Monthly Archives: May 2016

Unending Fumbling With Nigeria’s Tourism Policies

There has always been a glaring need to fathom some deep seated syndromes that have for long stagnated the charting of a clear, viable and sustainable policy direction for Nigeria’s Tourism development.

How else can one explain our long exposure to various tourism models and having the privilege of huge financial resources, with no shortage of those professing the know-how, yet being consigned to perpetual lamentation of the dismal performance of such a critical sector of our economy over many decades?

The recent convening of a Summit of tourism stakeholders was necessitated by the combined circumstances of a new political regime inheriting a faltering oil-driven economy and the urgent need for diversification through tourism development.

However the circumstance, it is the embarrassing debacles or whatever has been done wrongly – possibly reaching a vicious circle, are what should first be identified, analysed and decoded, even as we seek fresh ideas and solutions on the way forward.

Curiously, there are issues with the very methodology currently adopted in configuring such a highly technical agenda as charting a way forward for Nigeria’s tourism development.

It should be realised that the process for distilling policies and plans for a complex sector as tourism is not what should start from what is akin to a public forum, as such would remain as clouded as the tourism stakeholders are nebulous.

To draw analogy from Carl Jung, the famous psychoanalyst, the effectiveness of a “committee” is inversely proportional to its size; positing that “a committee of a hundred professors is akin to a mob, while a thousand would have the collective intelligence of an alligator”.

It could also be recalled that an Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria [FTAN] President had once called for a Retreat of the Association’s General Assembly in Calabar. In opposing the idea, it was reasoned that a retreat usually has meaning when a select few are sequestered to think for the whole, not a convention type scenario that is only ideal for sensitization.

With tourism stakeholders being so diverse in composition and numbers, to the extent of many being ignorant of the essence and connectedness of its many components, it takes the role of adept consultants to understand the real issues and to configure a roadmap that can coordinate and drive such a complex sector.

Therefore, for such a forum of stakeholders as recently convened, it is after the technical issues have been distilled by a core group of experts that the pre-digested policy options and plans, based on the synthesis of original ideas, are then proffered to such a broad based forum as this Summit, amongst whom are the usual hustlers and loafers.

The skills for in-depth policy issues as in a roadmap for tourism are not necessarily found amongst tourism administrators, whose roles have derogatively been described as file pushers. Like the contractors who are engaged for construction projects in other sectors through technical bidding-
experts who can think out of the box should be engaged from stages of conceptualization, design, engineering [even cultural] and production, while the administrators are there for communication, facilitation, coordination, monitoring and evaluation.

Beyond calling up stakeholders to share “free” ideas with tourism administrators, there seems to be the recourse to patronizing those who circumstances have positioned as “oracles” in a non-performing tourism sector – those who, incidentally too, have nothing serious to prove or show for their long involvement in the sector.

With so many professions in the tourism sector, a point easily confused is that while the vast majority of its stakeholders are professionals in their respective fields, they hardly qualify to be termed tourism professionals or experts.

Where there is need to engage tourism experts, the litmus test is in designing a transformational template for our community tourism development – such a project that can sync with the intent of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development [NEPAD] Tourism Action Plan for community based enterprises.

We must bear in mind the serious integrity deficits in our ecological and cultural heritage, along with the need for their regeneration and packaging by those with a flair for heritage design and socio-cultural engineering.

Reminds one of an editorial in Conservation Biology Journal, wherein there was a radical departure from their usual choice of professionals in the physical sciences. It was a paradigm shift for them to discover the need for sociologists and allied disciplines in understanding conservation challenges amongst diverse communities, not to speak of a multidisciplinary sector as tourism.

The relevance of practical sociology has been a huge oversight in such a highly creative and service oriented field as Tourism, in which culture plays a leading role.

To properly erect national tourism architecture, there is also need to inaugurate the Local Government Tourism Committees through a staggered and sustained seminal process that syncs with community tourism development.

There is much need to design and implement pilot schemes in tourism extension, such as would resonate at the grassroots level.

We are equally challenged by the need to put culture and tourism awareness in the educational curriculum from the primary levels. These are some of the fundamental issues in tourism development in this clime that are not what can be assigned to hoteliers, who have now positioned themselves to be more visible in tourism policy discourse.

The preponderance of our tourism leaders, not to talk of new office holders freshly coming on the scene, obviously cannot fathom this difference between professionals in Tourism and Tourism professionals. With such jumbled perspective, there are huge knowledge and coordination gaps, so the path usually seen taken is the convening of a motley crowd of stakeholders to brainstorm on a tourism roadmap, which when measured against the highly technical issues at stake, ends up being more of a parade of impostors.

For a very serious matter as a roadmap for tourism, reason demands that it is a select group of experts who should first be assembled to come up with positions papers on what are needed to jump start and drive the various subsectors in tourism, before the wider stakeholders would be brought in for sensitization and deliberation on the various policy options.

A process can be employed to synthesize the technical road maps from those that have the flair for the highly creative and complex enterprise of tourism development.

With a “call for papers”, the various viable intellectual properties would be acknowledged, documented, reviewed and tested, so that those that meet the practicable demands of the industry are adopted and the owners engaged for the needed consultancy services.

This is the only way to separate the wheat from the chaff among the bidders for consultancy positions or those to form a select group for configuring our various policy options. We cannot expect experts to think out solutions through an engagement process in which the parameters for selection are illogical or non-transparent.

It is meant to be a contest of profound thoughts and ideas that should start with those who have original submissions on a roadmap – not mere academic discourse, before wider stakeholders and hustlers are brought into the equation.

Importantly, it should provide rewards for creativity, since the easiest way to kill enterprise is not to attach value to the ideas from which they are developed.

This above formula is also what should have been used to determine how members of any select committee appointed to develop the outcome of such a Summit are picked.

To any keen observer, logic and transparency demand that the value of individual submissions or what were actually brought to the thinking process, are what can be used to decipher what each committee member has to offer.

In the quest to identify a process for receiving and evaluating submissions for such a tall order as a tourism roadmap, there should be an advertised provision for tapping from a wide pool of experts, not a selection from preconceived or biased knowledge about some persons.

While hoping that the Committee members are not merely chosen to safeguard the interest of certain constituencies, there is clear urgency that stakeholders do not have to wait for long to see if they will deliver on any serious practical results.

Moreover, it is the outcome of their work that is expected to set the Government on its new policy direction for the Sector and as such the outcome should make the public domain sooner than later.

The juncture we are in now is exactly where consultations also began at the commencement of the tenure of High Chief Edem Duke, whereby stakeholders were convened for brainstorming and at the end of the day there was neither a Roadmap nor any Action Plan to be sequenced within a realistic time frame.

Strident calls for this anomaly to be corrected was totally ignored and what ensued was a somewhat deceptive or dubious approach of leaving stakeholders with policy guesswork, while high profile “noisemaking with all motion no movement” aimed more at self-promotion, was the order of the day.

This act of flying blind has apparently become a permanent trait in our tourism leadership and experience. There is a high level of desensitization in the polity as the so-called informed stakeholders have hardly ever reacted to such grave anomaly in spite of the lone voices of dissent.

The vast majority prefer to coast along for the sake of political correctness, in the expectation of what drops off the table. We do hope the Honourable Minister will note this potential pitfall, as Nigeria’s tourism stakeholders have been more on this hypocritical route for long, only to later cast incumbents in the dustbin of history.

By Andy Osa Ehanire [Benin-Nigeria]

To be continued.

Nigeria Routes: British Airways Evaluating Traffic, Dollar

. Sister brand Iberia stopped flying to Lagos on May 12, 2016.
. United Airlines plans to halt Nigeria service 30th of June 2016.

British Airways is evaluating its routes to Nigeria, adding to aviation-industry pressure on the government as sister carrier Iberia and U.S. competitor United Airlines halt flights to the oil-based market as traffic stutters and currency controls delay access to revenue.

The U.K. carrier is struggling to repatriate its share of the $575 million that Nigeria currently owes to airlines globally from tickets sold in the West African nation, said Kola Olayinka, country manager for British Airways’ and Iberia’s parent company, IAG SA. Madrid-based Iberia halted flights on May 12 to Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, “due to very difficult operating circumstances and dwindling passenger numbers,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions.

International Air Transport Association Chief Executive Officer Tony Tyler met with Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo this week, the lobby group said in a statement Wednesday that warned that Lagos could lose its role as a hub to West Africa. United Airlines informed employees on Wednesday that it would end flights from the U.S. to Nigeria on June 30 because of a lack of demand and difficulty in collecting payments.

IAG Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said last month that Iberia would stop serving Lagos after the low price of oil caused Nigeria’s economy to contract for the first time since 2004 in the first quarter. Limits on dollar repatriation have been imposed by the Nigerian Central Bank as reserves slip to $26.5 billion, the lowest in more than a decade, from more than $30 billion in early 2015.

Exiting Nigeria is a very big decision” and “not taken lightly” following London-based British Airways’ 80 years of operations in the country, Olayinka said. “I believe very strongly that we will keep evaluating the situation, but I can assure you, BA is very committed to Nigeria.”

The government is assessing the situation while Central Bank governor Godwin Emefiele has suggested a flexible exchange rate regime that would end the naira’s peg to the U.S. dollar, Olayinka said. IAG is awaiting details of the policy “so that we can start the process of rebuilding,” he said.
Source: www.bloomberg.com

Obama Drop-In For Pork Soup Stuns Vietnam Street Shop Owner

She has ladled out countless bowls of her pork noodle soup, but the owner of a Hanoi street side restaurant says she was stunned when Barack Obama strolled in, pulled up a plastic stool and slurped down Vietnam’s famed “bun cha” delicacy.

The US president slipped away from his hectic Vietnam visit on Monday night to sample the dish with Anthony Bourdain, a chef and food critic who fronts a travel show about hidden culinary gems around the world.

While 54-year-old restaurant owner Nguyen Thi Lien knew a foreign television crew was on the way, she had no idea they would be bringing a very special guest.

“His presence in our restaurant was a great surprise for my whole family, who could never have imagined it, even in our dreams,” she told AFP on Tuesday.

US Secret Service and local police closed down the streets surrounding Bun Cha Huong Lien eatery on Monday evening.

A large crowd gathered outside the restaurant, letting out a cheer as Obama exited.

Surrounded by a coterie of bodyguards, he stopped to greet excited locals, many capturing the moment on their phones, before being whisked away in his limousine.

“Obama was nice, smiling, cheerful and popular with everyone,” the shop’s owner told AFP, adding that she regretted not posing for a picture with the president.

Bourdain posted a picture of the dinner on his Instagram feed with the caption “The President’s chopstick skills are on point”.

It showed the two sitting on tiny plastic stools that are a common feature of Vietnamese street restaurants, Obama clasping a bottle of Hanoi Beer in his right hand.

Local diners could be seen sitting at stainless steel tables behind the pair tucking in to their own steaming bowls of broth, one wearing an American-style black baseball cap.

“Total cost of bun cha dinner with the President: $6.00. I picked up the check,” Bourdain, who is renowned for his love of cheap streetside food, later tweeted.

Vietnam is known for its fresh ingredients and healthy cuisine but Obama’s choice of bun cha, which with its fatty pork and sweet broth is at the more gluttonous end of the country’s culinary spectrum, might have raised the eyebrows of his wife Michelle who has long campaigned for healthy eating.

Source: www.afp.com

International Airlines’ $575m Trapped In Nigeria Due To Govt Forex Policy—IATA

The International Air Transport Association [IATA] has said that funds belonging to foreign airlines, which had been trapped in the country due to the Federal Government’s policy on foreign exchange, stood at $575m [N113.28bn] as of March this year.

The association also bemoaned the high taxes imposed on air travellers in Africa, with Nigeria identified as one of the countries where the taxes were above global standards.

The association, which represents over 260 airlines attending to 83 per cent of the global air traffic, made the disclosure at the IATA African Aviation Day programme in Abuja on Monday.

Speaking at the event, the Area Manager, South West Africa, IATA, Samson Fatokun, listed Nigeria and Venezuela as two countries with the highest amounts of trapped airlines’ funds in the world.

He said, to this end, IATA was engaging the Federal Government to ensure that issues around the trapped funds were resolved.

The opening session of the two-day programme, with the theme, ‘Driving African economies through the power of aviation,’ had in attendance senior government officials and industry leaders, including the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika; the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Captain Muhtar Usman; the Deputy Regional Director, International Civil Aviation Organisation, Gaoussou Konate; and the Secretary General, African Civil Aviation Commission, Iyabo Sosina.

Foreign airlines operating in the country have for months been having difficulties repatriating their revenues from ticket sales to their home countries due to forex restrictions by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

In his remarks, the Vice-President, IATA, Raphael Kuuchi, bemoaned the high taxes imposed on air travel in Africa, saying they were above global standards.
He noted that if not tackled, the phenomenon would continue to affect the growth of the industry negatively.

Kuuchi faulted the $60 charged per international passenger in addition to the $20 charged for security and taxes on aviation fuel in Nigeria.

NTDC Signs Mou With Cote D’ivoire Tourisme

Tourism stakeholders and Entrepreneurs have applauded the efforts of the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC], Sally Mbanefo for signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Cote d’Ivoire Tourism Board on Tourism to boost and develop domestic tourism across the African region.

This assertion was made known during Cote D’Ivoire Economic Forum held recently in Lagos State
Speaking at the event, Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation said “Our country needs to improve its production capacity and must invest in labour intensive sectors like tourism, agriculture and manufacturing. It is the only way to create jobs for the small and medium scale entrepreneurs, youth & women.

We have also been holding talks with Ghana tourism board as well as the South African tourism board. Two years ago we signed an MOU with the Gambia Tourism board soon as we signed the MOU, the first batch of my staff were approved for training & best practice exchange.

We will not stop until we achieve a West African Tourism Brand, so that when a tourist begins his trip in one African country they can conclude it in Nigeria to get a holistic approach to tourism in West African.

The Director General said “we want to encourage other African countries that have best practices for cocoa production, textile and fashion industries to collaborate with Nigeria to create jobs for youth. If our manufacturing and Agriculture industries are reawakened tourism would have contributed to job creation through such synergies with Cote D’Ivoire and other African countries where we can emulate their industry best practices”.

Mbanefo further emphasised that: we must encourage mechanised farming and industrialisation; I’m happy associations like Manufacturers Associations of Nigeria [MAN] whom I worked very closely with when I was in Lafarge Cement are here. The Fashion Industry is also a great opportunity to empower youth with skilled labour and grow small and medium scale enterprises.

According to the NTDC Boss, she said that the Corporation has been collaborating with Cote D’Ivoire Tourism Board for the past three years “They have been coming to the Corporation for collaboration between the two countries, the MOU signed today will unite us together and help to achieve the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] Tourism Brand Regional Alliance which NTDC has been working on with other African countries.

Mbanefo also noted that tourism value chain that touches every sector in the economy, for example tourism is leaving your house to seek business, leisure, sports, cultural or religious adventure the vehicle you use is either a car, bus, plane or train that is manufacturing benefitting, fuelling it benefits oil and gas sector and going to a bukka or restaurant to eat, benefits the Agricultural sector.

The Director General opined that NTDC is the apex Tourism promotion and marketing agency in Nigeria, our job is to market and promote the beautiful products of Nigeria like Cultural festivals, arts, Nollywood and our musicians and numerous eco-tourism products and link it up to the rest of Africa.

In her remarks, the Ambassador of the Republic of Cote D’Ivoire to Nigeria, Kone Maman Toure expressed appreciation to all the participants for honouring her invitation, she said “We will co-operate and partner with Nigeria in many areas such as Tourism, textiles, telecommunication, power, health and education.

Toure also said, “the Forum is a platform for Cote D’Ivoire to form an alliance with Nigeria to enable the two countries strengthen the existing areas and explore new fields of co-operation on a win-win situation and also reduce poverty in Africa”.