By Frank Meke
In less than one year, it is like the house of tourism has collapsed. To say all is well within the system is the lie of the century. Like a bull in a china shop, and a park of cards, the entire gamuts of the administrative machinery are in tatters and nobody seems to be in change, neither does anyone care.
It is a sad commentary in our tourism quest and we have near had it so bad. At every turn and event, tourism in the past two years, has been in bad news, hugging controversial headlines and painting Nigeria has a hostile destination in the community of tourism nations. From Boko Haram, Ebola and other avoidable human administrative errors, tourism now attracts thumbs down and closed nose due to the rubbish wafting out from Abuja.
Having successfully destroyed the cohesiveness and unity of the organized private sector which was once the only check of shoeless tourism policy positions, the gladiators now seem to face each other squarely, and tourism the ultimate loser.
At our last check, Nigeria’s once rapidly growing international tourism acceptance has dipped and now has become a laughing stock among competitive African tourism nations and the world at large. About a year ago, we cautioned the leadership of Nigerian Tourism Development Cooperation (NTDC) to be careful and watch out for poisoned black coffee presented to the new management as curative tea.
We were called names and our prophetic advice thrown to the dogs. We thereafter tactically withdraw to allow the mob and the tourism mules to takeover. It did not stop us from praying for tourism, to which despite little faith shown by the federal and state governments and the business seven years ago, helped us boost our international image and assisted in attracting investors, particularly during the Late Yar Adua’s Presidency.
Still counting, all the tourism gains accumulated during Obasanjo/Yar Adu’a presidency, has been squandered under controversial circumstances and like a walking corpse, what we see today are just mere dressed up skeletons. Everywhere you look; there are one or two troubles in and around the sector. The environment which is a key to tourism growth and investment is no longer attractive and filled with hate campaigns and claims of performance where there was none.
The Nigeria political divide has pitched the federal government tourism authorities against opposition state governments, hence the tourism leadership at the three tier of government do not see eye to eye. In three years, notable forums such as Tourism Minister and Commissioners forum has not held, ditto the Presidential Council on Tourism which brings governors in Nigeria together to discuss tourism irrespective of party affiliation.
Indeed it has become a brick wall to sustain past successful efforts which made tourism including the ministry and NTDC a must visit place for all stakeholders, including local and international investors. At the private sector level, there was a deliberate policy direction and interest to help the players operate within organized global tourism practices and expectations.
Then, it was not out of place to see NTDC coordinate and the ministry assist private players and tourism investors find their feet through strategic meetings and state/local government town hall gatherings. That process gave birth to creative windows on employment and provided statistics to guide government policy tourism actions plans which benefited the nation and its tourism aspirations.
We recall the gains of Nigeria Hotels Associations (NHA), National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Eko Beaches Tourism Promoters Associations, National Association Tour Operators of Nigeria (NATOP) , National Association Tourist Boat Operators (NATBOWAT), Hotel and Hospitality Personnel Workers Association (HAPPASA), Taxi Operators of Nigeria, Nigeria Youth Tourism Association (NYTA) and Association of Tourism and Travel Reporters of Nigeria (ANJET).
Unfortunately, some of these associations, including the big masquerade, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) are either now moribund, liquidated or divided, singing discordant tune that benefits the tourism erraticism of the moment.
If the private sector appears deranged, then the public sector, particularly the workforce is despondent. At the Abuja tourism house, working tools are said to be scarce, Morale and zeal to work very low with many seeking transfer of their experience to other organizations and agencies, a clear reverse of situation some few years ago when working in tourism agency attracts envious eyes from sister agencies.
At the Ministry, NTDC and State level, tourism and culture workers are not appreciated with most reporting to office daily, doing nothing. While the workers at the Ministry insist that their leaders must account for government fund for tourism, the case at NTDC is a catalogue of casuistical administrative blues.
To redeem the failing mantra to which we found ourselves showcasing today, we call on the President Jonathan to salvage tourism as he recently did for sports. It is only in tourism, that the President has no transformation gain to share and the reasons are obvious. If the President and the Senate leadership could intervene and sort out problems in sports and aviation, then same process should be meted out to tourism administration. Time has come to put a stop to this erratum in Nigeria tourism.Meke, a tourism journalist wrote this piece from Lagos