Until recently, hospitality investors in Nigeria have not enjoyed the globally accepted tax holidays. There is certainly nothing in the books to show system support of any kind. And to think that investing in the sector comes at huge cost and the taxable regime so humongous, leading to the early demise of some promising efforts in this direction.
Apart from scandalous taxes and levies, owners are expected to generate their own power, clean water and pay for merely connecting their facilities to public utilities that never work.
There are land use charge, liquor, generator, borehole, fencing, environment and safety taxes and other ridiculous demands. To rent private facilities for eateries and bukas is a different ball game and the federal, states and local governments taxmen make life unbearable for such owners.
Sadly, these financial obligations were hardly taking into consideration the focal employment and sundry economic benefits derivable from the investment in the sector and the huge multiplier effect on agricultural produce, not excluding poultry and fisheries.
Certainly, the economy remains the best beneficiary of a well structured, nationally empowered entrepreneurship in hospitality business, with the huge opening of rural development, job creation and advancement in recreation, entertainment and tourism.
It helps grow meetings, conventions and workshops. City breaks, beautifications and branding are not left out. A nation lacking or unfriendly to the effective presence and development of hospitality infrastructure hardly ranks high when regional, continental and global meetings and events are contemplated.
It is, therefore, not out of place to find Nigeria hardly considered for choice selection as hosting ground for most regional and international meets, despite our potential as the best destination for engagements, all things being equal.
Another problematic issue is the absence of a well-organised private sector body to help lobby government to pay more attention to the stated and obvious benefits of the sector beyond the tax and obnoxious levy honey bee status.
After the demise of the Nigerian Hotels Association, powered by the then Nigerian Hotels Limited and the Arewa Hotels Limited, the feverish scramble and dirty politicking by certain portfolio operators have led to bitter division rather than a united front to address the many challenges confronting the sector.
In Lagos, for instance, there are myriad of mushroom bodies representing all shades of opinions in the sector, confusing and polluting the system, making it difficult for the authorities to regulate and register the operators. And with such malignant disposition, it is easy for government officials working for themselves to use divide-and-rule strategy, and issue and enforce unpopular decisions without any concrete challenge from the many splinter groups in the sector.
As it is in Lagos, so also elsewhere in Nigeria, taking the country backwards and opening it to questionable foreign investments and brands, milking our potentialities, impoverishing our abundant labour, growing their national agricultural produce value chain and powering capital flight out of Nigeria
And with the pandemic protocols and palliatives, the sector has gone into banal submissions and arguments, confusing both the government and the people on what to expect and how to go about it.
Since the breakout of the pandamic and the various suggestions on how to get the business back on its feet, all kinds of voices are now heard, either in support or in total disagreement on how to move forward.
In the course of the confusion over the various engagement of the government concerning the sector, I am yet to see any serious sustainable campaign or agenda pushed into the huge Nigerian tourism market, unlike other countries where the private sector players keep rolling out and experimenting new measures, building confidence and assuring everyone that life is about to return to the good old days and even better, post-pandemic.
Yes, the sector deserves palliatives but no serious government will throw a lifeline to any business or group without established pedigree and verifiable documentation.
Herein lies the problem of our growth and development in the tourism sector. The call for a decentralised policy engagement has been laid bare by the pandemic and I am sure those who are calling for Federal Government attention, know that it is not going to happen.
Even at state level, the organised confusion delibrately driven by state officials would take long in being addressed because the real owners and investors are not in the know of the game plan of portfolio owners and administrators to corner the benefits of effective and practical relationship with government.
If those shouting government pandemic protocol expectation for the hospitality sector as high-handed, let them show us what alternative they have in mind, the reforms post-pandemic or simply shut up.