Nigeria: What Is The Way Forward For The Tourism Industry?

The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC], apex tourism agency in Nigeria will no longer receive public funding by 2018. Sources confirmed to African Travel Times magazine that this is contained in a government document and recommended by the Orosanye Panel. This was part of government gradual reduction in public funding of some of its agencies and institutions.

This is in sharp contrast to what obtains around the world where the equivalent of the NTDC and its like are consolidating their relevance and getting more public funding for their operations and activities.

Industry watchers say severing funding for the only tourism marketing and promotion agency in the country amounts to poor understanding of the sector as well as its relevance to the economy as a whole.

Surprisingly, the NTDC has not been able to properly articulate and continuously make a case for its usefulness as to why it deserves public funding.

Countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Egypt, South Africa as well as the developed countries of Europe, Asia and the Americas are constantly increasing budgetary allocation for marketing and promotion of their various countries as preferred destinations.

The Supreme Court Judgement of 2013 that ceded registration of travel and tourism establishments, grading and classification to states, has made the tourism agency to run into financial difficulties, just as the quality of services in the industry across the country has dropped significantly.

Today, the entire tourism industry is on its knees due to paucity of funds. The fact must also be told that lack of funding is not peculiar to tourism alone, but because of the service nature of the tourism industry, it is most affected.

The Director-General of the NTDC Sally Mbanefo has tried to generate maximum support from the private sector to no avail, which clearly shows that the step the government is following would not work.

Regrettably, the NTDC boss is running out of luck, as there are very few organisations and individuals she can run to for funding of the apex tourism body.

Nigeria is not a destination yet and the government must understand that it is counter-productive to cut funding to the tourism agency.  At best, it must put in place and empower the NTDC to henceforth begin the collection of Departure Tax from everyone travelling out of the country to fund its operation and activities.

Presently, the broken down of relationship between the supervising Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation orchestrated by the Minister, Edem Duke; is an aberration on his personality for someone that has headed the tourism private sector before becoming a minister.

The minister who is from Cross River State and the directors in the ministry who are from his part of the country have not shown competence and purposeful leadership in the last four years.

Despite being from Nigeria’s prime destination state, they have shocked analysts and cast doubts on the ability of Cross River people in successfully running the tourism industry.

The tourism industry in their home state has also slumped and as tourism administrators at the federal level, have led the industry into the doldrums through the unacceptable denigration of the NTDC and its leadership.

Back in Cross River State, the minister has not added any value to the once fledgling tourism sector. The much talked Obudu Mountain Resort is now a shadow of itself, with  TINAPA leisure packages also running out of steam.

Unbelievably, the famous Carnival Calabar, Nigeria’s most famous domestic tourism product is gradually fading away as some its core contents, the BANDS are no longer what they used to be.

Ultimately, the federal government and the states that are genuinely promoting tourism must redouble their efforts in deploying more resources as well as man power that are lacking across the country.

As for the NTDC, the agency must continue to dialogue with the private sector on the way forward by enacting what the Director-General Sally Mbanefo did three month into her tenure when she called a stakeholders’ summit in Lagos. It was an event she used her goodwill in the private sector to get sponsors for, without any financial implication for the NTDC where she unfolded her plans, vision and action.

At the summit with the theme: “Rebranding the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation,“ Mrs Mbanefo,  leveraged her experience in the private sector to explore opportunities in the sector.

Her words: “Tourism is a serious business which must be approached with all sincerity of purpose, diligence of mind and optimal clarity for the betterment of the nation’s economy and not just for its glamour, noise  and paparazzi intent. I don’t want to play to the gallery as my mission, according to the President Goodluck Jonathan who appointed me, is to do all things humanly possible to link the sector with the mainstream of the economy, not by making noise on the pages of newspapers but by ensuring there is a strong connect between NTDC and the private sector.”

Then, she revealed that “for the sector to grow and align itself perfectly with the mainstream of the economy for the benefits of the stakeholders and practitioners, there should be a paradigm shift from the ways NTDC as an entity used to conduct business and interact with the private sector and this could only be done if the corporation itself is reinvented and restructured in line with contemporary dictates and demands, which many people are still waiting for.