Stakeholders in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors in Nigeria have advocated for creation of a separate ministry of tourism, which they argued would help in advancing the sector. They also underscored the importance of digital technology in tourism promotion and marketing.
Practitioners stated this at the just concluded ANJET Tourism Seminar, which was held under the theme, Tourism and Rural Development, with Sub-theme: Post Covid-19: Recovery strategies for the tourism and hospitality sector in Nigeria.
Held in Lagos, the one-day event brought together various players in the sector, top government officials and stakeholders in the tourism industry to discuss challenges and opportunities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected travel and tourism around the world.
In his keynote address, Dr Wasiu Babalola, Chairman, Institute of Hospitality, United Kingdom and Nigeria, advocated for the creation of sole ministry of tourism or culture to ensure proper preservation of nation’s historical and cultural heritage.
Babalola said this was important because attention had been shifted from the two sectors, which happened to be the greatest employer of labour in the country. He argued that if a separate Ministry of Tourism or Culture was established, major policies would be created that would facilitate the growth of the sectors.
He advised the Federal Government to ensure that all hotels across the country were uniformly classified and create annual calendar of tourism activities for publicity.
“For tourism and culture sub-sectors to thrive better in this country, we need a separate ministry of tourism or culture, this will ensure absolute focus on the promotion and marketing of our historical and cultural heritages,” he said.
In his remarks, Mr Folorunsho Coker, Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), said the industry must adopt new ways of doing tourism business considering the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coker, who was represented by NTDC Lagos Office Coordinator, Mr Olurotimi Ayetan, said that tourism business would thrive better by exploring digital technology and other social media platforms to market the sector.
He said that for success in business transactions, efforts should be intensified in showcasing tourists’ attractions digitally to attract visitors. He urged practitioners to intensify efforts at training themselves on the use of innovative technologies to execute businesses.
“Most business outfits need to review their rates or prices to encourage their lost customers and remain in business rather than close out rightly,” he said.
Alhaji Nura Kangiwa, Director-General, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) also urged operators to digitize their operations as many relied on digital connectivity and virtual promotional campaigns to boost tourism recovery.
Kangiwa, represented by Mrs. Chinyere Uche-Ibeabuchi, Lagos Office Coordinator, said there’s need to diversify into niche product offerings that catered for the circumstances the pandemic presented.
“Embracing digital technological options such as virtual strategies, online offerings to showcase and market destinations and experiences to stimulate demand and address a wider target audience, will be a crucial component of a future tourism recovery strategy for Nigeria. Some countries are already up scaling the designation of special tourism resorts or lodges as quarantine zones into post-COVID-19 retreat packages.”
Kangiwa said it was essential to initiate strong marketing and promotional campaigns both locally and internationally, adding that promoting flexible services would be another strategic tool to attract potential customers.
“Hotels might need to offer flexible prices, cancellation policies, flexible work environment, all these would be beneficial in achieving long term sustainability of the hospitality business industry,” he said.
Otunba Segun Runsewe, Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), who was represented by Mr. Victor Omoniyi, also stressed the importance of engaging the digital space in marketing tourism.
On his part, Mr Ikechi Uko, Organiser, AKWAABA Africa Travel and Tourism Market, said stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality industries should encourage collaborations to ensure money flows through the various value chains. He also urged them to ensure that all COVID-19 pandemic safety protocols were adhered to during physical meetings to guide against another spike in the country.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, in her speech informed that three theatres located in Epe, Igando and Badagry are now in full operation under public-private partnership management.
Akinbile-Yusuf, represented by Adamma Oni, Director of Tourism Promotion in the ministry, said that individuals willing to use the facilities would be obliged to do so as the state was committed to boosting domestic tourism.
The commissioner explained that the theater in Oregon, which was burnt during the recent EndSARS protests, is under renovation, adding that her ministry is making several efforts to reposition Lagos tourism and market it to tourists both indigenous and foreign.
“I am glad to inform this gathering that our theatres in different parts of the state are now under public-private partnership and the operation for this has commenced. This, we believe, will enable the ministry focus on other priority areas that will aid the growth and development of tourism in the state. In the same vein, the much talked about Lagos Creative Academy for the up-skilling of professionals in the creative sector has commenced.”
She informed that the disbursement of the N1billion approved by Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu as seed capital for investment in the tourism and hospitality sectors has started.
“I want to appreciate the leadership of ANJET who did not limit themselves to news reporting alone but also considered it necessary to lend their voice to topical issues as it affects the growth and development of the tourism and hospitality sector in Nigeria.
“As a bridge between the public and tourism stakeholders, I want to implore ANJET to continue to champion the interest of the masses, provide constructive criticism where necessary and remain unbiased in your reportage,” she said.
Earlier in his welcome address, Mr. Omololu Olumuyiwa, ANJET President, said the seminar comes up annually in furtherance of ANJET’s commitment toward developmental journalism, promotion and marketing of Nigeria tourism, which informed the choice of the theme.
“For us as a major stakeholder in the travel industry, the seminar is part of our contribution to deepening discourse and development of the sector and creating a platform for the various players across board to network and promote their businesses at the forum,” he said.