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eTN Inbox: Breakthrough in Nigeria's tourism

Nov 28, 2008

The piece by Lucky George captioned "Of Neophyte and Tin God" is not the true situation of the tourism industry in Nigeria. People are not calling for the sack of the Nigerian Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode and Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, in charge of the national tourism organization called the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) due to the row between them.

It might sound funny; the tourism industry here is now hot as a result of this row. It is not a case of saying ' When two elephants fight, the grass suffers. It is amazing how much freer the industry is getting, more attention and fewer bottlenecks.

People in Nigeria could not help but notice the tourism industry which is changing in recent times. Not only are the two tourism chieftains making themselves relevant in the normally 'dull' terrain, they are also falling over themselves to launch programs and products in order to retain their jobs even if they can't work together. Today, tourism is fast becoming everybody's favorite.

George, a colleague of mine for over a decade, may be exaggerating the situation. The problem involving the officials is believed to be personal, and is very subtle, but it is there. Getting the job done is the issue and none of the ‘gladiators’ is found wanting. It appears the tourism industry in Nigeria is liking it.

Cynics believe the officials won't be there forever as they (the heavyweights) are not core tourism industry people ( they are political appointees). It's a matter of "soldier come, soldier go but the barracks remains," said one tourism worker in Pidgin English.

So, it's no wonder a lot of tourism practitioners said they expect the duo while they are still in tourism, in spite of their differences, to work out a better future for the tourism industry in Nigeria.

Prince Kayode and Otunba Runsewe are among government officials who may have performed well in their scorecards. At least, Kayode was not dropped by Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’ Dua in his recent ministering shake-up. Runsewe, one of Nigeria’s most popular director -generals, was asked to resume work by the Presidency, a day after Kayode, his supervisory minister, announced his suspension to the public last January.

The tourism industry attracts more than its fair share of attention, thanks to Runsewe’s business-oriented programmes and activities. From entrepreneur family to media background, he has got a little of everything compared to Kayode who is a senior advocate of Nigeria (senior lawyer).

On a personal note, what the tourism in Nigeria needs is having professionals man key positions in the sub-sector. Since the government of the day does not have the political will, having a person who hates bureaucracy that characterised the Ministry of Tourism and NTDC in the past is a plus.
A former President of National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mr. Soji Amusan praised the effort of the realtively new Director General to jumpt-start the sector.

” Runsewe is like a private sector operator. He has improved the image of of Nigeria at the World Travel Market; look at our stand which is well branded. Some of these things he is doing will help to move the tourism industry forward," he said.

Indeed, Runsewe is hot. I have to admit I wasn't sure of him at the onset. I'm just loving his style. His campaign slogans, “Tourism is Life'” and " Practical Tourism", the likes of “ Incredible Colors of India,” have revolutionalised our small tourism industry.

It is a total departure from too many workshops and seminars organized by his predecessors which did the industry no good. Needless to say the recommendations from such ‘elephant projects’ were hardly implemented. In fact, the tourism chieftains used to hide under the so-called workshops to steal funds allocated to marketing and promotion of tourism in Nigeria.

Unsurprisingly, this accounts for Nigeria’s shoddy outings at international exhibitions like ITB Berlin or World Travel Market (WTM) in London in the past. What matters to those officials was coming with a bloated delegation who laid claims to estacodes as a way of a bribe. They were just pocketing public money.

Kayode, meanwhile, was believed to be doing his job when he visited WTM to attend Tourism Ministers' Meeting recently. He had the prerogative to visit any stand of his choice while at ExCel, London. Many said “It's no big deal” if he didn't visit Nigeria's stand while there.

This writer was thrilled to visit Nigeria's stand at this year's WTM. Our dear country paid for the stand just in time. It was one of the best decorated stands and the performance was not too bad compared to the ones in the past. It was spiced with standard promotional material and the right people. Visitors who could not get enough of Nigeria gave Runsewe the thumbs-up. He is believed to be the new face of tourism in Nigeria.

Generally, people singled out the minister for criticism as they discussed the issue in low tones at WTM, saying “If our very own minister, Kayode did not visit our stand, it means he has got his name printed across the problem with Nigeria’s tourism (the one George described in his story).

A tour operator who asked for anonymity said recently: “Kayode always comes up with embarrassing situations in the tourism house. The one at the recently held World Travel Market in London was no exception. Thankfully, it must have helped in reducing the number of non-professionals at Nigeria’s stand, hangs-on who will think the travel exhibition is another 'owambe' (Yoruba word for party).”

However, the words on every lip are, “The Federal Government definitely got to look into the problem to stabilize the tourism industry in the country!”

Justina Okpanku
Lagos, Nigeria

eTN Inbox:  Breakthrough in Nigeria's tourism
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