A tourism practitioner, Nkereuwem Onung, President, National Association of Nigeria Tour Operators [NATOP], and Managing Director, Remlords Tours has said that it’s a new dawn for the tourism sector as no efforts would be spared in ensuring that the issue of tourism data is put into the first burner.
Onung made this declaration in an exclusive interview with Lucky Onoriode George recently.
As the newly elected first national deputy president of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria [FTAN], and banker turned tour operator, he said that the bane of the tourism industry and the lack of attention from government, is a fall-out from dearth of data to prove that tourism contributes so much to the Gross Domestic Products [GDP].
According to him, “there are enough physical evidences available in all our cities and towns to prove beyond any doubts that tourism is a sector that should be taken seriously because of the numbers of hospitality businesses across them.
“ People work in those hotels, suppliers deliver daily to the restaurants, the banks receive deposits from sales daily and mostly importantly, taxes are paid to government at all levels monthly”, he noted.
Whilst Onung’s position is nothing but a welcome development and relieve to many industry analysts, agencies like the NBS, CBN and the tourism corporation, would however, have to be pushed beyond their limit to get going with the task of gathering the much needed tourism data for government to plan and have reason to believe in the sector.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation [UNWTO], tourism has experienced continued growth and deepening diversification to become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world.
Modern tourism is closely linked to development, and encompasses a growing number of new destinations, and has turned into a key driver for socio-economic progress in many countries.
Today, the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles and has become one of the major players in international commerce, and represents at the same time one of the main income sources for many developing countries.
This growth goes hand in hand with increasing diversification and competition among destinations.
It is worth to note that this global spread of tourism in industrialised and developed states, has produced economic and employment benefits in many related sectors – from construction to agriculture or telecommunications.
The contribution of tourism to economic well-being depends on the quality and the revenues of the tourism offer.
However, in an economy less diversified, and had over the decades depended on a mono product economy like oil, very little attention is given to tourism in Nigeria.
Besides government lackadaisical attitudes towards the sector, the organised tourism private over the years too, have not been able to pull itself together to exert the needed influence on the authority at the federal, state and local levels with the view to ensuring favourable policies for the travel and tourism industry.
Though, many blamed the failure of the private sector to achieve the aforementioned due to unavailability of data from both the practitioners and relevant government agencies; like the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC], apex government tourism agency, the Central Bank of Nigeria and most importantly, the National Bureau of Statistics [NBS].
It would be recalled that the FTAN had on June 29th, 2017 elected new executives to pilot the affairs of the body for the next two years.
The event, which held in Abuja, saw Rabo Saleh Karim of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies [NANTA], emerge as the President. Nkereuwem Onung as the first National Deputy President; Abiodun Odusanwo, second National Deputy President and Ayo Olumoko, Vice President, South West.
Others are Nura Kangiwa, Vice President, North East; Ngozika Ngoka, Vice President South East; Badaki Aliyu, Vice President, Federal Capital Territory; Eugene Nwauzi, Vice President South-South Zone and John A. Adzer, Vice President, North Central.
Also elected are, Ime Udo, Membership Secretary ; John-Likita M. Best; ; Emeka Anokwuru, Membership Secretary ; Okorie Uguru, First Publicity Secretary and Joseph Karim, Publicity Secretary .
With this election, an analyst noted that the tourism private sector body, FTAN is having for the very first time, leadership that are knowledge driven and that unlike in the past, influence by mere association with public officers was more paramount to them than actual issues of tourism.
In his goodwill message, the Chairman, FTAN’s Board of Trustee, Samuel Alabi said the era of the Federal Government agency controlling or co-ordinating tourism has gone for good.
Alabi said that except there is a constitutional amendment to include tourism under the exclusive or concurrent list of the 1999 Constitution as amended, it would be difficult for a federal agency to fully control tourism in the whole country.
He stated further: “The fact that the Federal Attorney General is yet to apply section 215 of the 1999 Constitution, the heavily mutilated NTDC Act is still a surprise to me.”
Also on his part, the immediate past President of FTAN, Tomi Akingbogun, in his valedictory speech, said the association worked closely with the public sector, and has also created programme to promote investment in tourism; the annual Nigerian Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition [NTIFE].
Saleh Karim, in his acceptance speech, called for greater unity among member associations to lend supporting hands.
He promised to work with his team to facilitate domestic and inbound tourism in Nigeria.
Photo Caption: Nkereuwem Onung, President, National Association of Nigeria Tour Operators [NATOP] and first national deputy president of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria [FTAN].