In our tourism world, breezy talk gains ground daily, leaving in its wake distraught latter-day tourism apostles and evangelists. Such effusiveness blights strategic thinking and planning in the sector, leaving us goalless.
No wonder the industry suffers and limps from rotten and poisonous interventions, most clearly meant to deceive even the few tourism elect.
I had sat down and prayerfully sought to understand the Google gospel of Folarin Coker at NTDC, yet, each time I put the fancy idea to drive mode, the brain box fails to respond. No doubt, the NTDC Google adventure, will find a space here when we have conviction either way, to interrogate the controversial tech dummy sold to us as Humpty Dumpty.
Have you heard about Abiodun Odusanwo, the unassuming chief driver of Nigeria Transportation Summit? Well, I will tell you a bit of what I know about this British-trained academician-turned-tourism logistics facilitator and certainly about his internationalization of the Nigerian exhibition brand, carefully baked for an inclusive tourism industry.
Odusanwo is cryptic, coded and unrevealed. He is outstanding in thought and action, barely heard when he speaks but, surprisingly, a man who takes his time to pick his battles, pointedly his tourism battles.
The Ogun State-born tourism teacher and economist walked into the sector clearly focused on changing the skyline of the Nigerian tourism space. Dr. Mubo Eniola, a very industrious UK-trained tourism technocrat, had sent me years ago to hunt down Odusanwo, who had penciled Dr. Eniola as the recipient of the Tourism Professionals Institute award.
Dr. Eniola, a tourism colossus and beam of Kogi State tourism, does not hail cheap taxis to public adventure and would not endorse frypan theatrics. After several calls and pressure, a visit to Odusanwo’s Osborne office in Lagos got me sleepless because he relocated to Abuja.
Dead beat and harassed by Dr. Eniola who believed I should have intelligence on Odusanwo more than anyone, one quickly dismissed the investigation and kept an open mind.
And he broke forth from the blues, so to say, with the Institute for Tourism Professionals (later) rebranded as an exclusive Nigerian dream. Abiodun Odusanwo did not microwave the idea, he baked it.
I had stonewalled him, not because he was not eminently qualified but because he was a mystery. I really don’t know the objectives of the institution he had brought to the table of the sector, and despite several meetings to clear the status of the body, something tells me Odusanwo is a strategic innovator.
Essentially unputdownable, rugged and unassuming, Odusanwo has leveraged on years of British education and exposure to build a bridge, the unavoidable web of inclusive collaboration between the tourism-generating government agencies and the private sector.
In the past four years, he has worked tirelessly and professionally to define the tourism space, systematically connecting aviation, rail and ground transportation to expand the scope and reach of tourism logistics. Odusanwo holds the franchise, even though the profiling is octopus.
So, what difference is he bringing to the Transportation Summit and expo agenda this year? The theme “Tourism Transportation Connectivity and Partnership: Leveraging the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) Regime for Economic Sustainability,” has a ring of excitement and possibilities, tending to open inter-African tourism and trade logistics more than ever before.
It’s thrilling to imagine the strategic connection to open up the advantages derivable from bringing together various drivers and stakeholders of the emerging three trillion dollars AfCFTA transportation economy to power the movement of goods and services, including persons across the continent.
No doubt, Nigeria is the destination, in population and creative economy, hence, Odusanwo’s efforts to call out the Federal Ministries of Aviation, Transportation, Information and Culture, not excluding Federal Capital Territory Administration, looks like a Nigerian challenge.
Yes, Nigeria has the potential, the presence and experience to define the focal attention and empowerment of the tourism industry through the complexities of African transportation network.
It is here that partnering government agencies should stake more spaces in the exposition slated for Abuja between November 15 and 16, and encourage the launch out and adventure of enterprising Nigerian start-ups and entities to grow cross-border logistics portfolios, thus creating jobs and opportunities.
Indeed, the integration of the single African market for goods, services, facilitated by the movement of persons is the liver and kidney of the expected realization of a prosperous Africa.
The summit may also provide the opportunities for not just Nigerian agencies but those of other African countries to test the workability of the policy efforts, particularly immigration and customs, in powering this huge trade concept. Significantly, the summit is the practical laboratory to evaluate the readiness of manpower, security and technology in defining the new frontiers of Africa’s biggest adventure in tourism and transportation economy.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, we should in weeks to come, if space permits, engage in the interpretation of the gains and opportunities across board for hospitality owners, ferry service operators and other downstream businesses, across Africa, Nigeria in particular, to gain muscle and exposure to the AfCFTA regime, a gold mine still coded in mystery and for which Odusanwo has sworn to reveal the secret code to participants at the summit.