Franklin Ihejirika in this article examines the Nigerian tourism industry in the last one year, vis-a- vis Sally Mbanefo’s one-year in the saddle as the director general of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation NTDC, the journey so far in the marketing of the destination Nigeria and the prospects of Nigerian tourism as an alternative means of income generation to the government.
In recent time, to market Nigeria as a destination has become a herculean task due to the security challenges posed by the incessant attacks of the Boko Haram terrorist sect in the North East of the country, including the rising cases of kidnapping in the South East and South /South of the country. The major cultural festivals of North have been adversely affected by this development which is also affecting other sectors of the economy.
This is also compounded by the poor marketing strategy adopted by the government agency, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC charged with the responsibility of marketing and promoting of Nigerian tourism potential home and abroad through participation in international tourism expos abroad, like the WTM, ITB Berlin, FITUR Spain, and Arabian Travel Market among others.
Before now, the NTDC was also charged with the responsibility of registering, upgrading and classification of hotels, planning, developing coordinating, promoting, and marketing vast tourism resources in the country. This was before the Supreme Court judgment which ruled that it is only a State House of Assembly that can make laws on tourism or licensing, grading of hotels, restaurants, fast food outlets and other hospitality establishments. But since losing this vital source of revenue and one of its most important functions, the Corporation has not remained the same, focusing on the marketing and promoting of Nigerian tourism potential home and abroad through participation in international tourism expos abroad has become a mission impossible.
Even participating at events in the country that will help promote domestic tourism has not been easy, not to talk of international fairs and exhibitions which for now is day dreaming.
Here, it will be suffice to say that visiting of state governors in the name of promoting domestic tourism is not how to promote domestic tourism, not participating in its core mandate of marketing and promotion of Nigerian tourism potential in tourism expos and exhibition abroad and even in the country is not how to market the destination Nigeria.
At the recent World Economic Forum Africa, held in Abuja, the NTDC did not participate, the corporation did not get a stand due to their lackadaisical approach to the event and their inability to act promptly. But since they could not get a stand for coming late, they were offered a place under the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, but the director general of NTDC rejected it, saying that they want their own space which was not available. So, the NTDC did not get a stand and hence stayed away from the event which would have served as another avenue to market the country’s tourism potential to the high net visitors.
This opportunity that will not cost anything to showcase the country’s untapped potential was just wasted, this time money is not the problem but just to register and participate at the Forum. If the Corporation is lamenting that there is no money to market Nigeria in international fairs abroad, so what about this event that took place in Abuja in our country, the apex tourism marketing body could not utilise the opportunity to sell the destination, Nigeria, no wonder they cannot even sell the destination outside the country.
A tourism stakeholder who spoke to Nigerian Pilot Sunday on condition of anonymity expressed disappointment on the appointment of Mbanefo describing it as a huge disappointment to the Nigerian tourism sector.
According to the stakeholder, the DG has failed in promoting Nigerian tourism both locally and international, “since she took over in the last one year, there is nothing to show for this appointment, the core mandate of showcasing Nigerian tourism to the world has become a mission impossible as the only exhibition Nigeria has participated since her coming on board is the World Travel Market in London which was put together by the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation and not NTDC. At the ITB Berlin Nigeria did not participate as an exhibitor, rather as an observer, at Fitur in Spain, the country did not participate, at the recently concluded Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, Nigeria did not participate. The worst of it is that the country will pay for not participating at the ITB Berlin, for not indicating their inability to participate on time, but rather chose to cancel their participation few hours to the event, the characteristic manner of Nigerians running away from the rain when it has soaked them.
They Corporation had all the time in the world to write to the organisers that the country will no longer participate at the fair and the space reserved for them would have been given to another country, rather the country is going to pay for a space it did not use, which is total wastefulness”
On the excuse of lack of funds by NTDC to execute some of their projects both participating in international fairs and promotion of domestic tourism, the source observed that it an irony for Mrs. Mbanefo to say there is no money when the allocation for the Corporation was retuned back to federal government coffers as surplus, showing that even the DG does not know what to do with the money allocated to her Agency, where such money earmarked for the promotion of the country’s destination was not utilised as Nigeria did not participate in all the international fairs and exhibition captured in the calendar of events of the Corporation, rather the money was returned as surplus.
Earlier, some of the staff of the Corporation who spoke to Nigerian Pilot Sunday anonymously, had lashed at the DG for being incompetent.
The staff maintained that for many years, Nigeria has been consistent and well represented by NTDC in international fairs and exhibitions, but wondered why the Corporation has not participated in the events that are in NTDC calendar since the coming of Mrs Mbanefo on board, “she keeps saying there is no money, there is no money, no activity, no unique innovation, no changes since she came, she has even transferred two of our staff of our staff out of Lagos for nothing, in fact she incompetent”, he said.
Another source from the Ministry of Tourism Culture and National Orientation explained that the promotion of both domestic and international tourism has been at the lowest ebb in the last one year.
The more we sit and wait for things to improve, that the leadership of NTDC will finally wake from their slumber and act promptly by making things right will not help us, rather it will take us back and the country will suffer for it, he said
“ She said her priority is domestic tourism, what has she done in the area of domestic tourism, is visiting some state governors and posing for a photo session with them promoting domestic tourism? has she met with the tour operators who will help in promoting domestic tourism in the country ?, no, this is to show that she do not even know what she is doing at all. The tour operators are the people she is supposed to meet with to brainstorm with them on how to go about the promotion and marketing of domestic tourism. Rather than the DG going to exhibitions that will have direct benefit to Nigeria, she went to World Travel Market Africa that was rejected by the South African government, to invite them to come to Nigeria instead of going to INDABA, that is to show that she and all those advising her are totally confused”, the ministry source stated.
He said one year is enough for her to learn, but it seems she doesn’t want to learn; rather the country has gone back to 1999 era where the growth and development of tourism was at the lowest ebb.
According to him, instead of improving on the successes of the past and moving the Nigerian tourism forward, she has gone back to 1999 period, there is nothing to show for her one year in office, this could be described as a one year of backward movement, all that she is claiming to have done, nothing to show for it.
Unveiling her blue print on how to promote and market Nigerian tourism during her maiden address at the tourism stakeholders’ forum on September 9, 2013 at the Civic Center in Lagos, titled: “ Rebuilding the NTDC and Growing the Tourism Value Chain for Revenue Generation and Job Creation”, Mrs. Mbanefo outlined that development finance institutions desire: Well designed and governed programs and projects they can invest in, programs and projects with significant net social benefits and outcomes that are sustainable, while the supervising ministry of Tourism & Culture desires to: Refocus the NTDC into a significant revenue generation source for the treasury, reposition the NTDC as a commercially driven operation, rebuild staff competencies, morale and productivity, develop the tourism value chain to create more jobs for women and youths through, partnerships with Public, Private and Multi-lateral Organisations, re-energise ‘brand Nigeria’ with domestic and international tourists and make the tourism industry a major contributor to Nigeria’s GDP.
According to her, State Tourism Ministries & Boards expect and desire: More revenues from registration of hospitality and tourism enterprises, collaboration with federal tourism agencies as partners of equal height, funding to develop Tourism sites , attractions and supporting infrastructure , while the Tourism Value Chain Operators expect: Resolution of multiple taxation issues, access to cheaper and long term financing, increased occupancy rates, footfall and share of tourists’ wallet, speedy and transparent process for obtaining approvals, permits, licenses for projects and seamless integration of tourism related processes with established protocols, especially at Embassies, Airports, Land and Sea entry points among others.
Although some of these laudable initiatives cannot be achieved in a year, there is nothing yet on ground to show that machinery has been put in place to actualise all the programmes outlined here.
Concrete steps must be taken by NTDC to reposition the Nigerian tourism as an alternative means of income generation to the government in line their set out programmes.
READ ALSO: 10 Most Famous Streets In Lagos
In case of any omission, errors, suggestions or requests, you can drop these in the comment box below