Human Development Is Key To Sustainable Tourism Industry In Nigeria – NIHOTOUR Boss

Chika Balogun, Director General, NIHOTOUR.
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The Hospitality and Tourism industry of Nigeria is gradually picking up in meeting the yearnings of stakeholders in the industry that the industry takes its rightful place as the driving force of the country’s desire to shift from a mono economy that is oil based to a multilateral diversified economy.

Mrs. Chika Balogun, Director General of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism [NIHOTOUR] recently spoke to Lucky Onoriode George, African Travel Times Magazine on this and other sundry issues bothering on the nation’s Hospitality and Tourism industry; stressing that the manpower needed to run the industry must be vibrant, knowledge based and technology driven.

Tourism and the National Economy

Globally, Tourism, indeed Inclusive Tourism is acknowledged as one of the biggest contributors to the Gross Domestic Product [GDP] of many countries. The present administration has, in recognition of the significance of tourism in reviving and driving a sustainable economy, chosen to promote the tourism industry as one area to diversify the economy in order to achieve growth and improve the country’s GDP.

This is the reason why government is working hard to improve the business of Tourism and its entire value chain by putting in place the necessary enabling environment for the industry to thrive. One of such enablers is capacity building.

The tourism industry is generally a service industry. While the hospitality sub sector operates through services provided by hotels as accommodation and catering services, the travels, tours and events [transport, creative, entertainment and culture] form the nucleus of tourism activities.

The desire for a well-trained and skilled manpower to deliver quality service in the industry is the essence and core mandate of the Institute. This is what the Institute is engaged in; providing training at all levels and cadres for competent and effective operation and management of the industry.

Training and the NIHOTOUR Bill

Upon assumption of office, I discovered the necessary legislative backing for NIHOTOUR to carry out its mandate optimally was lacking. Thanks to the dogged support and cooperation of the 8th National Assembly who put the necessary machinery in motion towards actualizing the dream of the Institute to have a bill that supports its activities under a legislative instrument. This singular initiative and effort gives me joy as it’s been 30 years in the making and I look forward to it’s completion very soon.

I am very keen and passionate about training because it is the cornerstone and driving force for the growth and sustainability of any industry but more so for Hospitality and Tourism which is essentially service driven and human capital intensive. Tourism is largely an experiential activity and the customer usually goes home with only memories of a good or bad service offered in the process. This is why the quality of service provided is critical to the success and sustainable growth of the industry.

Only good training makes the provision of quality service possible, because the industry is basically run and powered by people. To therefore deliver quality services, operators in the industry must be well trained in the requisite skills that will enable them offer excellent services across the different sub sectors of the industry.

This is where the vital role of NIHOTOUR comes in and why my emphasis has always been the need for training and re-training [continuous professional development CPD] of personnel who run and man the sector.

Infrastructure in NIHOTOUR Campuses

NIHOTOUR has nine campuses spread across the six geo-political zones of the country. Providing for the infrastructural facilities of the Campuses has not been easy but is work in progress. Generally, I will say we have done much with what is available to ensure that necessary facilities are provided for the Campuses to operate effectively and efficiently. However, the Institute is looking at support, partnerships and collaboration from Tourism friendly private sector and State governments that are passionate about developing their States tourism potentials.

We have Tourism and Hospitality establishments spread across all the states of the federation in need of competent personnel. There is the need to therefore take the training nearer to the people to ease access to the training opportunities available and at affordable cost to the trainees. Therefore improving on the infrastructural needs of the existing campuses and opening additional campuses in more states are indeed very desirous.

This is where I will implore for partnership with the organized private sector as well as state governments to partner and collaborate more with the Institute to improve on facilities at the existing campuses [in the first instance] to be able to cater for the massive needs of trained personnel in the industry.

The Federal government is doing a lot already, but with added partnership and collaboration from the private sector and support by state governments, the Institute can do even more in terms of training manpower and developing more capacity for the industry.

We currently have some partnerships and collaborations on going with organised private sector and state governments, some of which are; Benue State Government [campus], Osun State Government [campus], Kano State University for Science and Technology [KUST] [joint running of Daula Hotel Kano as a live training hotel], Consolidated Alliance [E-Training, E-Training Centres, E-Commerce and SmartJobs Creation], JETRO Tours International NIHOTOUR-JETRO Tourism Clubs for primary/secondary schools and youth to stimulate a desire for Hospitality and Tourism business at an early age whilst training them on the need to sustain our environment and cultures, amongst others.

We also have partnerships with hotels for internship programs for our trainees. A current ‘Expression of Interest’ document is online www.nihotour.gov.ng click on the SMARTJOBS link and click on EXPRESSION OF INTEREST to respond to our call for for internship program partners and much more.

Course content of NIHOTOUR Programs

Our training ensures that the quality of workers in the industry are of high standards and are able to provide high quality services to their customers in a measurable and standardised manner in line with global best practices. For better quality service delivery in the industry, training is key and very essential. The specific skills and training required of personnel in the hospitality service industry are those that will enable them function and carry out their duties in the most optimal way possible for the satisfaction of customers or guest and sustainability of the environment.

The National Occupational Standards [NOS] which is set by the Sector Skills Council (NIHOTOUR houses the council on behalf of the sector and membership is drawn from various stakeholders in the sector) sets minimum curricular standards and skill sets required per time, that address the needs of the various cadres and levels in Hospitality, Travels and Tourism training  programs.

The nature of training offered by NIHOTOUR is a combination of classroom, ICT and hands–on training, that falls in line with the National Skills Qualification Framework.

It’s not just about the theoretical classroom training, but actually training on the job to reinforce what was learned in the classroom and online. It is the critical area of the training that Nigeria needs to grow the sector to a more effective and efficient level hence our call for partnerships with Hotel properties owners and Tour operators.

All students who passed through the Institute’s Hospitality Management programs are equipped with these skills and are out there on the field working in various hospitality establishments across the country.

Affiliation and Accreditation of NIHOTOUR Courses and Programs

Training in the tourism industry as established by UNWTO has to do with the principles of matching the skills offered during the educational process to the real expectations and needs of demand. A National Occupational Standards [NOS] has been set and approved by the NBTE based on the needs of the industry and is embedded in the National Skills Qualification Frameworks [NSQF]

The vision of the National Occupational Standards and National Skills Qualification Framework NSQF are a global phenomenon and a recent occurrence in Nigeria and ultimately the goal is to produce a workforce that delivers excellence and can compete favourably in the global space.

The National Skills Qualification Framework [NSQF] is meant to bridge the gap and disconnect in the system with a work place skills competence and evidence based certification.

The programmes is also to conduct regular quality audits which will enable the existing aberrations to be remedied and the contents of teaching programmes to be kept constantly up to date.

NIHOTOUR has thus been certified as a qualified Training Institute for the National Skills Qualifications [NSQ] framework and has trained staff to become assessors, internal verifiers and external verifiers to help NIHOTOUR deliver excellence in capacity building for the sector.

Our mandate empowers us to deliver training and award certificates and diplomas to personnel in the sector, do research and build capacity all round. We also provide tailor made courses for our clients and programmes in partnerships with other Institutions.

The Kano University of Science and Technology, Utali College in Kenya, The Association of Business Executives, an International Training Organization based in the United Kingdom, are some of our affiliates.

Meanwhile, the institute has over the last four years dedicated efforts to completing the following tasks that are crucial to the standardisation of all facilities needed, but have been missing for many years.

The institute bill recently passed by both houses and now awaiting Presidential assent, working on securing United Nations Industrial Development Organization [UNIDO] technical assistance; continue to solidify its relationship with International Air Transport Association [IATA] training, securing Sector Skills Council for Hospitality Travel and Tourism Trades in Nigeria and completing negotiation Lagos campus is a United Nations Development Programme

 [UNDP] Vocational Training Centre [VTC].

Way forward

Other tasks near completion are, the Enugu Campus Hostel of the institute, Lecture and Research Series facilities, introduction of ProjectSmartJobs in partnership with Consolidated Alliance as well as ICT training & internship to enable people become self employed through investors empowerment on the platform; conclude arrangement for the institute second general convocation slated for 25th August, fortify the institute alumni and finally complete the accreditation for the levels 4-6 of the National Occupational Standards[NOS].

The above could and have been almost achieved because of the purposeful and quality leadership that according to her the current management of the institute has put in place.

As i winds down my first tenure in the coming weeks, a cursor look at my performance in the past four years indicate a satisfactory performance and for continuity sake if not for anything, a new mandate to stir the leadership mantle of NIHOTOUR for another four years will not anger the gods of tourism in Nigeria.

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