit from the competition, She has to embrace global tourism and related service standardisation, because they are practical and meet proven industry and consumer needs. Meeting with global expectations, public trust and confidence can only be demonstrated for our tourism and hospitality products and services when our Conformity Assessment Bodies conduct its certification schemes for national, regional and international standards in the sector according to ISO CASCO requirements as stated in the accreditation requirements of Nigeria National Accreditation Service (NINAS), AFRAC, ILAC and IAF.
He advised the Federation and its member associations to patronise the services of SON, stating that: ‘‘Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has the competence and capacity to certify products, processes, services, persons and management systems in line with set standards and requirements of Accreditation bodies recognized by IAF and ILAC.’’
Impact of security on Nigeria tourism
A detailed presentation on the ‘Effect of safety and security in marketing and promotion of tourism product in Nigeria, was handled by a Director in the Department of State Security (DSS), Mohammed Musa. With him taking his audience through the various challenges of security in Nigeria, ranging from Boko Haram to fake news and how they have impacted on the nation’s tourism.
To safeguard the industry, he recommended among others the need to have: Co-ordination and co-operation among all parties involved in ensuring tourism surety by combating crime and protecting both residents and visitors as well as destination reputation; and the needs to project an image of we care, of creating an environment in which customers know that they are not prisoners but respected guests.