Stakeholders at the just concluded Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET) 2020 Seminar has called for the creation of Ministry of Tourism to take of activities in industry.
The ANJET Tourism Seminar 2020 with the theme, ‘“Tourism and Rural Development” and with Sub-theme “Post Covid-19: Recovery Strategies for the Tourism and Hospitality Sector in Nigeria” held in Lagos, was first physical event by the association since the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown by the Federal Government.
The event which brought various players, top government officials and stakeholders in the tourism sector to discuss challenges and opportunities in the wake of the COVID -19 pandemic. which affected travel and tourism around the world.
Speaking at the event, the Keynote Speaker and Chairman, Institute of Hospitality, United Kingdom and Nigeria, Dr Wasiu Babalola, 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 are the greatest employer of labour in the country.
He said if a separate ministry of tourism or culture was established,policies would be made 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.
According to Babalola, ”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.”
Also speaking, the Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mr Folorunsho Coker, 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 pointed out that for tourism business to thrive in the country efforts should be intensified to showcase tourists’ attractions digitally to attract visitors.
He urged tourism practitioners to intensify efforts at training and developing themselves on the use of innovative technologies to execute businesses.
In his words, “Most business outfits need to review their rates or prices to encourage their lost customers and remain in business rather than close out rightly.”
On his part, the Director-General, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR),Alhaji Nura Kangiwa, also urged operators to digitalise their operations as many relied on digital connectivity and virtual promotional campaigns to boost tourism recovery.
Kangiwa, represented by the Lagos Office Coordinator, Mrs. Chinyere Uche-Ibeabuchi,said there was 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.
According to Kangiwa, “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.”
Also contributing to the discussion, Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe,also stressed the importance of engaging the digital space in marketing tourism.
Runsewe was represented by Mr. Victor Omoniyi.
Organiser of AKWAABA Africa Travel and Tourism Market, Mr. Ikechi Uko, said stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality industries should encourage collaborations to ensure money flows through the various value chains.
He also reminded stakeholders on the need to ensure that all COVID-19 safety protocols were strictly adhered to during physical meetings to guide against another spike of the pandemic in the country.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf in her speech stated that its three theatres located in Epe, Igando and Badagry were presently in full operation under Public-Private Partnership(PPP) management.
Akinbile-Yusuf, represented by the Director of Tourism Promotion in the ministry, Adamma Oni, Director, 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 theatre in Oregon, which was burnt during the recent EndSARS protests was under renovation.
Efforts she said was being made by the ministry 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 said 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, ANJET President,Mr. Omololu Olumuyiwa, 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.
He said that the seminar is part of ANJET contribution to deepen the activities in the tourism industry.
“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.