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A tourism practitioner, Nkereuwem Onung, President, National Association of Nigeria Tour Operators (NATOP), and also Managing Director, Remlords Tours, has said that it’s a new dawn for the tourism sector in Nigeria as no efforts would be spared in ensuring that the issue of tourism data is put onto the first burner.
Onung made this declaration in an exclusive interview with Lucky Onoriode George recently.
As the newly-elected first National Deputy President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), and banker turned tour operator, he said that the bane of the tourism industry and the lack of attention from government is a fall-out from dearth of data to prove that tourism contributes so much to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to him: “There are enough physical evidences available in all our cities and towns to prove beyond any doubts that tourism is a sector that should be taken seriously because of the numbers of hospitality businesses across them. People work in those hotels, suppliers deliver daily to the restaurants, the banks receive deposits from sales daily, and [most] importantly, taxes are paid to government at all levels monthly.”
While Onung’s position is nothing but a welcome development and relief to many industry analysts, agencies like the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) would, however, have to be pushed beyond their limit to get going with the task of gathering the much-needed tourism data for government to plan and have reason to believe in the sector.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism has experienced continued growth and deepening diversification to become one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. Modern tourism is closely linked to development, and encompasses a growing number of new destinations, and has turned into a key driver for socio-economic progress in many countries.
Today, the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products, or automobiles and has become one of the major players in international commerce, and represents at the same time one of the main income sources for many developing countries. This growth goes hand in hand with increasing diversification and competition among destinations.
This global spread of tourism in industrialized and developed states has produced economic and employment benefits in many related sectors – from construction to agriculture or tele-communications. The contribution of tourism to economic well-being depends on the quality and the revenues of the tourism offer. However, in an economy less diversified, and which had over the decades depended on a mono product economy like oil, very little attention is given to tourism in Nigeria.
Besides government’s lackadaisical attitudes towards the sector, the organized private tourism sector over the years has also not been able to pull itself together to exert the needed influence on the authority at the federal, state, and local levels with the view to ensuring favorable policies for the travel and tourism industry.
Many blame the failure of the private sector to achieve the aforementioned due to unavailability of data from both the practitioners and relevant government agencies, like the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), apex government tourism agency, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and most importantly, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
FTAN had on June 29, 2017 elected new executives to pilot the affairs of the body for the next 2 years. The event, which was held in Abuja, saw Rabo Saleh Karim of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), emerge as the President. Nkereuwem Onung was elected as the first National Deputy President; Abiodun Odusanwo as the second National Deputy President; and Ayo Olumoko as Vice President, South West.
Others elected were Nura Kangiwa, Vice President, North East; Ngozika Ngoka, Vice President, South East; Badaki Aliyu, Vice President, Federal Capital Territory; Eugene Nwauzi, Vice President, South-South Zone; and John A. Adzer, Vice President, North Central. Also elected were Ime Udo, Membership Secretary; John-Likita M. Best; Emeka Anokwuru, Membership Secretary; Okorie Uguru, First Publicity Secretary; and Joseph Karim, Publicity Secretary.
With this election, an analyst noted that the tourism private sector body, FTAN, is having for the very first time, leadership that is knowledge driven and that unlike in the past, influence by mere association with public officers was more paramount to them than actual issues of tourism.
In his goodwill message, the Chairman, FTAN’s Board of Trustee, Samuel Alabi, said the era of the federal government agency controlling or coordinating tourism was gone for good. Alabi said that except that there is a constitutional amendment to include tourism under the exclusive or concurrent list of the 1999 constitution as amended, it would be difficult for a federal agency to fully control tourism in the whole country.
He stated further: “The fact that the Federal Attorney General is yet to apply section 215 of the 1999 constitution, the heavily-mutilated NTDC Act is still a surprise to me.”
Also on his part, the immediate past President of FTAN, Tomi Akingbogun, in his valedictory speech, said the association worked closely with the public sector, and has also created a program to promote investment in tourism – the annual Nigerian Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE).
Saleh Karim, in his acceptance speech, called for greater unity among member associations to lend supporting hands. He promised to work with his team to facilitate domestic and inbound tourism in Nigeria.
PHOTO: Nkereuwem Onung, President, National Association of Nigeria Tour Operators (NATOP)