By Emeka Anokwuru
Nigerian youths have been urged to embrace tourism because it is big business. This was the clarion call from the organisers and eminent personalities that graced the eighth edition of Youth Tourism and Hospitality Leaders Forum at Jogor Centre, Ibadan, Oyo State, last week.
Various speakers stimulated the audience of about 250 delegates on the prime place tourism would play in the social, cultural and economic life of Nigeria during recession and in the coming years.
The event witnessed a full hall of young people from all walks of life, students from tertiary institutions, tourism professionals, academics and the media. Scholarly papers were presented by Dr. Raphael Alabi, coordinator, Tourism and Development Programme, University of Ibadan, and Ibraheem Kukoyi, Department of Hospitality and Tourism, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
In his opening address, the convener, Omololu Olumuyiwa tasked the audience on the imperative of the younger generation to wake up to the great opportunities that abound in the tourism and hospitality industry.
“We now live in a global village in which the travel, tourism and hospitality industry daily assumes greater importance both as a key economic industry, as it is today the greatest creator and employer of labour, and catering as a major source of revenue earner for many countries,” Omololu said.
In the same vein, Yemi Alade asserted that tourism is big business. Alade is one of the foremost tour operators within the industry who is in the forefront of stimulating and packaging inbound tourism for audiences from Asia and other countries to Nigeria. He is also the managing director of Jemi-Alade Tours.
“It’s gladdening to see that our youths are now gearing up for tourism. Yet there is still so much to be done”, he said.
“Tourism is taking what you have in your country, state or locality and packaging it for external audience. Let us open up our minds to know that tourism is about business. Don’t trivialise it,” Alade said.
On his part, Dr. James Rapheal disclosed that he successfully moved from doing tourism as a hobby and turning it to a profession.
“Many people see tourism as capital intensive, but I’m here to prove to you that it is not,” he said.
He stated that Ibadan had many tourism sites just discovered with most in pristine condition: “You might want to spend money travelling out of Ibadan for tours. But why don’t you start from the ones that are nearest to you?”
Abiola Bakare, sales manager, Kenya Airways, said: “Tourism is serious business. But if you don’t have passion, you can’t survive in tourism business. If you start tourism business today, if you don’t have the passion and training, you may not excel in it. Academics need to steer research in the industry. But the challenge is transforming the training in tourism into creating jobs. When we talk about inbound and outbound tourism, we need to stimulate our domestic tourism and in the last few years we have started seeing growing focus on domestic tourism in this country,” he said.