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.