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Ftan 2023: Tourism Operators Highlight Importance Of Partnership, Technology, Promotion Of Sellable Products

Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), umbrella body for private sector operators in the tourism sector, recently had its 26th Annual General Meeting and Tourism Conference. The event, which held at the NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja, was attended by members of the various federating associations, allied operators and government officials.

It was a colourful event that ended on a celebratory note as it was also an elective AGM that saw all the officials of the executive council of federation returned to office to serve for a second term and the last tenure for many of the elected officials, who are to serve for another two years of two terms as provided for in the constitution.

With the theme, Tourism today and tomorrow: setting an agenda for the new administration, the one-day gathering afforded the federation and its members to once again take a critical look at the sector that has underperformed over the years and agreed on a pathway forward and a common agenda to push to the doorstep of the new administration at the federal level led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and at the state levels as well down to the local communities as tourism is an inconclusive and multi-faceted sector.

Some of the special guests at the event include the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Umo Eno, who was represented by the Deputy Governor of the State, Senator Akon Eyakenyi, a familiar face to the sector, as she had once served as Tourism Commissioner in her state.

Also present was the President and Founder of La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye, who delivered the keynote address while the Directors General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Alhaji Nura Sani Kangiwa and Nigerian Tourism Development Authority (NTDA), Folorunsho Coker, added pep to the gathering with their presence.

The President of FTAN, Nkereuwem Onung, set the tone for the event, with his welcome remark in which he periscope the federation’s activities in the last few years, the fate of tourism in the last administration led by former President Muhammadu Buhari and ended with a call for partnership between the private and public sectors in order to achieve the end result of tourism.

Nkereuwem Onung: It’s time to collaborate, innovate, focus on sellable products

He stressed the importance of tourism and its potential to empowering people and the communities, noting, ‘‘tourism has the power to transform communities, creating employment opportunities, promoting cultural preservation, and contributing to economic growth. By engaging local communities, we can ensure that tourism development is sustainable, respectful of cultural heritage, and environmentally responsible.

‘‘Today, I want to draw your attention to the panel discussion that will take place during this conference, focusing on “Sustainable Tourism: The Need for Sellable Tourism Products.” This topic highlights a crucial aspect of our industry—the development of marketable and attractive tourism offerings that appeal to both domestic and international travelers.

‘‘To achieve this, we must embrace innovation, creativity, and quality in product development. We need to identify unique selling points that showcase the richness of our cultural heritage, natural wonders, and the warmth of Nigerian hospitality. By creating sellable tourism products, we can attract visitors, generate revenue, and create sustainable livelihoods for our communities.

‘‘Furthermore, let us not overlook the importance of sustainability in our pursuits. Sustainable tourism goes beyond short-term gains; it focuses on balancing economic, social, and environmental considerations. We must adopt practices that preserve our natural resources, respect local cultures, and benefit future generations.

This commitment to sustainability will contribute to the long-term success and resilience of our tourism industry. ‘‘That is why we must join our voice to the call for a separate ministry for Tourism. We are aware that tourism is on the residual list, which should not be, considering the fact it is the veritable took for our economic transformation given the dwindling revenue from oil in Nigeria. The 2013 Supreme Court judgment has not helped matters.

‘‘It is therefore our belief as a federation that the states can productively work with the national government using tourism as a tool of transformation. This is why tourism should not remain as a department in the Ministry of Information and Culture.

FTAN is ready to midwife a robust relationship between the states and various federal government agencies responsible for tourism development in Nigeria. ‘‘As a Federation, we have put in place team of experts to collaborate with the states on: Hotel Registration, classification and grading; Tourism master plan; Eco tourism infrastructure; Destination branding; Community Engagement and empowerment; and Create niche tourism products, among others.

‘‘We will also work with the federal government through the MDAs in innovative tourism development. We will work with them to implement the new laws.’’

Kangiwa, others commit to partner FTAN in promotion of tourism

Goodwill messages were also delivered by a number of the guests including Kangiwa, who noted that, ’’the Nigerian tourism industry is undoubtedly ripe for improved states and federal government stimulus, hence the justified call for the creation of a stand-alone Ministry of Tourism.

Similarly, the private sector and other stakeholders need to key into opportunities provided by the 2022 NIHOTOUR Establishment Act.’’ He also emphasised the need for collaboration, disclosing that NIHOTOUR is set to lead in this front as its establishing Act, ‘‘requires NIHOTOUR to actively engage and robustly partner with organisations like FTAN in coming-up with actionable operational solutions, and best practices, to grow hospitality and tourism businesses in the country – while improving the skills-set of personnel in the industry.

‘‘Therefore, my colleagues, I assure you all now, like I assured the FTAN delegation that recently visited me, and my management team, to discuss cooperation on implementation of the NIHOTOUR Establishment Act, that, FTAN and her member associations will be fully involved in the implementation of this Act of Parliament! We are duty-bound.’’

The panel discussion session was a stimulating and incisive, with the Vice President, South South, FTAN, Mrs Justina Ovat, moderating the session that had the President of Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), Mrs Ime Udo; Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Travel Tech Company, Mrs Clara Okoro; Vice President, Nigerian Hospitality and Tourism Investment Conference, Allen Effeh and the National Secretary of the Nigeria Association of Zoos and Wildlife Parks (NAZAP), Dr Kabir Ali.

The keynoter, Akinboboye, as always held the audience spellbound with his star performance, as he took the operators through shared destiny, missed opportunities, and the humonguous potentials inherent in Nigerian tourism and its prospect for the national economy, as well as drawing attention to some of the solutions, ranging from quick fixes, medium to long terms.

Speaking on the sub-theme of, Community Involvement in Tourism Development: Building Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism, he painted a moving picture of the power of tourism to transform communities and how best to turn our latent and fallowed attractions into tourist destinations as that is the only way to earn big in tourism.

Eno unveils tourism agenda, dreams prosperous Akwa Ibom

The AGM provided an auspicious platform for the new Akwa Ibom State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno, who has made tourism one of the pillars of the ARISE Agenda of his administration, to share his tourism dream. Eno’s presentation, which was delivered by his deputy, Senator Ekayenyi, reads in part; ‘‘In Akwa Ibom State, tourism is a key focal point in our ARISE Agenda.

As a hospitality practitioner myself, we are determined to invest heavily in this sector and get our people back to work. ‘‘We will promote our nationally and internationally known cuisines, and thanks to our dear daughter, Hilda Baci, who recently won the Guinness World Record for the longest hours spent cooking by an individual, our rich cuisines now are on the international map.

‘‘We have everything going for us, world-class infrastructure, the ease of travel made possible by Ibom Air, Nigeria’s most preferred airline, peace and youthful and innovative population and above all a deeply hospitable people.

‘‘The Victor Attah International Airport is equipped with a state of the art terminal building. Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) facilities and located in a vast green area in the outskirts of the state capital with a dual carriageway, designed to create a natural ambience and serenity, which make a trip to or from the city centre pleasurable.

‘‘With one of the best road networks in the West African sub-region; upmarket hotels and recreational facilities, including a global standard golf course, Akwa Ibom State is capable of hosting the World and being a key player in global tourism. ‘‘Our plan isn’t just to get more people to travel to Akwa Ibom State and spend their money.

We desire to give those who visit our state, maximum value for money and satisfaction to warrant voluntary repeat visits. ‘‘Presently, the Ibom Icon Hotel, situated amidst a rich palm forest vegetation within the Nwaniba Golf course, offers the kind of serenity that is rare to find anywhere else in West Africa.

The Four Points by Sheraton Hotel situated in the heart of the Raffia City of Ikot Ekpene is designed to give global standards hospitality to tourists. Of course, there are several medium level hotels scattered across the State for the benefit of tourists.

‘‘Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo is a world class medical facility designed to redirect medical tourism from other parts of the World to Akwa Ibom State. Then, we have the 30,000 capacity Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, the best sporting facility in Nigeria and one of the best in Africa.

The Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, located in the state capital, just a few metres from the Banking and Financial Institutions Layout, is an integrated recreational facility, housing a cinema, shopping malls and upon completion, a five star hotel, an international conference centre and a theme park.’’

Following the above resources available in the state and the efforts made over the years to enhance them, the focus of is government, going forward, he said; ‘‘With all these already in place, our administration will focus on the development of our vast coastline, upgrade of facilities in the various tourist sites to international standards, expand existing infrastructures and consolidate on the present atmosphere of peace and security in the state.

‘‘As we invite experts to discuss and contribute to our blueprint in an event tagged “Ibom Dialogue” holding between the 24th and 27th of this month, we hope to connect the dots, fine tune our proposals and come up with a clear policy on economic development, including tourism and an action plan with timelines for implementation. I hope we can partner with your association to explore the enormous opportunities that exist in this sector.’’

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