Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tourism master plan implementation, Duke got it wrong – Adejuwon

Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation,   Edem Duke, has come under  attack for his statement that the Tourism master Plan prepared under former president Olusegun Obasanjo, has  gone obsolete.
The chairman of the Tourism master Plan committee, Dr. Franklin Adejuwon, said   it was unfortunate that   the minister   who worked with the committee then could say that the   document had gone obsolete.
The Minister had said during a media chat on the presentation of   Fascinating Nigeria brand in Lagos recently that the     master plan which was developed and launched about six or seven years ago has gone slightly obsolete.
According to Dr. Adejuwon,   “Nigerian Tourism master Plan which was Obasanjo propelled and established   with the support of the UNDP-UNWTO has 15 years   lasting plan implementation.
“I am a bit disappointed however by my avowed Minister of Tourism who worked   very hard with me at the cross River end to establish this important road map   now saying   it is obsolete.”
Adejuwon added that if the minister is condemning the document could as well condemn the existence of the Ministry of Tourism which Obasanjo   hinged its establishment   on the development   of a road map on which it should thrive.
“I least   expected   he would be making such negative remarks when till the present budget   the ministry has been drawing down on the master plan from government purse.   Is there any explanation for this contradiction?” he asked.
Adejuwon said this was the same document that the UNWTO applauded   as a means of improving the socio-economic conditions of the Nigerian people and diversifying its economic base. He added that UNWTO said then that   the success of Nigeria’s tourism industry depended on its sustainability.

Jordan, a Kingdom steeped in history, culture

Yousef Suleiman is a proud Jordanian, who is ready to sell the country as a tourist destination like a good sales person. It is not surprising, therefore, that he is here in Nigeria doing the ground work for the commencement of operations of the Royal Jordanian Airways. In this interview, he shares his views and expectations on the coming of the airline into the country and what they are going to offer the Nigerian travelling public. Excerpts.
On when Royal Jordanian will commence services
Royal Jordanian will commence operation to Nigeria first week of July and will start with airbus 330 with a capacity to carry 281 passengers. The Airbus A330, equipped with the latest aviation technology and top of the line comfort facilities, is a wide-body, twin engine aircraft.
Our unique, shell seats in Crown Class provide passengers with their own private space and a vast palette of entertainment options.   Passengers in Economy Class can also enjoy comfortable seating and a personal entertainment screen complete with English and Arabic films, music, television programs, and games for the whole family. We are starting with two flights a week, Wednesday and Friday. We hope that next year we will increase frequency to Nigeria, because next year January we are will start receiving 11 aircrafts from Boeing for 787 aircrafts.
On choice of Nigeria now
Nigeria is new market for us, as you know Jordan as a country is tourist destination with tourists’ arrival every year in the range of 2.5 million tourists. We want to expand, we want to have more people from other areas and we think that Africa now is the future and Nigeria is one of the biggest in the continent and we want to do business here. So we want to start with Nigeria as a giant in Africa.
We also want to take Nigerians   to see our country. There is no mistaking the fact that Jordan is a Kingdom steeped in history and culture. From the moment you arrive, you get a sense of its rich heritage; all around are remnants of ancient civilizations long since passed, yet they still remain, stamped into the very fabric of this amazing Kingdom and etched into the soul of the people who live here.
On target market
We are targeting people, the business community, corporate organisations, hajj and Umrah and those who can visit Jordan as holy land. Jordan is part of the biblical period and we have many historical places like where Jesus was baptised. The site of John the Baptist’s settlement at Bethany Beyond the Jordan ,where Jesus was baptized, has long been known from the Bible (John 1:28 and 10:40) and from the Byzantine and medieval texts.
The site has now been identified on the east bank of the Jordan River, in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and is being systematically surveyed, excavated, restored, and prepared to receive pilgrims and visitors. Bethany Beyond the Jordan is located half an hour by car from the Jordanian capital Amman. The Bethany area sites formed part of the early Christian pilgrimage route between Jerusalem, the Jordan River, and Mount Nebo.
On how Nigeria can benefit from the partnership
Jordan is not all about tourism; it is also a medical centre in the Middle East area. You know Nigerians go to India and Egypt for medical treatment, if we start our operations, they can now go to Jordan, because it is a medical centre in the Middle East area. Although, we are not an oil rich country, but we believe our people are the oil in Jordan.
On Nigeria aviation sector
Aviation industry in Nigeria is very good now, there are lots of competitions which will benefit the passengers, and in this case, the people have choice and so many destinations to visit. Maybe in the past their choices were limited to London and South Africa, but now they can visit also Jordan, especially as we can arrange visa for them to visit Jordan.
We already have approval for Nigerians to visit Jordan as tourists and business.  Now there is an honorary consul here in Lagos.
On his stay in Nigeria
I came into Nigeria for the first time 2011, I spent five months and also came in 2012, I spent another five months. Now I came here in 2013 to start the operations of the Royal Jordanian Airways which will commence soon. Nigeria is a nice and beautiful country; the only problem is the traffic.
On his expectation
My expectation is like that of every young business with hope of growing and winning the market through our services.

Yousef Suleiman

Monday, June 3, 2013

Taking lesson on falconry at the desert

A visit to Dubai is not complete for most people without a safari tour where a mysterious desert beckons tourists for a magical evening out. Jimoh Babatunde joined other tourists to experience how the sun descends into the horizon around the enchanting show of falconry…
With several visits to Dubai in the last few years attending the Arabian Travel Market, the opportunity for safari trip had not presented itself until recently when the Emirates Airline provided it as part of the tour packaged for a trip to watch Arsenal football club in London.
GETTING STARTED
The journey from London Heathrow to Dubai would have been stressful having to travel immediately after watching Arsenal and Norwich match live at the Emirates stadium but for the opportunity to fly An Airbus A380.
Stepping into the Business class located at the upper deck of the aircraft at Heathrow, I was not prepared for the flying experience awaiting me.
The A380 offers a flying experience no other aircraft in the sky can match, and redefines the meaning of comfort for all passengers – whether they are premium customers in first and business class, or leisure travellers in the economy cabin.
The manufacturer of the Airbus has gone to great lengths to make long-haul flying aboard the A380 feel more natural for its passengers – with broader seats, more personal storage, better head room and wider stairs and aisles.
The Emirates’ A380 offers 14 flat-bed First Class Private Suites with electrically operated doors and 76 fully-flat mini-pods in Business Class – all with aisle access – on the upper deck. Downstairs, there are 427 comfortable contoured seats in Economy Class, spread across four separate cabins.
I soon slept after the delicious meal on board to enjoy the Business Class seats that convert into a flat bed at the touch of a button. Using the touchscreen controller, you can adjust your seat to suit your own preferences and comfort. Each seat extends to form a flat bed up to 79 inches long.
Arriving Dubai refreshed, we were checked into the hotel where we had some hours of sleep before the safari tour billed for 3pm. “Jimoh, Please you are the team leader now. Make sure you are at the lobby 15 minutes before the time. It will be worthwhile experience.” That was Liz Opalka of the Emirates Airline.
Tourists watching the falcon display at the desert (Inset) vehicles doing the dune bashing
BRIEFING
Expectedly, the three of us (Jimoh, Tunji and Ajanaku) were at the lobby when the tour guide from Arabian Adventure arrived. “I am Yamen. I am here to pick you for the tour. Please lets go”, with this he ushered us into a Toyota four wheel car for the journey that took about 45 minutes.
As we left behind the crowds and chaos of the city, our tour guide, Yamen, took pleasure in telling us about political issues back in his native country of Syria and world politics. Just as he also informed us that the Arabian Adventure company is owned by the UAE government and sponsor by Emirates and that informed why it is the only tour company allowed to do drone drive, so as to guarantee safety of tourists.
Arriving at the gate of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, deep in the heart of the desert, the tyres of the Toyota Land Cruiser had to be deflated. There were other vehicles parked for the same purpose.
TREASURE
We alighted from the vehicle to the warm, breezy afternoon sun to watch the falcon show. Lots of tourists were seated under canopies erected in the open field about to participate in a falcon hunt or learn about the history of these magnificent birds, and even experience a little of what life was like for the Bedouin.
And when a  middle aged man  came  to the scene with a falcon bird with a bag stripped round his neck, he  immediately became the point of focus as he takes the tourists on the history of falcon which is the national emblem of United Arab Emirate.
He said falconry is an age old tradition for the people of this region, especially for the Bedouin. The falcons themselves are beautiful birds of prey with an impressive capacity to learn and to trust their handlers.
“Three things to know about a falcon if you want them to hunt. One, is the falcon needs to be hungry. They will never hunt if they are full. Second, it is insulting to the falcons if you offer them small prey, such as a mouse or rabbit. These birds can, and have, taken down animals as large as an oryx. Lastly, a falcon will never chase it’s prey if it is still and most animals know this, so they remain motionless hiding in the desert grass.”
It wasn’t long before the prey was brought fro the bag and the falcon soon began her hunt. Between the time the falcon was released and the prey was captured could not have been more than five minutes. The falconry show not only showcases the majestic bird of prey, but also the beauty of the desert making for multiple photo opportunities.
With the falcon show over, over 45 Toyata jeeps, each taking not less than three tourists, were on ground for the thrilling journey – over towering sand dunes, and through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, deep in the heart of the desert.
The Arabian roller coaster ride known as dune bashing (desert driving) was interesting as we shriek and laugh with excitement as the car goes up and down the dunes.
As the sun descends into the horizon, the vehicles stop to allow tourists to take sunset photographs, while standing on top of the fading desert dunes.  We then head to the campsite where a convoy of camels awaits our arrival for short camel rides. As the sun casts its glow over the soft sands, lanterns come to life in the distance, signaling a traditional welcome.
After returning from the camel ride, we moved into the camp relaxing on low cushions in traditional Bedouin tents to enjoy an Arabian BBQ (barbeque/barbecue) buffet dinner and dessert beside a blazing bonfire with traditional cups of coffee and dates, underneath the pitch-black night sky.
Before we head back to Dubai, we were entertained by the dancing of a belly dancer to traditional Arabic music in company of a friend from New Zealand we met on the trip.
Heading back to Dubai, we had  discussion on  the economic benefit of the tour to the Dubai government and its people taking into consideration that Nigeria has a huge potentials  in tourism that  are not being utilized . “Did you see the number of tourists  from different parts of the world there? Don’t  forget  that we were told that  over  forty five jeeps with at least three people were with us  this evening.
“There are three session per day. Imagine what they would have spent on accommodation and food  on this tour as more than 500 people  come here  every month from this company not to talk of others.” Tunji said.
Ajanaku quickly added that the issue of security is taken for granted here as  there is no policeman or soldier wielding guns going about  as is common back home. The absence of  gun carrying security officials doting all nooks and cranny does not mean that tourist are left unguarded.
There is no doubt that an internal security mechanism is put in place since government is aware of the huge economic interest inherent in a sustained thriving and security guaranteed tourism.

The Gambia tourism targets Nigeria market – Secka

By JIMOH BABATUNDE 

Alieu Secka  was one time  chairman of the  Gambia Hotel Association (GHA) and the Proprietor and General Manager,  Golden Beach Hotel , also in the Gambia.   A Chartered Accountant  but with vast experience in the hospitality industry. In this interview, he talked about the joy of setting up an hotel and how the economic crisis in Europe weakened  clients budgets.  Here is an excerpts.

On how he  entered  the hotel industry
After studying in London between 1984-90, I returned home to Banjul and worked with KPMG Chartered Accountants for one year, when I was offered a job of Chief Accountant at Senegambia Beach Hotel, Gambia’s largest hotel. I rose to become Financial Controller & Company Secretary, Financial Director and Deputy MD before starting my own Golden Beach Hotel.
On his  professional qualification
I studied Corporate Administration and Business & Finance in London and a Fellow Member of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries (FCIS), Fellow of Chartered Management Institute (FCMI), and Hospitality General Management in Cornell University Professional Development Program, NY.
Mr. Secka
Mr. Secka
On how long he has  worked for Golden beach hotel
I opened Golden Beach Hotel in 2006, and have enjoyed to see it grow to a successful hotel.
On what  hopes and aspirations he has for Golden beach hotel
As we work with clients from all over the world, our mission is to have as many happy returning clients. We are always therefore encouraged when we welcome so many back, and determined to strive even harder to win many more.
On weather  he has  much say in the direction of the hotel
As the Proprietor and GM, I run the hotel together with a small team of experienced managers. Recently I am less involved with the day to day management, which I leave to the team and I concentrate on contracting, marketing and corporate relations.
On If  running the  Golden beach hotel has given him  any new challenges
Indeed starting a new hotel was an exciting challenge, although was equally taxing. I had to lead and complete the construction, purchase equipment, fixtures & fittings, hire staff, contract with tour operators, prepare websites and get the operations started with the welcome of the first guests among other things
After 7 years operations, some of the challenges have changed but keeping high occupancy and costs low are now the biggest in the face of increased costs. The economic crisis in Europe since 2009, have further weakened the clients budgets.
On what   has  Golden beach hotel brought  to the hospitality industry in Gambia
Golden Beach Hotel has brought very personalized services in an atmosphere of informality. Very quickly all our guests are familiar and at ease to speak with staff as well as relaxed in family type setting. Today, our  Occupancy is very high with averages of 80-95% in the peak season.
On his  highlights working in this hotel
Peaceful wide gardens on a quiet beach.
If he has  much time during your day to connect with guests
Several times during the day, I walk around the hotel property when I speak to guests in all the areas. First thing I do when I arrive in the mornings, is to go to the restaurant and check the services and chat with guests, then all the way to the beach, stopping at the swimming pool and at guest balconies.
I repeat the walk around lunch time, as well as before I leave in the evening around 6pm. When I return at night, I do another round. Apart from speaking with guests, I also speak with staff and get to check on their work.
On his view on technology  overtaking luxury hospitality , with many hotels aiming for a competitive edge by introducing all the latest technological features
Technology has now become a very big part of our daily living, with almost all guests requiring Wifi, so we provide this free service in the hotel lobby. At almost any time, you will find guests on their mobile telephones, Ipads or androids.  Satellite TV and sports channels are also common features.
On what  plans  on the table  in terms of selling The Gambia as a tourist destination
As earlier indicated, as a major stakeholder we work hand in glove with the Gambia Tourism Board whose mandate is to market Destination Gambia.
A Tourism Marketing Committee (TMC) was put in place  by the Ministry of Tourism to reinforce traditional source markets and look at the possibility of engaging new ones including the sub region – Nigeria in particular, as well as Italy, Russia, east Europe. We fully supports all the activities in promoting the Gambia by actively participating directly as well as materials presented. all the activities that I have touched on above, Gambia Hotel Association will be on board.
On where he relaxes if not in the hotel
For the last 21 years, I work almost every day when I am in Banjul unless I am away overseas. However I try to keep Sunday personal, and only visit the hotel briefly to see if there are any particular issues that require urgent attention and to quickly ensure that all staff are doing their work.
I would spend the day usually with my son, visiting my parents and going shopping with him then the afternoon at home with the rest of my family. Often we will go out for dinner at a local restaurant or my wife and daughter would make some special seafood dinner which is my favourite.
On his  message to the hospitality industry about Gambia
Firstly, The Gambia has been known for its hospitality, gentleness, pleasant hotels from the top to budget ones and quiet beaches.
We have nice fashions, sumptuous Gambian cuisines, colourful and safe markets. Many thousands of Europeans flock to The Gambia with several flights daily from top tour operators that return many times to visit and enjoy these.