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Tour Operators Get Gears Turning

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It appears, tourism business, particularly in Nigeria has never been anything but a shadow of what it’s supposed to be.

But, this year’s World Tourism Day (WTD), shall address numerous challenges which made it almost impossible for the sector to sail through and achieve its desired purpose.

With the theme ‘Rethinking Tourism’, experts in the sector see a glimmer of light at the end of the dark tunnel. Janefrances Chibuzor reports…

The theme of 2022 World Tourism Day (WTD), ‘Rethinking Tourism’ offers a good opportunity to view the sector from a whole new perspective.

For over four decades since celebration of the WTD began, tourism activities, particularly in Nigeria have experienced series of dramatic events; such as insecurity, lack of infrastructure and lack of commitment from government at all levels. In recent history, the Corona Virus Pandemic presented itself as most challenging obstacle encountered in the tourism space. The government stipulated guidelines to control the pandemic had crumbled tourism activities and travel related businesses across the globe.

But, there is good news for the Nigerian tourism sector; nonetheless the emergence of ‘Rethinking Tourism’ at this stage serves as an incredible tool to change an old narrative in the sector for a more progressive order.

Nigeria is joining other parts of the world to reconsider her plans or strategies to improve one of the world’s major economic sectors.

Notwithstanding, practitioners in the Nigerian travel businesses have planned to leave no stone unturned in repositioning activities in the sector. They are of the opinion that everyone should get their wheels in motion to use the opportunity provided by rethinking the affairs of tourism to further identify challenges inhibiting the sector. Also, they are of the belief that workable projects and programmes from the Federal Government such as public and private partnerships and training and re-training of tour guides among others will reposition the sector.

It is noteworthy that the experts are set to connect with their counterparts around the world for the celebration, even as they give ultimate attention to a day that means life to them.

Brief Note About WTD

Historically, WTD has been held on September 27 each year since its formulation over four decades ago. It’s well understood that the establishment of WTD marks the anniversary that paved the way for establishment of United Nations World Tourism Organisation(UNWTO) in 1970.

Meanwhile, reports gathered from UNWTO portal notes that, this year’s WTD would be celebrated in Bali, Indonesia on September 27.

Our reporter gathered that key discussions from travel agents will focus on enormous challenges hindering tourism growth as well as post pandemic varied accomplishments.

Challenges in the sector

Realistically, huge challenges highlighted by the experts have bedeviled the sector’s growth across Nigeria even before the advent of Corona Virus Pandemic. First, the government’s inability to create viable policies and programmes that will boost local content: Second, opening of new tourism sites for attraction: Third, tourist sites lack security measures. Fourth, dwindling number of airlines. And fifth, non existing public and private partnership.

Others are lack of funding by governments, forex scarcity, poor maintenance of infrastructure and many more.

On a more serious note, the high level of insecurity has greatly affected tourism likewise, even as causes a lot of anxiety in the country. At this point, tourists fidget whenever certain destinations in the country are mentioned.

This negative development following the state of insecurity in the country has changed the perception of investors and expatriates towards the citizens. As a result of this, there is a fall in foreign investments in the country.

The first question that comes to most tourists mind is “how safe is the place?” “How safe is the route to the destination?” Time will tell how relevant these questions are in the case of Nigeria.

Airlines and Increase in Aviation Fuel

The shrinking number of operational airlines and increase in the cost of aviation fuel would have been a good business tale if Nigeria was a manufacturer of aircrafts or producer of aviation fuel or even a busy hub for international flights. And Nigeria did not strategically position herself in addressing any of these challenges just like other developed countries.

Aviation fuel scarcity or hike should not have been an issue at this time for an oil producing country. Its impact on passengers who are caught between the devil of insecurities and deep blue sea of inflation, is such that has never been witnessed. Offices and shops are open, rather than physical travels people are forced to sit back and rely on telecommunications via internet, zoom and phone calls among others.

However, it would be recalled that on July 31, THEWILL published an article on aviation crisis and emergency in the operators’ hands as the number of airlines continues to shrink. According to the report, some aviation staff joined the general strike convened by the Nigeria Labour Congress. Two of the biggest and most recognised Nigerian airlines Aero Contractors and Dana Air had stopped their flight operations.

Operators had come to terms with the deepening aviation crisis. And thereafter noted that management of the airlines were fighting tooth and nail to maintain both operations and aircrafts to ensure their passengers safety.

Post COVID Varied Experiences

Likewise, the WTD celebrations will witness activities of post pandemic varied accomplishments of tourism sector. Unfortunately, from the travel practitioners point of view, they had mixed feelings on the outcome of COVID pandemic in their respective businesses. For some the season was net breaking and to others business seemed to be stuck. In the midst of all odds, they were inspired and began to explore and appreciating nature reserved areas across Nigerian rural communities. By so doing, jobs began to spring up for the youths in the rural communities and in return revenue and local patronages experienced boom.

Regrettably, they have not been any significant post COVID improvement in the sector. With the Federal Government stipulated guidelines to curb spread of the pandemic, such as travel restrictions, flights cancelation and coronavirus vaccine caused havoc in related tourism activities.

Regulations Release by United Arab Emirates

On August 28, also, THEWILL, had published that the United Arab Emirates released stiffer visa regulations for Nigerians.

The new regulations followed by the recent public disturbance by some Africans in Dubai, in which the youths, believed to be Nigerian nationales, were seen fighting in a Dubai community and destroying public property.

In this regard, the experts lamented these regulations by UAE have negatively affected their business. According to them, the people mostly affected by new UAE visa regulations fall within the age bracket of 16 to 35 years.

Nigeria is blessed with diversity of tourism content

It is pertinent to mention here that Nigeria as a nation is so rich with diverse natural resources. But, the country lacks proper approach to become a tourism hub like Dubai, France among others.

As a country filled with milk and honey, her leaders only need to consistently creating massive and vibrant tourism events as well as world class tourism destinations in-country and see the revenue tumble in to boost the economy

Surmountable Challenges

Tour operators unanimously noted that that the challenges faced by the tourism sector are surmountable. To address these challenges, governments at all levels ought to adopt friendly policies to make the sector thrive. To buttress this claim, they said government should allocate funds to tourism development and ensure such finances are judiciously spent. Again, they noted that travel consultants needed to be part of decision making: they made an appeal to the government to mount security measures in strategic locations and by so doing, they pointed out that kidnapping will no longer be seen as a lucrative business: Making Nigerian tourist sites attractive to encourage holidaying within Nigeria: Government should encourage public and private mutually beneficial relationships: Addressing the issue of quack agents in business: Training and Retraining of tour guides among other solutions.

Another way is to mirror a nation like Dubai which has been consistently making progress, Nigeria will start becoming a business tourism hub. However, the success journey of any growing nation always starts from calculated efforts of certain individuals with fully prepared minds.

In addition: A declared emergency can be set up to freely advertise places like Obudu ranch, Ikogosi spring among others. They suggested that the media companies can take up that to enhance their corporate social responsibility. That way more Nigerians and foreigners will see repeated commentaries that will attract tourists towards patronizing hundreds of attractions in the country.

World Tourism Day Means Different Things to Tour Operators

The Chief Executive Officer of Folabod Travels And Tours Limited, Foluke Abodunrin, sees WTD as “a day to appreciate the beauty of nature in every place. Its a day to celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of every city and country.”

The Managing Director of TOC Travels Ltd, Adebayo Martins said that WTD may be viewed from two sides has for frequent or seldom travellers and travel consultants or agencies. To the former its either an occasion to decide next business and vacation visit, or work relocation and study destination, while to the later, its either a time to enlist among those showcasing available service offerings or a way to unlearn and relearn towards brand positioning.’

For the Chief Executive Officer of 1House Logistics, Daniel Momoh, “27th September would be a reflection on how far we have come, where we are and what needed to be done.”

Managing Director of Samore International Resource, Omotosho Yetunde Omolara “World Tourism Day should be a day when everyone should visit the tourist attractions sites in their respective countries and for those who are financially buoyant, it should be an opportunity to visit other countries of the world. For me, I will be visiting Dubai for the first time.”

The Director of Operations of AU Travels and Tours, Mrs Diana Idoko, “World Tourism Day means a lot to me as it signifies a day set apart to celebrate and scream tourism to the world. I’m currently preparing a package for a family of four to the Igbere Isimgbele Hills in Abia State, Nigeria.”

United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation

Reports on the UNWTO website revealed that “Tourism’s relevance has never been clearer. The time is now to seize this opportunity to rethink how we do tourism.”

According to information published on UNWTO website, the Secretary-General of UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili said, this year’s WTD activities would centre on using tourism as mechanisms for economic growth.”

Pololikashvili said. Rethinking one of the world’s major economic sectors will not be easy. But, we are already well on the way. Crisis has inspired and capitalized creativity.

And the Pandemic accelerated the transformation of work, bringing both challenges as well as enormous opportunities in to ensure more people get a benefit from tourism restart.

Corresponding, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Republic of Indonesia, Mr. Sandiaga Uno stated, ‘tourism needs to be prepared for future challenges which requires collaboration and a sense of interconnectedness between one another. Uno listed the steps to be taken, “First, stakeholders’ approach for the development of sustainable tourism sector. Second, strong role within the community as the agent of change in tourism transformation. And third, safety assurance for the visitors during travel.”

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