The impact of COVID- 19 on the global economy, and the tourism sector said to be the hardest hit, has continued to generate a lot of interest across the global by the different operators in tourism and in Nigeria, the picture is not any different as operators at different webinar sections exchange ideas on what needs to be done to restart the sector especially with the approval given for hotels to open for business. One of such webinar sections held early in the month was organised by five different organisations the sector, seeking for solution for Nigerian tourism. The two leading travel organizations were the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET) and Nigeria Travel Week. At the end the section attended by a cross section of stakeholders from the different sections of tourism, including the tourism media tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers and tour guides as well as officials from the government such as the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Folorunsho Folarin – Coker, a communiqué stating some of the recommendations and observations made was issued. Excerpt:
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on practically all industries worldwide. However, the tourism industry undeniably has experienced the most damaging impact these past months due to the inability of people to move from one place to another because of travel restrictions and bans, cancellations of events and festivals, and the apathy to travel due to health concerns and compulsory health restrictions in several countries. As we continue to battle the virus and pray for a cure or vaccine, it’s important to start to think about life after COVID-19, and perhaps even immediately after the lifting of initial restrictions. Nigeria is a peculiar destination, we have before now depended more on business tourism even though we have a huge potential for leisure tourism given our vast array of tourism assets including unique festivals and events, amazing ecotourism attractions and rich cuisine. One thing is certain, international and business travel will be at low levels until late 2021 or even 2022 as businesses will look to manage resources after the trying period. Domestic tourism, however, holds promise for every country. How do we then take advantage to grow our domestic tourism? The meeting was aimed at sharing ideas on fostering collaboration between the five sectors of tourism and growing domestic tourism in Nigeria. The meeting was hosted by the President of the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET), Omololu Olumuyiwa, and the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Travel Week, Efetobo Awhana. Panelists from the different sectors included: Atunyota Akpobome (Alibaba), Brian Efa (GM, Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort), Hassan Zakari (Lagos Representative of the Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN), Susan Akporiaye (President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) and Wale Ojo-Lanre (Director General, Ekiti State Council of Arts and Culture).
Lack of legal framework for tourism in Nigeria is a problem hampering the growth of tourism in Nigeria. It erodes confidence of investors and breeds discontinuity of policies and projects to grow tourism; Airlines do not have enough content of the tourism attractions of Nigeria in their in-flight magazines. Government has not taken serious actions to implement the Nigeria Tourism Masterplan developed by the defunct federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism, with technical assistance from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in 2006. Poor infrastructure, security challenges and poor perception of the country are factors hindering the growth of domestic tourism; There is no high-level public/ private sector platform to engage government on policies and development of tourism in Nigeria just like the erstwhile Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT); Nigeria is not taking advantage of our strong Diaspora to drive tourism. Progress has been made with the introduction of tourist visas but the industry stakeholders have not been carried along and awareness is still low. Visa hurdles at various embassies of Nigeria is a huge turn-off for tourists. Nigerian travel agents and tour op-erators do not collaborate to sell tour packages around Nigeria. All the sectors are fragmented, each doing their own thing; There is no special fund for tourism as exists in other countries; and We have not commercialised our festivals and other attractions in Nigeria.
A legal framework for tourism should be established as soon as possible; A dedicated ministry for Tourism should be created and managed by tourism professionals to boost the revenue diversification drive of government via tourism. Steps should be taken to start the chronological implementation of the Nigeria Tourism Masterplan; A special tourism fund should be created for the peculiar needs of the tourism, industry domiciled in the Development Bank of Nigeria. Tour operators should communicate their domestic tour packages to travel agents to enable them sell destination Nigeria to Nigerians; Tour operators should introduce special pricing incentives for Nigerians just like other countries where you have different rates for locals and foreigners. We need to add value to our tourism assets including our cultural festivals, ecotourism and historical attractions to start earning revenue; All sectors of the tourism industry should be retrospective about their strategies for collaboration with other sectors to promote domestic tourism. Federal and state governments should embark on massive sensitisation and marketing drives to create awareness about domestic tourism and change the false perception of Nigeria as an unsafe destination; Tourism stakeholders should always be carried along with new plans and policies of government to capture the ground realities and accelerate the growth of the tourism industry. Nigerians in Diaspora should be engaged to promote and drive tourism including key festivals and historical tourist sites; Key state and federal institutions should partner to create self – development (not study curriculum) programmes for workers within the sector. We need to engage local and international airline operators to do more to promote domestic tourism; and We must design a dedicated marketing, promotion and image campaign plan for the nation on tourism.