By Emeka Anokwuru
Chief Tomi Akingbogun, an indigene of Osun State with a background in agriculture, carpentry and business, has, over the years, carved a niche for himself as a hotelier. He is the chairman and chief executive officer of Hotel Rosebud Limited, one of the leading independent hotel brands in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
He is also the chief executive officer of Rosebud Solar Technology Limited and chairs the Nigeria Electricity Consumer Advocacy Network. He was for years the president of the Hotel Owners Forum of Abuja (HOFA) and later rose to become the deputy president of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN). In 2013, he was elected president of the federation, which is the umbrella body of all tourism associations in the country.
On June 29, 2017, he would formally hand over the mantle of leadership of the tourism body to a new president at the 2017 elective annual general meeting of the federation holding in Abuja. Recently, he was a guest at the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET) Media Forum, where he spoke extensively on the activities of the FTAN and the state of tourism in Nigeria.
How would you describe your four years as president of the FTAN?
Initially, when I was made president, I was a bit afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do it; but, to my surprise, I enjoyed very large support from the member associations. It was very smooth sailing, the major problem being fund because most times that council met, the president had to accommodate, feed and entertain members and so you found out that being the president of FTAN was an quite expensive role.
You also had to be present in all the zones, visiting members, and you had to do it with your own funds.
It was quite expensive but it was very rewarding and it was appreciated as long as the association was growing. It is a very smooth relationship now, and I haven’t attended any ANJET forum like this as president.
This is my first time of attending the forum and it shows that there is a stronger tie. And this to me is the greatest reward for any president of FTAN. The recognition that we are making progress and members are also contributing and you are also making your contribution by this move.
How has the tourism industry fared under your tenure?
The industry itself has its own problems, fund is the greatest one. We wrote to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to query why fund is not available for tourism investment, but we got no reply. The minister of finance too was written and we didn’t get any response.
We believe that it is only when our businesses do well that our members can smile to their associations.
One other problem is the multiplicity of bills and charges, and the difficulties in getting the local governments to meet with usl; with the recession and government money not coming, the local governments seem not to understand that businesses have to grow and you could charge a little amount from each business rather than increase the intensity, including the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
Everybody now has a target and the targets are just too many and cumbersome and difficult to comply with to the point that businesses are folding up. I received calls from some hotels last night that they were closing up in Abuja.
So, it is a sad thing to hear that businesses are closing down as a result of the impact of the economic downturn that we are facing and the need for government to generate more revenue. They need to balance it with survival of businesses, otherwise unemployment would increase and whatever revenue you generate, if unemployment increases, the cost of security, sustenance of the economy and the society itself, whatever you generated would not be able to keep the balance.
How do you get the various levels of government to understand this fact and temper down its revenue drive?
We have been talking with the Institute of Tourism Professionals and we have been assisting them so that they can arrange training for the local and state governments. In view of the Supreme Court judgement, which empowers the state over the federal government, we have discovered that there is need for us to actually go there to train and encourage them to train their staff because, in the management of the state itself, you need to know that there must be more business, rather than increasing the intensity of taxes. What we have now is an increased intensity, which is counter-productive to the economic welfare of the nation.
What was your vision for the federation when you contested for the position president four years ago?
I was lucky to be the deputy president of the past leadership of FTAN under Chief Samuel Alabi, and you would remember that, at that time, FTAN was developed from almost zero, with nothing in place. When I served at that time, I knew that there was still a lot of work to be done to get FTAN members to believe in FTAN itself, to know that FTAN was serving their goals, that FTAN was not one-man affair. You can see that membership has been growing and is still going.
If you had thought that I was not going to serve you and I started serving you, instead of you being my enemy you should decide to be my friend and that is why we are having more members today who initially thought that they would not be able to work with the new administration that was put in place.
Actually, it was like a total break and FTAN rose from zero and when I got there my goal was to get everybody together, build more membership for FTAN, get government agencies to recognise FTAN and get FTAN to develop a revenue-generating event.
Our dream was to have a quarterly event but at least we have been able to have one, Nigerian Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE), and grow it to a yearly event and, hopefully, we could have zonal events, and I believe that the new administration will look into it.
What would you describe as the legacies of your administration?
There is peace, there is better coordination and now we are friends even with ANJET. We have built a very strong bond of friendship and that is a very strong legacy being left behind. FTAN is now recognised by government agencies as the umbrella body, which was not so in the past as you would hear of people having events everywhere and you didn’t know who the organisers were; but now the organisers have to come to FTAN to get papers before the ministry gives approval.
In the past things were being done haphazardly but now FTAN is coordinating the private sector while the ministry is coordinating the public sector. It is really a fantastic legacy to leave behind.
We have also been able to build synergy with the government as the directors and permanent secretaries of the tourism ministry are now working with us. We have opened our doors, we have attended their events and they also have attended our events.
Through these interactions, they have been able to see some of our problems and they are solving some of them. It will take time before some of these things begin to yield fruit but the relationship has improved and we look forward to the new administration building on the achievements that we have recorded in these four years.
Presently, FTAN has two seats in the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT), which has been reactivated by President Muhammadu Buhari. FTAN is currently a member of the Ministerial Committees on Culture and Tourism and also a member of the Nigerian Tourism Master Plan Implementation Committee. It is very active with the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) tourism department.
How confident are you that the newly resuscitated PCT would be sustained?
What you must know is that the private sector is constant but government comes and government goes but so long as FTAN itself remains as one and we have a strong voice and ANJET is supporting and magnifying our voice, we would continue to remind the government, the ministry, the minister and any other government that comes in thereafter the reasons why the PCT was formed and then say these are the disadvantages, if you don’t continue with it; and there is no government that does not want to develop the country.
A new online travel firm, Nogle Travels, has been launched in Nigeria, thus offering clients an innovative website where they can search and book for flight tickets, make hotel reservations, visa processing services and tour packages.
Unlike traditional agencies, Nogle Travels has come on board as the latest online travel agency to give Nigerians a new experience in the way they search for and book their flights to any destination around the world. This can be accessed online through www.nogletravels.com
The agency is offering Nigerians a set of tools that will allow them purchase travel packages that would meet their requirements and budget. The website is user friendly, secure and safe for transactions, hence Nigerians are urged to feel free to make their flight bookings and be rest assured that their transaction is secure while they enjoy the various travel deals on offer.
Bookings can be made within seconds without experiencing any hitch while Nogle Travels has also made it possible for people to make last minute changes to their flight and hotel bookings at little or no extra cost.
When it comes to online activities and technology, Nigerians adapt fast and with Nogle Travels new website, it is easier for internet users to source for their travel deals.
Managing Director of Nogle Travels, Mrs. Ifechukwu Chukwurah, said apart from the agency being the newest online travel agency in Nigeria, it is also the fastest growing and very reliable agency in Nigeria, adding, “we are really excited with the degree of acceptance by Nigerians since we opened. She pledged, on behalf of her agency to continue to be top notch in the travel industry, form more strategic partnerships with both local and international airlines, and also be a-one-stop-shop for all travel needs.”
Nogle Travels was launched to complement the advancement in travel technology in Nigeria’s changing travel environment and is run by seasoned professionals, it is an online travel agency that provides affordable travel options and independent flight comparisons between major international airlines and low-fare airlines. The mission of Nogle Travels is to make traveling affordable and create seamless options for the traveling public. Director of Business Services, Mr. Frank Dibia, said, “Nogle Travels is like a dream come true. It’s a company that was conceived to offer unique services, after years of strategic planning, with cutting edge technology development, as well a conscious effort at learning the behavioural pattern of Nigerian customer.”