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Public and private sectors tourism initiative takes off in Nigeria

Lucky George, eTN Ambassador for Nigeria  Feb 19, 2009

Recently, the Cross River State government, through its tourism bureau, initiated a public-private sector relationship with RemLords Tour and Car Hire Service that will ensure smooth traffic to the most exotic tourist site in Nigeria—the Obudu Mountain Resort.

In a rare display of seriousness and commitment to public private partnership concept, the state government procured four IVECO luxury buses and handed it over to RemLords Tour and Car Hire Service for the conveyance of tourists and for hiring by registered tour operators heading for Obudu Mountain Resort.

Mr. Gabriel Onah, chairman of Cross River State Tourism Bureau, led other top functionaries of the state including the Commissioners for Information, Work and Transport, Electrification and Rural Development on a maiden voyage on the luxury buses to Obudu. He said: “The state governor, Mr. Lyel Imoke, is committed to the tourism vision of the state as set by his predecessor, Mr. Donald Duke. He is most interested in generating traffic to Obudu Mountain Resort.”

Mr. Onah pointed out that the state government was being responsive to the yearning of tourists who desired to visit Obudu Mountain Resort but were being demoralized by the high cost of transportation to the tourism sites. “The state governor realized that having spent millions of dollars on Obudu Mountain Resort, it should also provide the enabling environment and make available the necessary warranties of ensuring high influx of people to the site.”

Hence, Mr. Onah pointed out, “the procurement of four brand new luxury buses for easy transportation to Obudu by the state government.”

“Because the governor believes that government has no business in being in business, we searched for a player in the tourism sector in the state who is not only reliable, but had maintained a credible profile and had been consistent in the art of tour packaging in the state for the past 10 years RemLords Tour and Car Hire Service is to handle the buses,” he revealed further.

Mr. Onah said, “Tour business is better left to the professionals and practitioners who are adept in the art and not by government officials who are masters in General Orders and Good Service. Hence, RemLord Tours, whose CEO is the president, Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), was considered fit and proper for this initiative.”

RemLords Tours, Mr. Onah pointed out, would be the custodian of the buses and would pay a certain sum to the coffers of the government. “We are commencing this business relationship with RemLords with four buses, the number of which will be increased soon.”

In response, RemLords Tours and Car Hire Service CEO Ikerewugu Onung, who packed 15 notable tour operators and 20 travel and monitoring journalists on the maiden voyage of the buses to Obudu Mountain Resort, commended the Cross River state governor for “this wonderful understanding of the tourism market and genuine intention to stoke the embers of tourism fire in the state.” He said: “The governor of Cross River State, Mr. Lyel Imoke, is demonstrating his genuine intention and purpose in government. By this initiative and others, he is telling the world that he is not just a responsible person but a responsive leader who is only out to better the lot of people. For what he has done is creating and making available the implements necessary to drive tourism in the state and sustain an increase in the traffic to Obudu Mountain Resort.”

Mr. Onung revealed “this singular initiative will increase traffic to Obudu by 150 per cent because Gov. Imoke has removed the most potent obstacle to the tourists intending to visit Obudu.”

He also pointed out that “most people find it extremely difficult to hire a taxi at the rate of N50,000 to Obudu for sight-seeing and this has reduced traffic to that paradise by 75 percent. But with the advent of these buses, the traffic will jump up.”

Mr. Onung revealed that “the traffic to Obudu will jump up by 150 percent because what normally cost N50,000 before will be N8,000 per head now.”

The President of Nigerian Association of Tour Operators said that “the four buses are for tourists heading to Obudu Mountain Resort. One just needs to contact RemLords Tours and Car Hire Service offices at Calabar or Lagos and Uyo.”

“Our office at Murtala Mohammed Highway, Calabar, Alhaja Kofoworola Street, Ikeja, Lagos and Olusegun Obasanjo Way, former Abak Road, Uyo, Akwa Ibom, are all equipped for efficient and prompt booking for tourists en route Obudu by road.” Mr. Onung said “booking is open by now to everybody, including tourists, either packaged by a tour operator or self-conducted.”

He disclosed that tourists to Obudu who come by air to Calabar should proceed to RemLords Tours’ office located within the airport. “We maintain a functional office within the Margret Ekpo Airport in Calabar where arriving tourists can book or be picked up for the journey to Obudu.”

Moreover, the management of Obudu Mountain Resorts, African Sun, has endorsed Nigerian Association of Tour Operators as its major partner in selling Obudu to tourists.

The decision was made after a turbulent meeting and cross fertilization of ideas between NATOP members, led by its president, Mr. Onung, and the Head of African Sun, Mr. Ewan Cameroon.

The meeting, which featured hot and frank arguments, came to rest on a symbiotic relationship between the tour operators who wanted something affordable for their customers and the hotel management who did not want to run bankrupt and yet offer excellent and above-the- benchmark services to tourists.

The Obudu Mountain Resort is located close to the border with Cameroon. It boasts of a temperate climate due to its high altitude. The resort is about 5,200 above sea level and offers a cool and temperate climate. The resort is located on a hilltop about a 35-minute drive or 45 miles from the town of Obudu, which is about five hours from Calabar, the Cross River state capital. The centre is also fortified with helipad and an airstrip located at Bebi landscape.

The cable car runs from the resort entrance at the base of the mountain to the top. It is claimed to be the world's second longest cable car system. The ranch also boasts of ultra modern conference centre and hotels for tourists. There is a clinic, school, police post, nightclub, bank and staff quarters.

As part of activities to increase traffic to the centre, the Cross River state government recently signed an agreement with RemLords to manage a shuttle service between Calabar and Obudu.

The shuttle with a brand new IVECO IRIS bus will cover the major landmarks in the state as tourist journey up to the hills. The shuttle, according to the state government "not only reduces the cost of transport to the resort to about eight thousand naira return and makes the five hour trip more fun.”

The only way tourist accessed the centre had been through Bebi airstrip. It was not always available hence the need for a shuttle bus service from Calabar.

Public and private sectors tourism initiative takes off in Nigeria
Obudu Mountain Resort

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