Few months back, I had sat down with the Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Segun Runsewe to run through certain developments in sector concerning the intent and future consequence of unregulated tourism awarding institutions, persons or organizations falling over themselves to occupy the tourism space. We agreed that the industry certainly deserve some noble attention and those who may wish to dabble into this area of the tourism economy must however need to do the needful.
First, it is expected that such awarding institutions or organizations must be reputable, visible and must be above board in setting out the criteria, have a board or a college of judges experienced and known with verifiable presence or history in the sector. We also agreed that trade associations, in particular must be well guided in the choice they make in this area, for reasons that they grow not just the values of their trade obligations and vision but must specifically limit the choice of the position within the frame work of their operational competence or influence and not blanket generalization.
Indeed, reputation driven award institutions all over the world such as the Mechilean Awards, skal international sustainable Tourism Awards, International Historic Cities Awards, UNWTO Awards, WTM Tourism for Tomorrow Awards and may others have established firm roots as prestigious awards in the global travel and tourism sector. These awards not only recognize excellence, they are help propel and encourage individuals and as well as organizations to showcase their best work.
Certainly these award institutions evolved over time but driven with excellence, vision and reputation at stake, knowing that they harbinger a product likely or primed to lose its value if not tracked by reputation and competence. Here, the guiding principle is to establish professional presence driven by reputational authority to which various publics must accept as deserving accolades without leaving room for doubt or “crabbish” Postmortem end result.
As a national award recipient in my days at the Vanguard and also the first recipient of NANTA travel journalism award, the huge boost to professional growth and appreciation to which a well-endowed award process could generate, cannot be over overemphasized, particularly as a tool to drive refreshing vision and at same time restore hope to an industry hardly factored into developmental agenda in Nigeria. And absolutely convinced that NCAC under Runsewe would soon incorporate certain operational presence in this area not in any way to rubbish any ongoing efforts visible or invisible but to set standard on reputation, professionalism and excellence which should drive diadem influence in Nigerian culture and tourism industry.
Today is about Efetobo Awhana and his Balearica Awards. Just few years into this noble venture, Awhana has mainstreamed reputation and excellence into this award. As an industry observer and influencer, I had watched from the sidelines, the struggles of this young and inspiring tour operator, in this most critical area to guide and provide various spectrum of initiatives that would provide support base to our growing tourism and culture economy.
How careful can Efetobo and the Balearica Tourism Award be in this regard? Sometimes in June this year, he wrote to invite me to join the reputable college of tourism insiders, to help nominate and vet those worthy and fit to share the Balearica dream. A great honour indeed but I was about to turn down the request when my daughter intervened. A story for another day but to submit that the Balearica Award and Efetobo Awhana may harbinger the dream reputable award for the industry and give Nigeria the needed mileage to be counted as a destination where some sense of professionalism and best global practices could be enthroned not just in the way we do tourism business but in showcasing our best verifiable, visible and truly influential operators in all the segments.
Let me commend the administrator of Balearica Awards, Nnenna Fakoya – Smith for driving me to give my best to this initiative even though we have not met. In course of this assignment, I had spoken to Awhana about twice with advice to certain operational expectations which would stand out Balearica Awards as truly deserving a national spread and acceptance.
One major area is the electronic voting “Spree” which may not add exceptional value to end winners since most voters are just friends and relations without real and sustained followership and interest in the tourism sector. If the idea however is to generate “fringe” interest, it must not however drive the final result, as seen in other award efforts where even “waka pass” and upstarts without visible operational experience or passion are begged to be so certificated.
I wish to see winners of Balearica Awards enjoy local and international acceptance and from the membership of its award college, Balearica Awards may jumpstart the real Nigerian initiative, the brand, the vision and dream influence of discovery and recognition of excellence in the industry.
This weekend, Balearica Awards comes up in Lagos. I will not be there as am on national assignment for NCAC, my prayers to Efetobo Awhana, Nnenna Smith, fellow judges on the bench of Balearica Awards, participants and the winners. It is our industry, let us celebrate our best. The media award certainly will take front page discussion. To me, we are all winners.