Nigerian Tour Operators (NATOP) has called on the Federal Government to bring back a stand-alone Ministry of Tourism that will give full scale attention to matters of tourism and help in the diversification drive of the government. This was stated as part of a message to commemorate World Tourism Day which is marked annually on September 27.
Speaking through its president, NkeweremOnung last week, NATOP stated that all successful countries in Africa in the area of tourism have ministries dedicated to the sector.
According to NATOP, countries like Kenya, South Africa, Gambia, Zimbabwe and Ghana should be emulated. Onung noted that the absence of a full-fledged ministry has left tourism adrift and left stakeholders speculating on matters of tourism.
Usually the World Tourism Day is a day celebrated by the Ministry in collaboration with other agencies every year. Incidentally, September 27 was mooted by a Nigerian, Ignatius Atigbi, for which the UNWTO honoured him posthumously with an award in 2009.
This Day reports that this year’s celebration has not been well-communicated to tourism stakeholders for appropriate action and participation.
NATOP has also stated its support for a national carrier which could be a veritable instrument for economic growth and also enhance tourism. The NATOP president opined that tourism is more than just selling flight tickets and building hotels so a ministry that recognises the whole gamut of the tourism value chain is needed.
Nations need to create pull factors which are to be facilitated by infrastructural capabilities and developed to offer experiences to visitors. It is important to note that tourism income is shared between transport, accommodation, tourism assets and more but coordinated by tour operators to create the needed experience. Because tour operators are the fulcrum of the tourism landscape, they are the main losers when the business is ignored.
NATOP also called on government to link the national parks to the tourism sector national parks in South Africa earn more money per acre than agriculture. According to the body, there is no reason why this shouldn’t be the case in Nigeria.
NATOP also stated support for there-establishment of the Presidential Council on Tourism to be chaired by the President where different stakeholders from immigration, transport, aviation, housing, environment and relevant state governments come together to discuss the way forward and create policies that enhance tourism.