Monthly Archives: October 2016

So Sad To Blame Government For Exit Of Foreign Airlines

In the last few months, Nigerians who do not understand how airline carry out their sales and marketing strategy in the country have been blaming the government for the exit of some foreign airlines from country.

Just weeks ago too, the Senate also expressed concern over the continuous exit of some foreign airlines in Nigeria as well as the suspension of operations by others, saying the trend will further compound the plights of troubled Nigerians.

The House therefore said it supported the move by the government to promptly intervene in the crisis bedevilling the aviation sector “with a view to saving the traveling masses from greater hardship and reduce the on-going suffering occasioned by these challenges.”

It also urged the federal government to ensure that it secures commitments from the airlines billed to benefit from government’s special intervention that they will not indiscriminately increase airfares and simultaneously ensure that ticket pricing remains competitive “within the regional market indicators.”

The Upper Chamber also advised the government to scrutinise the currency management systems and consequently save the country “from further divestments and business failures in order to save Nigerian workers and their families the implication of Nigerian businesses going offshore.”

The above mentioned was the aftermath of a motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye [Kogi West] in which he lamented what he described as emerging challenges in the aviation sector as a result of the current economic recession.

Melaye said the development had resulted in foreign airlines such as United, Iberia, Emirates and Kenyan Airlines either suspending or withdrawing their operations from the country.

According to him, the crisis had the tendency to make life more difficult for ordinary Nigerians whom he said had been grappling with the adverse effects of the current economic recession as he blamed the suspension or withdrawal of operations by the airlines on their inability to obtain forex to fund their operations.

Melaye said the implications of this development were grave on the economy especially in terms of its impact on job creation policy, investment drive and economic recovery plans.

He, however, expressed hope that the current steps being taken by the government to address the problem through its policy directives such as concession and special arrangements would save the sector from collapse.

Whilst one is no saying that government should find a lasting solution to the issue of forex, the airlines, especially international ones rushed into the country, creating many entry point without the attendant sales and marketing plans.

The aforementioned was the order of the day when government officials alone account for half of the travelling public of which the airlines never planned for.

Since the government placed restriction on foreign trips, the fortune of airlines has gone from bad to worst and but because they were used to being chased around by passengers looking for seat in all their multiple entry points to Nigeria, they became lazy as well as not being creative.

Elsewhere in the world, airlines sell their tickets with lots of incentives and persuasion which was never the case.

At a time in this country, they were even accused of price fixing and nothing was done and no one was punished.

For all I care for, if the foreign airlines cannot provide marketing budget for their local staff, be creative and innovate, they can all pack and go away.

They all came into country with government officials as their target and never have a second plan.

Synagogue Church: The Vanguard of Nigeria As Religious Destination

The significance of the Synagogue Church of All Nations [SCOAN] to Nigeria with regards to the exposure it has given the country cannot be over emphasized. Though the nation may be seen by other nations as being corrupt and riddled with the Boko Haram menace and other social vices, which though are universal trends not peculiar to the country alone.

Several efforts may have been made by the government in image projection internationally in a bid to attract foreigners; especially investors into the country, but not much have really been achieved in that direction. Although one may say that sports and entertainment industries had done great exploits in that regards.

As a religious organization, one of the major things SCOAN in its capacity has succeeded in doing over the decades, is positioning Nigeria among list of top religious destinations in the world through its activities of rendering religious solutions through its religious deeds to people within and of course world over.

The Church which attracts an estimated 200,000.00 foreign tourists into the country every year generates annually about $12 million into the economy of Nigeria.

No wonder Nigeria and the Government of the Netherlands has signed a pact with the United Nations World Tourism Organization [UNWTO]; an international organization on tourism as reported.

Signing the agreement was the body’s Secretary-general, Taleb Rifai, and the Ambassador of The Netherlands to Spain, Matthijs Van Bonzel at the UNWTO Headquarters, and made available in a statement issued recently by the organization.

The agreement, which includes the celebration of a conference on ‘Religious Heritage and Tourism: How to increase religious heritage tourism in a changing society’, was to promote the role of religious tourism as an agent for cultural preservation, peace and understanding.

Rifai, while signing the agreement said “religious tourism is a powerful instrument to raise awareness of our common responsibility in safeguarding this lasting heritage and a key agent of peace, fostering tolerance and understanding between visitors and host communities, in an amalgam of different faiths”.

Religion they say is the opium of the people, no wonder every year there is this exodus of religious faithful visiting the different parts of the world where their religious aspirations could be met. It is in line with this that SCOAN has ensured that Nigeria is not found wanting on the list of religious destinations in the world.

The Church, rising from its humble beginning has grown to international limelight through the numerous astounding works of miracles. Those who visited Nigeria as religious tourists, will in return pass to their various countries the good news emanating from Nigeria, while those who could not visit the country to experience all these, are every Sunday watching the church live services as broadcast to millions around the globe through Emmanuel TV to see the ‘Man of God’, Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, founder and general-overseer of SCOAN perform miracles of healing, prophecy, deliverance from spiritual afflictions, blessing and salvation; also Healings of HIV-AIDS, cancer, paralysis, and of many other sicknesses and diseases on this Christian Station that operates 24 hours a day focusing mainly equally on the Church’s charitable works.

A report has it that Statistics from the Nigerian Immigration Service [NIS] revealed that out of every 10 foreign travelers coming into Nigeria; six are bound for the SCOAN.

As tourism activities is growing exponentially world over, people basically tend to travel to different places to visit and enjoy natural resources and nature.

The sector has immensely and significant contributed to economic growth and development of many countries. Of the about 1 billion tourists that made international trips in 2012, the international tourism sector accounts for one in 12 jobs globally, and for 30 per cent of world services exports, this is according to the 2013 report of the UNWTO. The same report states that of this number, over 300 million tourists visit the world’s major religious sites each year.

With the rising of religious pilgrimage adding to the trend, it is worthy of note that annually, millions of pilgrims travel across the globe to seek spiritual aspirations and experience elevation, transformation and to attain a new degree of wisdom in various endeavours.

These destinations could be birth places of religious teachers, where miracles were performed in ancient days, and also places where famous religious institutions are situated.

In fact, there are so many religions in the world today, with the dominant ones being Christianity [2.3billion in population]; Islam [1.6billion]; Hinduism [1billion]; Buddhism [400million]; Sikhism [30 million]; Judaism [20million]; Bahaism [8million]; Confucianism [7million]; Jainism [4.5 million]; Shintoism [4million] and other minor ones according to Wikipedia, an online dictionary.

Across the world today, one can imagine, the contribution and impact of these religious population in terms of tourism and world trade given its major foreign exchange earning capability, employment generation and of course exposure to tourists around the world.

Israel, Italy, Egypt, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, India and a host of others are among countries where religious tourism flourishes greatly. They rake in millions of dollars every year through religious tourism. In fact they have succeeded in turning historic sites into a money spinner, thereby ranking among most visited by religious pilgrims.

For instance, a report by http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36250851 shows that “tourism industry currently generates about 2.7% of Saudi Arabia’s Gross Domestic Product [GDP], with religious tourists making up the largest group of visitors to the kingdom”.

The report went further to say that “The Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place in the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and lesser Umrah pilgrimages contribute $12bn annually to their economy.

Mecca and Medina are two holiest cities for Muslims; one is the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad, and the other the declared holy city for Islam; Muslims belief that a faithful who can afford it, should undertake the hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

Based on this, it was projected that this would rise to more than $20bn within the next four years, according to the Council for Economic and Development Affairs and that religious tourists coming to perform Umrah will grow from eight million this year to 15 million by 2020, and 30 million by 2030.

Christian pilgrimages to Israel and other countries have equally formed an economic platform for the empowerment of their localities, contributing immensely to their GDP.

Ironically, African religious tourists to these countries comprise an estimated $100 million of the industry, with Nigeria taking a large chunk of this huge revenue outflow.

With this report, one can see how religious tourism is placing Saudi Arabia at the top of list of religious destination in the world.

Since travelling to sacred destinations for religious experience and journey is regarded as religious tourism, then it would not be out of place to say that with the influx of foreigners to visit SCOAN, the Church is actually placing Nigeria on that list of world tourism destinations.

One should not in a hurry forget that religious tourism, which travelling and pilgrimage is considered as the heart of this, is almost known as the oldest form of tourism. Most of these people are either Christians, Muslims and other religion faithful who visit holy places for different reasons.

SCOAN, based in Ikotun area of Lagos State has branches in Ghana, London, Greece, South Africa, and many other countries of the world.

It is on record that notable dignitaries including heads of countries had at one time or the other paid visits to the Church, seeking for one spiritual solution or the other. On list, one could find the likes of former Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai ; Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s former wife; King Godwill Zwelithini of the Zulus, South Africa with his daughter, Princess Sibusile Zulu ,who was suffering from partial epilepsy ; Ghana’s president, John Atta Mills; King Moloto Solomon of the Limpopo Kingdom, South Africa; President Omar Bongo of Gabon ; Professor Pasal Lissouba, and one time president of Congo Brazzaville.

There are also Justice Ralph Beisner from New York; Prince Yormie Johnson, Liberia former warlord and South African Rugby player, Jacob Westhurzen. The list is endless as Europe, Asia, The Americas and others have stories to tell about the Church.

With these caliber of people visiting SCOAN, who then dare say Nigeria cannot be reckoned with when it comes to religious tourism worldwide.

It then depends on the government of Nigeria to tap into this money spinning sector to boost the GDP of the country, especially now that it is looking for alternative to oil as revenue earner following the continuous fall of oil price in the international market.

It is not enough to honoured the founder, T.B. Joshua by the late President Yar A’dua for his contributions with the Officer of the Federal Republic [OFR] award, rather government should take advantage of the tourism potentials of the Synagogue to deepen Nigeria’s involvement in religious tourism.

This they can do by borrowing from those countries that have achieved so much in that sector; talking about Saudi Arabia, Italy, India, China, Israel and others who have earned much from religious tourism.

If countries like China could be celebrating world Twins Day to attract foreigners, why can’t Nigeria with our natural, religious and cultural heritage rake in money through religious tourism; place like The Arochuku Shrine, Umuahia; Ife, which is regarded by Yoruba tradition to be a sacred city and fountain head of all Yoruba religions and ancestral home; The Cathedral Church of Christ [Lagos]: One of the oldest churches in Lagos; Noor Mosque [Abuja]; Central Mosque [Lagos]; Central Mosque [Kano]; Bible Site, Araya: The place a copy of the Holy Bible is believed to have descended miraculously in Araya in Delta State from heaven around August, 1914. The spot now attracts Christian Pilgrims from all over the country, especially during the Easter season and others.

It is not just al l about the visiting, Nigeria‘s infrastructure will be constantly be upgraded to meet international standards, and jobs would be created for the citizens through:
Travel Agents: Nigerians will be fully engaged in and acting as travel agents by providing advice to customers and help ensure that mistakes are not made in bookings for travels and accommodations and other activities at destinations.

Tour Operators: By organizing elements of a holiday into a package, such as visits to interesting sites in the country, jobs will definitely be created for the citizens as tour operators.

Part of the tour operators’ services includes creating a “bridge” between the residents in the destination and the religious tourists. This can be very helpful in educating the customers on what to expect and the resident suppliers on what to provide.

The Airlines: Airline operation in the country would receive a boost, as interlink services schedules will be provided by airlines. The airlines are chartered for a limited period to operate [usually] from point-to-point.

Hotelier and Accommodation: During these periods of visits, hotel and accommodation business will flourish, be it a 2 or 5 star categories, they vary in quality and prices.

Transportation: This sector will not be left out, as it will play a critical role of conveying tourists from one point to the other.

With the galvanization of all these activities, government, which at the end of it all will benefit through the foreign exchange this would bring to the country, would have no option than to provide and put in place necessary infrastructure like good roads, constant electricity supply, potable water and all that will ensure comfort for citizens and tourists in particular.

As tourism and by extension religious tourism, is providing huge social and economic good fortune [as an opportunity to make money], government should accord the sector a priority in agenda of item for national and communities development.

And as the spiritual demands of people is growing, this unprecedented phenomenon may help in boosting the economy should government cash in on this to develop a strategy for pilgrimage/religious tourism as a developing country, through policy framework in proportion with potentials that abound.

When fully developed, government and the different stakeholders at the end of it all should embark on an aggressive marketing campaign with respect to promoting these religious tourism destinations in the country, which SCOAN has provided the opportunity for exploit.

Hospitality Still The Backbone Of Tourism In Rivers State – Stafsen

Per Stafsen is a consummate hotel manager who has lived in Port Harcourt for years and now even a Chief. In this interview with Ugheh Darlington and Mary Okpata, he bares his mind on the hospitality sector that is struggling for survival. Excerpts:

As the Chief of hospitality in Rivers State, what is the level of hospitality in the state now?

To be honest, the level is not so high. We have few hotels that have high level, but there are few that have high level of hospitality in the areas of infrastructure, friendliness, good food which I think they need to be worked on.

What is the level of activities by oil companies who are the major patrons of this business?

It is true the business is down; it is probably the lowest since the oil prices fell in the market. It is not like this two or three year ago. The oil companies are scaling down, they don’t use the hotels anymore because money is not there, and it’s affecting everything even fast food.

The country is facing hardship because it does not have any agriculture, we don’t have high income from oil as we used to be.

What was the level of man power in the hospitality in the state?

The level of man-power in River State has not been bad, but at the same time the worker you get into your facility is not really properly trained. The hotel schools don’t have well trained teachers; when you get somebody from catering school you still have to teach the person the basics.

The levels of education that can sustain all the hotels are not there, that’s why the good hotels are losing their place every time.

The frequent movements of skilled workers from the top hotels to the middle sized hotels; does it bring about professionalism of the sector?

My answer will be yes and no.

No in what sense?

When your employees move to a better place you have to train new ones, you have to do new things, especially the training aspect; that is money and it’s also your standard, because when you replace a good employee with a less good one, your standard automatically comes down and on the other side, if there is a movement from a good hotel to a mid-sized one, that employee will help bring up the hotel.

What is the relationship of the franchisee and the franchisor; and what benefit is in the hospitality industry in the Nigeria?

The benefits if compared with the management and the franchise; when you choose franchise, you yourself still decide for having a hotel. It’s true, a lot of hotels are looking for franchise to have a name, but because they still want to control the business.

It’s also true that a lot of businesses are not keeping the standard to have a franchise, but there’s a very strict rule and regulation from the company now.

Unfortunately, a lot of hotels do not keep up to the standards which affect the franchise company.

For instance, Best Western is a franchise throughout the world which is now in Lagos, Port-Harcourt, and Warri. Best Western no longer looks at the money, but the standard of the hotels, if they don’t keep to their standard they will remove their name.

Another benefit is that, if you have franchise, it is less costly because you don’t pay management fee, you don’t pay advertising fee, maintenance fee among others.

What should a hotel owner look for before you approach a franchise system or go for a management contract?

If I would go for something, I would go for management because you’ll get much better support from the company unlike franchise; it’s always a limited support. You’ll not have anybody on ground to help you because their offices are usually in Europe, America, Middle East of which you can in most cases communicate either online, skype from where they can advise you on what to do, but with the management you’ll have those experts on ground, it’s more costly but in the long time there are more benefits out of it than if it’s franchise.

What would you say about the hotel built in Lagos, which we thought was a direct foreign investment, not knowing that the business is Nigeria business?

It’s not only in Nigeria, it’s everywhere in the world. The companies if they own property, if you say a port-folio like “Hilton” they don’t have any lotto of the whole port-folio world –wide they just have few selected property they own on their own.

Full management is a better option.

What is the secret behind your success?

I don’t think there’s any secret, just be who you are and also be at your best at all time.

Now that the economy is going down and things are becoming high especially the exchange rate, we know that people have reduced their travelling out but now travel within the country, what benefit will it be on the hospitality, if at all it could, when people are not put off by the kidnapping and the bad roads.

It is not impacting anything as you said yourself because of the bad roads, kidnapping and even bad services. You could see it in Port-Harcourt, all the hotels are down; there’re so many factors, unemployment and inflation are increasing so it does not impact anything.

What should be the strategy by the hoteliers and the hotel owners or generally tourism, since it is becoming too expensive to travel abroad?

The only thing I know is that if you have good property, you have good food and employee, keep it. Even if it costs you money, keep it because one day sooner or later this recession will be over, people will start to get money.

People will now start to go back to the hotels. If in the bad times you still keep your standards, customers or guests will come back to you, but if your standards are going down these people will not come back when they have the money. They will go to hotels that keep to standards.

What should be the approach generally to tourism in Nigeria while we wait for oil to bounce back, because in other countries there’re social activities that drive traffic? Now that a city like Port-Harcourt that use to burn with oil cookers, and all that is failing, what’s the hope?

I don’t think generally there’s anything wrong with Port-Harcourt entertainment. There’s a lot still happening. They are still trying, they don’t give up. It’s just for everybody to be optimistic that sooner or later, it would be better.

I know you’ve been doing a lot, what other trick do you have coming?

I don’t know yet but something will come.

What is the ratio of men and women that work in the hospitality industry?

Nigeria has more men employed than women in the hospitality. Marketing is also female maybe 90%, housekeeping; males the rest is like 50-50

How Not To Celebrate WTD The Lai Mohammed Way

Without doubt, I know much more than Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture when it comes to the issue of World Tourism Day [WTD], and the circumstances surrounding the inauguration of that ‘sacred day’ September 27 of every year designated to commemorate it, take stocks of what has happened in the industry on the out-going year, as well as projection for the coming year.

The proponent of the day was very explicit when the idea was muted. It was a stakeholder’s day; the government, practitioners, media and the general public that consumes what the industry has to sell and offer.

So, from the very beginning, the day was always celebrated with some touch of genius and innovation around the world and Nigeria included.

However, the 2016 WTD celebrated in Lagos and hosted by Lagos State Government, was a mono event and was only attended by the federal government and its agencies, as well as some anointed private sector operator that were invincible and inconsequential in the sector.

Traditionally, states, students, media and the tourism practitioners from all the sub sectors, which include hotel owners/operators, travel agents and tour operators, normally congregate to mark this annual tourism industry OSCAR or Annual General Meeting.

Instead of the above, the minister narrowed the celebration to a single and a tour of Eko Atlantic City site that is still largely under construction.

Beautiful and a wonderful project, but negates the concept of the date and intention.

For a nation and a minister that is always preaching that tourism is a low hanging fruits for the government, it was shocking and unpardonable for the minister not to talk about figures as to how the sector has grown and doing.

In the travel and tourism industry, figures and statistics are key and very important.

Even the umbrella private sector body, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria [FTAN] that is yet to be officially recognized by government, except on ad hoc basis, lacks the capacity and ability to even put a figure on how many hotels, hotel workers, and number of restaurants among others that such body should have at its finger tips in the country.

Also, very bad for FTAN is that when boards of travel and tourism parastatals will be constituted, the yet to be officially recognized federation will not be represented, but instead some of the associations will be represented.

Just like in the past, the Nigeria Hotel Association [NHA], Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria [ATPN] and National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies [NANTA], would be because the Decrees setting up the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC] and the National Institute for Tourism and Hospitality [NIHOTOUR] were specifically mentioned.

Should FTAN want to continue to represent the sector, it had opportunities and space to have influenced government and parliament over the years to get its status changed, more so that some of its past presidents were lawyers, and have the technical and wisdom to do so, but chose not to.

From my recent sampling of opinions in the industry, many are of the view that FTAN has not added value to the sector, and there was the need to strengthen the various associations for a more robust and active tourism activities that has evaporated over the years.

With the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that placed most of the travel and tourism activities control under states schedule, many expected the minister to follow the part of collaboration and comradeships with states as a whole, rather than the current selective altitude of the ministry.

The minister must also change the narrative of ministers in the ministry not wanting to work with the two tourism parastatals under it, because the NTDC and NIHOTOUR are as crucial as that of the ministry.

UPU Will Ensure Sustenance, Protection of Urhobo Heritage – Omene

Engineer Joe Orode Omene, President-general, Urhobo Progress Union [UPU], while speaking recently at the inauguration of the organization’s Kasoa Branch in Ghana, has reiterated his commitment to the promotion, protection and preservation of Urhobo Heritage.

UPU under his leadership according to Orode Omene, is making effort to ensuring that the body is more proactive, responsive and alive to its responsibilities to the Urhobo Nation and its people in contemporary times.
He was unanimously elected president of UPU. a pan Urhobo social and cultural umbrella body for all Urhobo worldwide) on December 19, 2014.

The President-general at the beginning of his speech put into perspective that, it was common knowledge that the UPU leadership, to some degree, was involved in the 2015 general election, a development generally known was fundamentally necessitated by the not too encouraging attitude of most Urhobo political leaders.

He noted that since the present political dispensation, that there has been a growing tendency amongst most Urhobo political leaders to pursue their personal and group interest over that of the Urhobo nation and its people.

Orode Omene berated political leaders for being responsible for the poor political showings and visibility of the Urhobo nation in the scheme of things in the country today.

“It is imperative to state here that the organization could not have done otherwise, putting the general interest and well-being of the Urhobo nation and its people into perspective, which the political class has time and again relegated to the background.

“However, while I do not find pleasure in trying to defend or justify the UPU involvement in the last general election, particularly as the UPU leadership does not intend to be involved in future elections, it is instructive to note that there is a world of difference between affiliating the UPU to a particular political party and the UPU showing interest on how politics impact Urhobo-land and development”, he said.

He also excitedly said that although the crisis that emanated from the last general election has been amicably resolved by all parties involved.

Looking into the future, the President general noted that there is no doubt that Urhobo history as a people, is synonymous with challenges of various nature and posited that since the UPU was formed in 1931, the Urhobo Nation has had to deal with one challenge or the other in its effort to cement its place in the competitive Nigerian establishment.

“While some of these challenges have disappeared through the decades on account of the nationalists’ activities of our founding fathers, some still stare at us in the face today”, he posited.

By getting more people to be involved in UPU activities the body has started inaugurating local branches in all the 24 clans that make up Urhobo Kingdom.

It is instructive to state here that plans to inaugurate UPU branches in all the 24 kingdoms, is geared towards having an effective organizational structure, that would make for easy mobilization of Urhobo nationals effort.

“Having functional UPU branches will make for positive interaction and collaboration among the various representative groups of the UPU, and which would no doubt in turn influence unity and cohesiveness among the Urhobo people”, Orode Omene noted.

He went further to say that “I’m happy to state here that we have already inaugurated the UPU branches in 14 out of the 24 Urhobo Kingdoms.

“We hope to be through with the other kingdoms within the next few months. Apparently, the inauguration of the UPU branches will not be limited to Urhobo-land; we also plan to inaugurate the branches of the organization across the country and indeed the globe”.

On the welfare of all Urhobo wherever they might be, the President-general narrated the role the UPU played and still playing on the Ese Oruru abduction saga, considering the national attention it attracted.

“It is worthy to note that the UPU National Executive has continued to stand by Ese Oruru even after her release by her assailants. The organization has paid a couple of visits to her and the parents in Bayelsa State; this is also coupled with the fact that the UPU has taken over her legal representation in court, as her legal team is presently headed by the Secretary-general of the UPU, Chief Albert Akpomudje [SAN]”, he said.

Orode Omene lamented that the Urhobo Nation cannot continue in this manner if they must take their place as strategic stakeholders in the Nigerian project. It is apparently for this reason he said that the UPU plans to make Urhobo voice heard more on major national and regional issues, particularly as such issues concern the Urhobo nation and its people.

“Beyond making our voice heard always on major national and regional issues more often, the UPU also plans to add bite to its political expressions”, he urged, while hoping that by so doing, “we believe the Urhobo Nation will gradually be recognized as a force to reckon with in the affairs of the Nigerian State”.