The organised private sector under the umbrella of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) has dissociated itself from the proposed hosting of UNWTO meeting by the Federal Government of Nigeria as the private stakeholders are not clear with the functionality of the conference as it relates to the development and promotion of tourism and economy of the country.
The President of FTAN, Mr Nkereuwem Onung made this known at a press conference in Lagos on Wednesday, saying the minister of Information and Culture cannot work in isolation when tourism is put into view as a critical sector in Nigeria economy.
“We see the hosting of the UNWTO conference as a waste of public fund on something that does not have direct impact on the industry and people while we have different pressing issues from the deadly bite of the COVID-19 pandemic which many are still trying to come out of.”
The federation is dissatisfied with what it terms, “ the solo jamboree of the activities of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed for not seeing tourism as a prioritised industry of the Nigeria economy even with the annual reports, statistics and corresponding data analysis made available by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics and other relevant data authorities, showing the robust contributions of the tourism industry to the nation’s economy.”
Drawing inference from the earlier open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, tagged: Hosting of United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s First World Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industries: A Wild Goose Chase of No Benefit to Nigeria and Nigerian Cultural Tourism and Creative Industries. Onung said “We are also grateful to you for deeming it fit and necessary to place tourism among the priority sectors for this government.
“We wish to place on record that from our observations, priority has not been translated into physical reality and transformation of our sector, which is globally acknowledged as a multi-layered sector and the largest employer of labour with every ‘One’ employment out of 10 from tourism sector.
The supervising ministry for tourism; the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, and the Minister in charge, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is, to say the least, have neglected tourism, with no basic policy direction, programmes and activities wholly initiated and/or in partnership with the private sector to drive tourism in order to improve its contribution to the country’s GDP.
“The Ministry and Minister appear to have an avowed disdain for domestic tourism and working with the private sector as the fulcrum to change the narrative and disruptive innovations in the sector as has been done in other climes.”
Onung noted that even in the difficult era of COVID-19 when most of the ministries departments and agencies (MDAs) worked closely with the private sector to devise palliative for survival strategies did the Minister and Ministry think it wise to court the private sector.
“The only reaction from the Minister was to set up a ‘controversial’ creative industry committee to work out palliatives for the sector.Unfortunately, the recommendations of the committee and the review committee are today gathering dust and cobwebs in the ‘golden’ cabinet of the Minister neither disclosed nor recommendations implemented.
“Moving to recent happenings, the common dominator of the pre-COVID -19 era all over the world, is tourism recovery strategies championed by the UNWTO, but sadly, the Nigeria Minister of Information and culture has not felt the need to work in this direction, especially given our peculiar situation; with our economy bleeding and our tourist destinations gripped by insecurity that does not repose confidence in tourists and investors in revamping our neglected tourism.
“Rather, what we have seen over the last seven years is that the Minister and the Ministry have been more focused on merely attending international events and meetings of the UNWTO and thus becoming ‘bidding specialists’ by lobbying to get hosting rights to any UNWTO related events without putting in perspective the attendant economic cost and benefits to the country,” the federation president lamented.
Onung, in the open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari explained: “The latest in the quest by the Minister and Ministry to turn Nigeria into ‘Father Christmas’ and ‘host country specialist’ for anything labelled UNWTO, is the forthcoming First World Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry scheduled to hold between November 14 and 17, 2022 at the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos now undergoing renovation courtesy of the Nigeria Bankers’ Committee, which the Minister said is now to be renamed – Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre.
Sending an SOS to Buhari, the federation president said “Sir, we the private sector, strongly believe that this world conference is of no benefit to Nigeria and our Tourism Industry. It is rather self–serving and more of personal aggrandisement and these can be deciphered from a critical analysis of the present state of our tourism and culture.”
Onung called on the federal government to reinvent its international diplomatic strategy towards getting more to upscale and benefit the economic ecosystem of the country with direct impact on the citizenry.
The federation with over 25 tourism associations under leadership, has mandated members to boycott the forthcoming NUWTO conference as, according to it, has no phenomenal meaning to the present state of the tourism sector in Nigeria and will be better to redirect the millions of cash intended for the conference which is likened to a white elephant project to something more structurally glorifying to boost tourism development and promotion in Nigeria.