On the culmination of the Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE) 2019, held on the 19th & 20th November 2019 at Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja, organizers of the event, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) hereby release the following Communique:
- The Federal Ministry of Information & Culture should ensure effective coordination between the agencies of the Ministry and the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria. This will reduce the incidence of Government and private tourism operators speaking at cross purposes in the administration and operation of the tourism industry.
- In the light of the 2013 Supreme Court Judgement, between NTDC and Lagos State Government, which stupulates that regulation of Tourism Services is the statutory purview State Governments, thereby limiting the supervisory roles hitherto performed by the NTDC, FTAN hereby calls on the Federal and State Governments, injunction with the organized private sector, to forthwith setup a 'Tourism Advisory Council' for Nigeria.
The Tourism Advisory Council members should cooperatively work towards the improvement of infrastructure at tourist destinations and coordinate the implementation of a common standard in the quality tourist/visitor facilities and services provided across Nigeria.
To this end, we recommend that membership of the proposed Tourism Advisory Council should comprise of representatives of each of the 36 State Governments in Nigeria, a representative of the FCT, a representative of the NTDC & that of NIHOTOUR, and representatives of the organized private sector, i.e. FTAN member associations.
- It is incumbent on the Federal and State Governments, to collaborate with the private sector tourism operators, to strategically increase the visibility of Nigeria's domestic tourist destinations and products therein. The partnership is necessary because in tourism management, ‘Destinations’ are geographic area in Nigeria’s Federating States, while ‘Tourist Products’ are value added services sold to visitors and tourists by private sector tourism operators. So, the benefits to Government is the taxes and levies, while the benefit to the private sector in the profit from sales of tourist services.
Evidently, Nigeria cannot have a thriving Tourism industry, with economic multiplier effects in tourist host communities, if the culture of leisure tourism is not entrenched in Nigeria. More so, Nigeria is the largest travel source market in Africa, powered by our huge population and growing middle class. A successful domestic tourism culture would eventually attract the highly profitable foreign inbound tourists.
Accordingly, the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and National Orientation, together with the State Tourism Ministries, should partner with the organized private sector, through FTAN, to embark on massive domestic tourism public awareness and promotional campaigns, in order to drive tourist traffic to the visitors-ready tourist destinations and products in Nigeria. The campaign should target the bourgeoning middle and upper class Nigerians citizens and the expatriate community who have the disposable income for leisure tourism.
- The organized tourism private sector in Nigeria, under the aegis of FTAN, demands that the prevailing Federal and State Governments tax systems should be rejigged, and subsequently more coordinated, to eliminate or reduce - where it is inescapable - the crippling multiple tax regimes and other statutory charges levied on hotels, resorts and travel trade companies in Nigeria.
Globally, tourism business investments require a long-term gestation period to return profits. More so, most thriving ‘tourism countries’ in the world today built the industry with tourism business-friendly government policies that incentivize investment, including easy access to land for tourism, development funds, tax holidays, zero import duties for tourism businesses, and et cetera.
In Nigeria today, tourism investors and service providers, who are mostly SMEs, are repeatedly taxed and levied at multiple levels, including at the Federal, State and Local government levels. This has over the years, led to sudden closure and avoidable bankruptcy of promising tourist business operations in Nigeria who took bank loans at double digits and could not pay back due to stifling tax regimes and unpredictable levies.
Our Nigerian government must learn to nurture the growth of tourism businesses before hurrying to tax us. That is the best practice at every successful tourism economy in the world. Government should encourage growth, and not frustrate growth! Otherwise, the tourism industry in Nigeria, which is one of the largest direct and indirect employers of labour, would be petered out of existence.
- FTAN implores the Federal and State Governments' tourism parastatals to, in the interest of a nationally integrated tourism development, assiduously and relentlessly involve private tourism business operators, across the 36 Federating States, in their tourism policy formulation and program execution.
This onerous call by FTAN is expedient and timeous, because in its core, Tourism is business-driven. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, the private sector tourism, who have been the engine room of Tourism deliverables, and the largest financial investors in the industry, are always sidelined in government policy formulation.
Consequently, the Nigerian tourism public and private sectors always appear to be at daggers-drawn, especially when the latter, through FTAN, understandably, resists government’s business-disorienting tourism policies and programs. Readers may have heard of the African proverb that says, ‘you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence!’
- Further to, we appeal to Government to, as a matter of urgency, commit more resources to construction and repairs of inter and intra State roads in Nigeria, especially the roads that lead to tourist sites in the States. This is necessary to stimulate tourism destination development and activities, because most tourist sites are located in the hinterlands. Besides, cultural tourism, which is Nigeria’s global competitive advantage, most times takes place in rural host communities, and these communities need to have some of the very basic socio-economic infrastructure to attract overnight staying tourists.
The benefits of government investments in rural roads construction and repairs are enormous, immediate and encompassing to citizens and general businesses. Good, motorable, roads easily result in more tourist traffic and receipts at destinations. Moreover, government’s investment in infrastructure is some of the most effective ways to transform societies. Road investments leads to improved tax collection, employment of labour, poverty eradication, business expansion, as well as, other benefits to citizens.
- FTAN equally appeals to the Federal government, the Nigerian Police, the Armed Forces, and all other relevant security agencies in Nigeria to devise new strategies and acquire more skills to immediately put a stop to rampant of kidnappings and armed robbery on Nigerian roads, particularly on roads leading to tourist destinations. Road travel is one of the cheapest means for tourists to access destinations, hence when travelers are not safe on our roads, tourism cannot thrive in Nigeria.
The world over, insecurity is anathema to any successful destination promotion and sustainable tourism development. The current alarming state of insecurity in Nigeria is unimaginably stunting the growth and sustainability of the tourism industry. Tourists would not visit any country, region, or destination, where their lives would apparently be in danger.
- Finally, FTAN strongly frowns at the consistent non-committal attitude of the Minister of Information and Culture and the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation towards NTIFE and other FTAN events. We have observed, and long came to the conclusion, that the supervising Ministries and agencies for Tourism administration in Nigeria, both at the Federal and State levels, are only interested in attending foreign tourism events – as if it is cheaper to travel abroad than to attend an event in Nigeria.
Over the years, the Ministries' top echelon has inexplicably been disdainful of engaging with the tourism private sector, be it at NTIFE or any other domestic private sector led tourism event holding in Nigeria. In rare occasions when the Ministers, State Commissioners or tourism agency heads turn up, it appears they only attend for the cameras. We believe so because they habitually exit the tourism event immediately after delivering their printed speech.
The cardinal principle of Government, indeed any government, is to serve the citizens, the national interest and the public good. Conversely, Nigeria tourism officials hardly ever wait to receive feedback from the tourism industry operators at a private sector tourism event. It is, therefore, no surprise that most Nigerian government tourism policies and programs are characteristically disconnected from the real needs of Nigerian tourism investors, operators and, sadly, tourists.
In the future, FTAN would love to see the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism at the annual NTIFE. Attendance at such Nigerian tourism fora should be a matter of priority and a national duty for Nigeria tourism administration. FTAN is the only umbrella body for the entire organized tourism private sector in Nigeria, comprised of the largest investors, operators, promoters, artisans and academics.
Notwithstanding, FTAN highly commends the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sani Nanono, who honoured the FTAN invitation and personally graced the NTIFE event, even when he is not the supervising Minister for Tourism in Nigeria. We also commend the representatives of Plateau and Osun States tourism agencies who showcased their tourists' products at NTIFE 2019 event.
Alhaji Saleh Kareem Rabo