Two major documents on certain positions on the tourism industry popped up on my WhatsApp number during the week. One is on the Orosanye reforms and the other on the position of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria ( FTAN), over sundry request for financial palliatives to the tourism sector badly hit by covid 19, tax holidays and the ventilator powers of the tourism economy generously captured.
Josef Kareem, an Abuja based tourism media entrepreneur and a friend sent the papers and requested for my comments and suggestions. I won’t bother you with his very personal sentiment attached to this request and to which I could not ignore even though I had wished to wash my hands off the plethora of avoidable mistakes and knowledge gaps in getting the the players to work together as one entity.
For about two hours, after those documents hit my phone, I dutifully called Kareem to further share my views and the possible end results of our new adventure, particularly concerning FTAN grandiose request.
Let me also share the many concerns of Journalists Okorie Uguru of the nation newspaper, George Lucky and Andrew Okungbowa some of the best brains in the sector and their concern over the proposed merger and commercialized federal tourism and related agencies.
General overview of the sector:
It is not out of place to describe Nigeria tourism sector as a beautiful bride, hardly noticed and appreciated by both family and suitors.
It could also be likened to a car, desired to move persons, goods and services but with tyres deflated by the owner, pretending it is inflated inorder to manipulate expectant disaster.
In other words, this is not speaking in tongues, the industry is replete with confused tendencies, showmanship, organised rascality and a general lack of strategic focus and futuristic game plan.
Jankara and oyingbo markets operators are better organized, even the street boys behind the road transportation architecture, can floor the best of the industry frontliners.
We are the best of “dogs” in a manger, the crabs in a basket and purveyors of one man show in an industry to which the best attract the best, jump start the weak to a heartbeat of growth and empowerment of a viable, visible economic and job creation power base.
For over five decades, the industry wobbled and fumbled in disgrace, self destruct, producing Humpty Dumpties and Herods as experts and entrenched fraudsters as godfathers.
From the 70’s, we failed to find out why Nigerian Tourism Board( now NTDC) kept wobbling. We spared no strategic thought to why some of best home grown hospitality brands went down. What happened to Nigeria Hotels limited, the Arewa hotels, two local hospitality giants with dotted visibility across nigeria landscape, creating jobs, supporting home grown agricultural solutions, showcasing Nigerian gastronomic specialities, producing chefs of unique masteries and promoting our Art and culture?
History gone by, no records, confused future. Today, we parade institutions and “traders” as opportunists for that matter as our frontline Operators.
Do anyone then wonder, why Nigeria does not boast of any tourism brand or institution with a staying presence? It is Jack and Jill scenerio, our businesses die before they take off, our government measures though meant to provide roadmap, flounder and rake with fraud and conduit pipes of the most shameful administrative malaise.
Let not deceive ourselves, the government and the nigerian People have over pampered the “practitioners”, over indulged us and no wonder, our tourism sermon on the mountain of covid 19 pandemic, may be very hard to believe.
Picture of MERGERS
The gospel of mergers in the industry according Orosanye may be tinkered but it is a hard fact that time has come to prune the over bloated and poor performing federal tourism related institutions.
Top on the bill and rightly captured is the commercialization of Nigeria TOURISM DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION ( NTDC).
Another hit spot, is the merger of National Theatre and National Troupe of Nigeria with National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC).
The moribound National Museum and the National Gallery of Arts is also on the table. I didn’t see much of the Center for Black and African civilization to which orosanye gave soft landing and to which should be commercialized.
I just wonder what National Institute for cultural orientation ( NICO) brings to national cultural vista and why it should not exist the budget circle and be returned to NCAC or be merged with CBAAC.
On the aviation wing, the merger of federal airport authority, nigerian civil Aviation authority and others certainly will attract our attention and position.
On the natural resources content, the National Parks Protected areas( used to be seven) but now practically five, located across the country, must enjoy dedicated funding inorder to generate sufficient commercial attraction as oxygenators of ecological tourism. Orosanye intervention though realistic, must be handled with detailed measures to properly situate conservation as key of national orientation.
Human resources and MERGERS
Political correctness in picking the best hands to run the proposed merging agencies matters a lot. Apart from putting a ceiling on when the agencies should exist the budget circle, the the hammer of the law must break their legal encumbrances if any.
Available information revealed that some of the agencies were creation of ambitious policy eggs heads and largely driven by very pedestrian factors not beneficial to national development.
The case of commercialized NTDC post covid 19 present a challenging option but a possible novel rebound of the industry if the government will eschew politics in the choice or appointment of the leadership.
Indeed, there is a big knowledge gap between a government fed NTDC and a commercial concern that can aggregate the value chain of sector, and be seen to generate profits, big enough to attract and command respect from stakeholders and resources managers.
Between 2013 and now, NTDC have lost all possible arguments for continuous government funding. Its leadership has shown no colour, neither any meaningful engagement to prove and justify to be spoon fed.
Compared to other government tourism agencies across Africa, it’s probable achievement is the nigerian colour which even its leaders converted to private fashion statement.
And with strategic presence across the six geographical zones, it is sad to see its leadership drink tea in the morning and lunch of ewedu and Amala in the afternoon all year round with no visible contributions to the national economic development.
Indeed, who runs in NTDC post covid 19 commercialized system would hopefully determine how the industry fare.
A head hunt must start now. The private sector needs some kind of leadership example and challenge. We possibly can’t discuss an expected commercialized business model for this government tourism institution without setting agenda for the best hand(s) to run the place.
Those who think and behave like politicians cannot run a fully commercialized NTDC. This is certainly where I expect FTAN to pull resources and presence to shop for a new beginning for the Nigerian tourism tomorrow.
A commercialized NTDC will work together to promote our cultural tourism resources, will enthrone legacies, capture statistics and open rural development.
It’s current posturing as a political barracks and cemetery of ideas will cease, if government will do the needful.
•Next week: the brain we [email protected] NTDC.