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‘Eight ministries, 30 parastatals oversee local tourism’

By Wole Oyebade 
03 May 2019   |   4:12 am
With about eight different ministries and 30 parastatals managing its segments, the local tourism industry in Nigeria may never get it right, experts have said.

Akwaaba Africa Travel Market founder Ikechi Uko

•Skal Lagos seeks integration at 60th anniversary 
With about eight different ministries and 30 parastatals managing its segments, the local tourism industry in Nigeria may never get it right, experts have said.

The experts, who spoke at the Skal Lagos’ 60th anniversary in Lagos recently, called for proper integration of the sector to fully tap its enormous potential.

Founder of Akwaaba Travels and Tours, Ikechi Uko, observed that unlike in other climes, stakeholders in the Nigerian tourism sector work in silos, a situation, especially made worse by competing interests of various Federal ministries.

For instance, the Ministry of Environment overseas the environmental aspects of tourism, Aviation manages the air travel area, Works, Power and Housing ministry is saddled with the road portion, Ministry of Transport has the water aspects, Ministry of Interior overseas the immigration part, while the Ministry of Finance handles the monetary aspect.

Uko, a guest speaker at the Skal Lagos commemoration, noted that the closest to the sector is the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, but as it stands, its entire finance for a year is less than the budget of South African Tourism promotion in Nigeria or Dubai Tourism road show.

“That is why tourism in Nigeria is still an orphan, and floating rudderless. Every attempt to develop it in the last 30 years has failed. The main problem is that here, we enjoy to work in silos and there is no cohesion in government. Just one Federal Government, multiple ministries with different interests in the tourism sector,” he said.

Uko added that Nigeria is already a late starter in the tourism development business, but all stakeholders must understand the industry as a whole and the roles of other practitioners for the industry to succeed.

He said the era of travel agents, tour operators, restaurateurs or transport operators, doing it alone is over.

Professor of Strategy and Development, Anthony Kila, informed the gathering that tourism is already the mainstay of many economies, with as much as 75 million tourists visiting United States, 30 million in Italy, and Bangkok attracting 22 million tourists yearly.

While an average traveler spends as much $2000 per trip, “earning $500 from every tourist is huge for any country and the reason why many countries are promoting the tourism business via investments in education, and health,” Kila said.

It is, however, the duty of the tourism body to create tourism content, but in a conducive environment.

The Nigerian tourism sector, he added, should shift focus from international tourism to domestic promotions, citing that 50 million spenders are enough to grow the sector.

“The biggest tourism brand in Nigeria is our churches. Between five to 10 million religious tourists visit Nigeria every year. We already have that to promote, but we can do a lot more if people understand the rationale of tourism,” Kila said.

Skal is a professional organisation of tourism leaders around the world, promoting global tourism and friendship. Founded in 1932 in Paris, France, it is the only international group uniting all branches of the travel and tourism industry. Skal Club of Lagos was founded on February 1959 as the 182nd member of the international club.

President of Skal Lagos, Rita Obidike, said the club is leading the charge of promoting friendship and effective cooperation to better the lot of tourism.

Obidike said: “Friendship brings trust, which is very important in any relationship. We all need each other to make it work. The hotel needs the travel agent as much as the car hire needs the tour operators etc. and of course we all need the learning institutions, the aviation and tourism institutions and the policy makers,” she said.