Obstacles to tourism development in Nigeria identified

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Obstacles to tourism development in Nigeria identified

Postby Richard Akindele » Fri Apr 14, 2006 6:19 am

High cost of flight and hotel accommodation as well as inconsistency of government policy are factors militating against tourism development in Nigeria, Mr Jimi Adebakin, a UK-based consultant, has said.
Adebakin, who was speaking at the tourism stakeholders meeting on Tuesday in Lagos, said that the problems would continue to discourage foreign tourists from Nigeria as tourists usually prefer to visit tourism sites that were cheap and easy to reach.

“It cost between $200 to $400 to get a good hotel accommodation in Nigeria and about 500 pounds for an eight hours flight from UK to Nigeria, while it will cost about 150 pounds a journey of the same number of hours from UK to US,� Adebakin said.

To make tourism commercially viable in Nigeria, Adebakin urged both the public and private sectors to promote buyers’ market as against sellers’ market.
He enthussed that there would be no sustainable tourism development unless the bilateral agreement with chartered airlines operators were enforced.

He also advised the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) to break its operations into four departments of business, nature, culture and specific leisure for improved service delivery.
Earlier, Mr Frank Ogbuewu, Minister for Culture and Tourism said that the global tourist visit rose to 800.8 million, representing five per cent increase but out of the figure, Africa's share was about 10 per cent growth rate.

The minister, who was represented by Mrs Esther Adeyimi, director of international tourism, explained that no tangible share accrued to West Africa of the figure and stressed that the development was of concern to the Nigeria government. Also speaking, Mrs Victoria Soluade, Managing Director, Soltan Travels, blamed the high cost of service delivery in the sector on harsh economic environment.
She urged the governmnet to modernise the transport sector, and provide the necessary infrastructure, such as water and electricity supply.

Earlier in a welcome address, Mr Joe Aboreime, Director General of the NTDC stressed the need for stakeholders to be more proactive in tourism development.
He also advised the stakeholders to heed the advice of the Climate Diagnostic Mission which recommended that Nigeria should diversify from the current practice of organising conferences and seminars in urban centres.

According to him, organising such programmes in urban centres would have impact only on urban hotels as they would continue to enjoy economic gains to the detriment of rural areas where tourism sites are concentrated.

“The challenges is to develop products that will attract tourists to the country side to enable them appreciate our rural landscapes, village settings, crafts, architecture and festivals,� he said.
The NTDC boss pointed out that if the situation was not addressed the potentials of wealth creation, development of rural areas and preservation of natural and cultural assets would be lost.
Dr. Eboreime also revealed that the President has approved the Tourism Development Fund (TDF), this he noted will in no small measure facilitate the enhancement and empowerment of the private sector.
He added that plans are underway to launch the TDF and the compendium of cultural festival and tourism sites in Nigeria soon.

NTDC asked to hands-off hotel registration

As the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) , Dr. Joe Eboreime, disclosed that the preliminary work for the take off of the hotel classification and grading exercise has been completed, the former chairman of the National Catering and Hotel Institute, Mr. Seni Oduyoye has called for the decentralization of the exercise.

Mr. Seni Oduyoye, who has managed big hotels in the past like the Ikoyi Hotel, Lagos, said it is disheartening that the country has not been able to carry out a successful grading and classification of hotel since 1975 till date.

He said as a way out, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation should hands off the exercise and allow the state tourism boards to handle the exercise while they come out with the criteria to be followed by the states.

Mr. Seni Oduyoye decried the high interest rate hoteliers pay to get loans from the banks in the country today, he said this is apart from the lack of infrastructure they are faced with.
“Hoteliers borrow at high interest rate, they provide their own water, they provide their own electricity as the public power supply has become comatose. How do you think they can survive?�
He said the government should think of ways to provide incentives to the hoteliers, “the hoteliers could be granted exemption from importation duties among other incentives.�

Meanwhile the Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Dr. Joe Eboreime said that the preliminary work in readiness for the take-off of the Exercise has been completed after the training of Inspectors which took place in December.
Speaking Monday in Lagos, he said the plaques have been designed and manufactured and that the assistance of the Big chain Hotels will be enlisted.

He added, "NTDC in collaboration with NTA/TV Enterprises, and a private Consultant (Nonesuch Limited) have concluded plans to produce a Comprehensive Directory of Hotels and Catering Services in Nigeria. In the bid to promote public-private sector partnership and ensure the growth of a virile and sustainable industry, private tourism associations have been appointed Consultants for the Registration Exercise."

WTTC's global summit ends, as US promises expedite visa process

The Sixth World Travel & Tourism Global Summit has ended in Washington with an attendance of over 900 chief executives, government officials and journalists. The summit will be addressed by some top US government officials including US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice and US Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez.

In the opening session, US Secretary for Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff acknowledged that the United States has some way to go to improve its image to world travelers who want to visit the US and face hurdles in applying for visas. “We very much want a system that encourages secure, safe but welcoming travel and trade all over the world. We are emphatically behind the idea that we must be full partners with the rest of the world in a robust and free-flowing pattern of travel and trade.

“Americans lose when we put up rules, when we keep people out who are good people who want to come to work, study and play in the United States. We damage ourselves if we don’t distinguish between the vast number of people in the world who are our friends and that small number who are enemies.�
The US is encouraging particularly students and technology workers to visit the US from overseas. “The US must expand the number of visas for students and technology workers. If they come to work, study and tour and go back happy, they are goodwill ambassadors for the country.�

Chertoff said the United States was aiming to have safe but open borders and would be expanding the use of modern technology to expedite the process of getting visas. In the near future the US will introduce a paperless visa application process. “We have got to move the world to biometric electronically-based travel; documents that cannot be forged, copied, stolen or misused. This will make it easier to give access to the country and will ensure we safeguard the US against the small number of people who want to come to do us harm. One of the benefits of this is that it protects travelers against identity theft and has advantages for privacy and personal security.�

The US Congress has mandated the Department of Homeland Security to promote a unified Western Hemisphere travel document. The project is known as the Personal Access Security System (PASS) and is essentially a driver’s licence style identity card, holding biometric data and a computer chip that helps to establish a person’s identity rapidly at ports of entry.

Chertoff said the card will be rolled out early next year and would allow people to cross borders without the need to carry around a lot of documents. “This will be an important first step in a broader shared vision for a user-friendly system that will also include a trusted traveler programme and will allow people to have more efficient access back and forth to the United States.�

Koffi Annan praises tourism role in devt

United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan praised the part played by tourism in encouraging the development of poorer nations and the World Tourism Organization’s (WTO) role in this when he visited the organization in Madrid on 7 April.

“Tourism really has the potential of opening up economic space for people around the world,� he told members of staff who gathered to greet him at the headquarters building where (WTO) was hosting a meeting of the UN’s Chief Executives Board (CEB) for the first time.

“We should encourage tourist developers to go and set up tourist developments,� he said, and in doing so to help provide basic amenities such as electricity and clean water for the communities living in those areas. This would help “uplift� the local people, “encouraging them to produce for the tourists.�
Recalling his own past involvement in tourism projects in his native Ghana, the Secretary-General also said tourists should not be offered Europe abroad. “We really need to get them to not only interact with the people but also to offer them authentic culture.�

He thanked WTO staff for being part of the UN’s contact with the public, for having “an impact on how we are perceived and how we achieve our goals. You may be small but you perform an effective mandate……. bringing countries together.

and facilitating the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals� .
In welcoming Mr Annan, UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said that as one of the biggest categories of international trade, tourism has “the capacity to contribute decisively in the fight against poverty�. “This is the reason why many of the agencies present here today are taking a growing interest in its development.�

Mr. Frangialli launched on Friday an exchange network among the different United Nations agencies and bodies interested in tourism (UNTEN). “Let us clarify: it is not called UNTEN because it would involve only ten privileged agencies! Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join. UNTEN stands for ‘United Nations Tourism Exchange Network’,� he said.

And with the UN Secretary-General celebrating his birthday in Madrid the following day - as also happened in 2002 - Mr Frangialli encouraged him to “make a tradition out of it, and come to see us in Spain each time that we celebrate the return of spring.�

NTDC has not been given room to operate at competitive level — Adebakin

Mr. Oluwajimi Adebakin, the CEO of Universal Alliance Connection, exudes confidence as he talks about the future of tourism in Nigeria which he believes has remained largely untaped. In this chat, the destination marketing expert says the country’s tourism needs a single distribution channel to sell the country’s destination to the world, just as he says the country’s skies must be open up for charter aircrafts for Nigeria to attract commercial tourists.

Here is an excerpt

Thanks for the opportunity. My name is Oluwajimi Adebakin, the CEO of Universal Alliance Connection. We are a group and part of what we do is destination marketing. We have offices in 158 countries. We are ready to partner with the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation as private sector to promote destination Nigeria.

On partnership with NTDC

We have looked at the terrain of Nigeria, we have traveled extensively across the known tourist pro- active states and what we have discovered is that different states have different tourism board, different states have got different associations. We felt the airlines, the hotels and the beautiful tourists sites we have are not truly enhanced.

We have not actually sat down to look at what is our comparative advantage and we need an endorsement from a federal source, that is why we approached the Federal Ministry of Tourism and we were given directives to speak with the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation.

I can say that since we have been working with the Director General of the corporation, Dr. Joe Eborieme, he has brilliant ideas, he has operated an open door policy with us. And we believe this initiative, if we get support from the private sector is what we need, so that we can go out with a brand Nigeria rather than everybody trying to promote Nigeria, trying to promote a certain resort at an individual level or at state level.
We are going to have a budget to promote Destination Nigeria and we are going to have different budget to promote different tourist attractions that we have in Nigeria.

Getting the fund

This is a good question. At the end of the day, we are not a charitable organisation, we are going to source our fund off shores from Nigeria . We are going to use some of the infrastructure that have been put in place by Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), we are going to partners with all the hotels in Nigeria, we are going to partners with all the airlines in Nigeria and all the state governments. We are also going to invest some of our own money towards this exercise.

We believe that the profit we are going to make from this exercise, we are going to re-invest as well.
Nigeria as a profitable tourism brand
It is a misconception that Nigeria is not a known tourism brand. Nigeria as a brand is a well known brand already. There is no where you go in the world that you mention Nigeria that people will not say we know the country. Positive or negative, it is still a known brand. What we now need to do is to sharpen that raw diamond and for somebody to be responsible for the positive projection of the image of Nigeria off-shore.
If Jamaica can be a successful tourist destination, there is more crime in Kingston, capital of Jamaica than Lagos, Nigeria, yet tourists are going there . It is just a question of perception.

We need to engage all the international tour operators and give them a win-win package for Nigeria. So, we have to tell them that this is in it for you to promote Nigeria as a tourist destination. At present there is no package out there to bring international tourists to the country.

Inabilitilty of NTDC's marketing & promotion department

The Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) is handicap. The reason Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) is handicap is that the Federal Government has not given it the room to operate at a competitive level. It is of no use for you to have a structure that can not ....Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) does not own an airplane, Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) does not own any hotel, it is just a federal parastatal that still has to get co-operation from the states tourism boards.

Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) does not have power over Lagos state Tourism Corporation, it does not have power over Cross River state Tourism Board. It can only make recommendation to them. This is part of the challenge, all the thirty six states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory must speak with one voice, we must have one channel of distribution of the brand Nigeria.

We don’t have that at the present time, this is why we are saying please, everybody let us cooperate with Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), so that we can brand the country and have one cohesive message about Destination Nigeria and at the same time promoting the 774 local governments in the country.

We are offering our self in partnership with Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) as they are masters when it comes to civil service bureaucracy and we are master when it comes to private sector bureaucracy. So our strength is their weakness . Combining our strength and weaknesses together, I think we can actually market Nigeria as a tourism destination.

Accessing Nigeria's tourism

I believe that Nigeria has got a very vibrant domestic tourism that is untapped. I believe Nigeria has got a very vibrant regional tourism that has not been tapped. I believed that Nigeria has got a very vibrant international tourism that has not been tapped.

It is now a question of harnessing what we have got and we believe that within six months people will start saying that something is happening in the tourism sector from July 2006.
We are going to have partnership with the media houses, with international tour operators, with the local tour operators in Nigeria, the state governments and we are going to all the tourism sites in the country and make them economically viable and then we will have a package within three months as we will come out with a package for the entire country.

Nigeria capacity for large tourists

If you look at the capacity of our hotels in Nigeria as it stands, the occupancy rate is never higher at any point in time than 80% , so we still have 20% there we can tap into. As far as the carriers are concerned, some of them are rationing their schedule at present, they cancel flights because they don’t have enough passengers , so I believe there is over capacity even within the domestic aviation.
This is why we need to partner with them, so they know every flight going out is going out full load, full pay and it is going to be a win-win situation with a multiplier effect for the sector and the country’s economy. For it to be successful, we are going to make everybody to move from the comfort zone and realize that 100% of zero is zero.

Efforts at identifying the country’s strong area in tourism

As far as Nigeria is concerned, what we have got is our physical landscape and another area of comparative advantage is our human resources. Nigerians are the most friendly people in the whole world and we honestly believe that there is no village you go to in Nigeria today that within five hours they can not put an entertainment package together. Real grassroots entertainment, that is unique about the villages, but we have not tapped into this. This is why we are saying, we are taking this campaign to the 774 local governments in the country.

It is not for us to say what is going to be the end products, we are going to work with all the different local government on what is so unique about them and we are going to run a competition as well as to know what they have as entertainment and from this we are going to know what to use as branding for that state from those different local government. It is not something that would evolve over night it is a process and starting from point zero hoping that in three years time that Nigeria tourism landscape would have been established. The calendar would have been established.
But we are to start with domestic tourism, moved to regional tourism and from there to international tourism.

Nigeria as an expensive destination

We have been lobbying the Federal Government in the last three years to liberalize the Nigerian air space. We have got four functional international airports out of the twenty one airports we have. We want the Nigerian government to allow us bring in international charter flights into the country. The Minister of Aviation has nudged in this direction that they are going to change the rules about wet leasing and dry leasing of aircrafts into Nigeria, but we are hoping that the minister will impress it on Mr President that we have to go beyond that, because at the end of the day all flights coming into the country, taxes will be paid and employment will be created.

The scheduled carriers will still operates their own schedules into Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt, but let us develop our regional international airports. Let us bring other carriers, there are enough local carriers but they will be operating as charter operators and FAAN will make more revenue in terms of landing.

If we want to really open up Nigeria as a tourism destination , it is not the physical structure that is lacking, it is not human resources. What is lacking is the will from the Federal Government to open up the skies of Nigeria and until the country’s sky is opened up for charter operators, we are not going to see commercial tourism in Nigeria.

I will want to add that Nigeria has got a lot to offer. In Africa as it stands right now, there is nothing anywhere in Africa you can not find here in Nigeria , the only thing that you can not find in Nigeria that you find else where is that the sky is liberalized.

Bayelsa takes bold steps on tourism

The Government of Bayelsa State is keying in into the tourism gold mine as the hospitality sector of the industry is being given attention to reap from the excellent weather condition, fine beaches of the coastline, Islands, the rich culture, historic sites, festivals and natural beauty that constitute unparalled tourism potentials in the Niger Delta.

Realising that accommodation facilities contribute the most important part of tourists supplies. The primary function of a hotel is to accommodate those away from home. Tourists seek a wide range of facilities and services which are provided by different suppliers at different stages of the trip. The tourist who has left home needs accommodation at his destination and en route when the journey cannot be completed in a single day. Accommodation is a very important part of tourism infrastructure and development. Tourism is therefore a function of accommodation.

Perhaps, this was what informed the new initiative of the governor of Bayelsa State, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to cultivate the tourism industry in the state through his investments in the hospitality industry in the state.

Poised to diverse the monoproduct economy to embrace other viable areas, Dr. Jonathan, on assumption of office as the second civilian governor, initiated the new Yenagoa model city project to have a befitting state capital city of international standard in addition to the opening up of the rural communities through the award of contracts to construct three senatorial roads projects, starting with the Yenagoa –– Oporoma-Ukubie road.

The governor has already awarded the contract for the building of a five star hotel (The Tower Hotel) with an international conference centre, in Ekeki area of the state capital. The sum of 3.2 billion naira has been released to the contractor as down payment. The project site has been cleared awaiting commencement of construction job.

“There is no reason for projects to be delayed when contractors are not being owed�, the governor said, assuring that funds would be always made available to pay contractors as “government would work out the maximum number of days any invoice submitted by contractor, can be processed before payment is effected�.

The idea of growing the hospitality industry in Bayelsa is significant to the rapid socio-economic development of the traumatized and marginalized Niger Delta region which many investors and tourists see as being hostile due to exaggerated media reports about activities of militant youths in the area who protest against the conspicuous underdevelopment coupled with the persistent degradation of the environment as a consequence of oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities of multinational oil companies which have operated in the region for about five decades.

Naturally, the Niger Delta terrain is a tourist haven because of its natural beauty facilitated by the good weather condition and rich culture of the Ijaws, whose main occupation before now were fishing and farming.

The white men graves at Twon-Brass and Akassa, in addition to the slave-tunnels in Akassa among several lakes provide a spectacular tourist attractions in the region.
The new initiative of the governor to explore the abundant tourism potentials in the only homogenous Ijaw state would serve as a spring board to create wealth as the hospitality industry is capable of generating employment opportunities for the youths in the region.

President Obasanjo’s initiative to develop a tourism master plan for the country and his recent pronouncement of making Calabar in Cross River, Akassa in Bayelsa and Lagos in Lagos state, was informed by the multi-faceted opportunities that are abound in the industry, which countries like India, Seychelles, Mauritius among others have developed to diversify their economic base by reinvesting available resources in tourism. The hospitality industry can help in providing more employment and income.
The governor maintained that the viability of his initiatives to grow the economy of the state would compel his successors to continue with the projects his administration has started.

The governor noted the state government has entered into partnership with a reputable “international consortium in the realization of the dreams of the government, especially against the background that similar new cities in other parts of the world have been built. Dr. Jonathan said his administration’s commitment towards the practical development of the state capital was total, adding that concept of developing a functional modern city of international standard remains a challenge to his administration.

South African based business conglomerate, the Mvelapanda Group, which will handle the new model city project has also promised to assist the state in the areas of sustainable economic development, transfer of technological through the training of youths in the state.

Speaking during the presentation of the proposal and capability statement of the Yenagoa master plan at Government House Yenagoa, the chairman, Mr. Tokyo Sexwalle had stressed need for Africans to take interest in the development of their continent by investing in development projects.

Mr. Sexwelle noted that the new model city will stimulate economic growth such that other big time investors will be attracted to Bayelsa, informing that the model city would occupy approximately 100 hectares while the first phase was estimated to cost about two hundred million dollars. While the governor’s new tourism initiative remains a step in the right direction, the vision needs legal instrument to back it up. The recent passage of the state territory development bill would go a long way to facilitate the new development agenda of the governor.
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