For a long time, Nigeria’s tourism private sector has accepted to live in denial and pretence to the operational factors that engineers the full potentials of globally accepted ways and means of doing tourism business. Often, we celebrate half measures and thumb up flashes of inspirations that hardly last the distance.
A historical rundown of the industry in Nigeria presents struggles in diversity as gains of teething issues not limited to developmental efforts but largely mirrored as shithole philosophy projected by American President Donald Trump.
From a blistering start, the Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN), under its founding father Alabo Mike Amachree, the floundering shenanigans of industry collective aspirations have always been punctured by ignorant and large scale suffocation of individual mundane desires coloured and presented as the vision of the collective.
Except for National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), most industry associations hardly last the distance and quivers at developmental challenges and corrupt mind set of self appointed or selected leadership. The trend is unacceptable and calls for a deep reappraisal of the reasons for collective thinking on the way out for our tourism and travel industry.
In the last three years, NANTA under Bernard Bankole seems to have gathered appreciable momentum to reposition the sector, not foreclosing the desire to address the fears and anxiety of NANTA members struggling to keep heads above the waters of economic famine. The bold effort to tackle official and private corruption did make sense in an industry to which common sense sometimes if not all the time, takes flight.
NANTA under Bankole has shown firmness, strength and organized processes of engagement to help keep the industry in focus, without which the private sector would have lost the needed pride of collective representation machinery and influencer of national desire to compare notes with other climes on tourism and travel trade.
Let me quickly add that the support narrative of National Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) under the inspiring leadership of Nkereweun Onung is laden with huge sacrifice on the altar of misconception even to those who belong to it. Onung is like a Moses called to encourage Israel to head to the Promised Land and determined to deliver even those who resist deliverance.
The series on the relevance of industry associations to put our needs in focus cannot be complete if we do not mention the determination of operators such as Onung to make hay just as NANTA under Bankole chose to up the game to clean the industry of proverbial rats and cockroaches pretending to find voice in the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN). Indeed, FTAN is a shithole association that can neither bite nor bark.
It has always been difficult to write about this pretentious representation of our collective dreams as it galls the mind and boils the soul in sorrow. I would rather advocate that NANTA and if NATOP is willing, should pull strength together to change the narrative associated with tourism development and promotion in Nigeria. As earlier noted, NANTA can do better and could improve the rating of our collective involvement in growing the business of tourism in Nigeria, particularly through new thought processes and actions plans that beam search light into dark tunnels of Nigerian tourism.
NANTA’s leadership stride when our aviation sector was in near collapse was keen and exemplary, ditto the frontal advocacy to slumbering government tourism and aviation agencies to commit practical change to issues concerning the growth of the sector.
NANTA’s potent membership domain is yet to be fully exploited, a large dormant army of job providers and new travel/tourism business influencers possibly afraid to look beyond their nose to the supposed hinterland of opportunities yet untapped. This is where Bankole has tried to connect. Whether he has done enough in this regard is left for other stakeholders to find the right cord in fronting a change of heart and to deliver the expected desire.
Right now, NANTA identification card to pressure quacks and fly-by-night operators to shift base out of the business is on the burner. It is a head count process that would expose ghost travel trade operators and their sponsors. Another common sense resolution by NANTA is to revisit its age long expectation to find the right legislative cover to check and guard entry and exit doors to the association’s operational goals beyond being mere contributors to national economic advancement.
That NANTA has an address and can be found relevant to frontally confront the elephants of corruption in government and the tourism private sector affairs gives the industry the needed advantage to hold on to tomorrow’s tourism dawn. NANTA under Bankole has never spoken for it members alone, it has shown capacity to speak for the entire industry, and there the need to sustain the boldness to call a spade, a spade no matter whose ox is gored. NANTA must rise again to redeem the private tourism sector and that desire makes sense.