The president of Nigeria Tour Operators, NATOP, Mr. NkereuwemOnung has called on the Federal Government to bring back a standalone Ministry of Tourism that will give full-scale attention to matters of Tourism to aid in the diversification drive of the government.

According to him, “all successful countries in Africa have ministries of Tourism and that is why they are doing very well and Nigeria should copy countries like Kenya, South Africa, Gambia, Zimbabwe and Ghana.” The NATOP boss, as part of his forthcoming World Tourism Day message noted that the absence of a full-fledged Ministry has left Tourism adrift.

“The absence of a ministry has 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. The day September 27 was mooted by a Nigerian Ignatius Atigbi for which the UNWTO honoured him posthumously with an Award in 2009.

This year the day and it’s celebration has not been well communicated to Tourism stakeholders for appropriate action and participation. NATOP lends its support to the call for a National Carrier which could be a veritable instrument for economic growth and also enhance tourism development. The NATOP president opined that tourism is more than just selling 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 dollars are shared between transport, accommodation, transfers, tourism assets etc, 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 as National Parks in South Africa earns more money per acres than Agriculture and there ia no reason why this shouldn’t be done in Nigeria. In other countries In Africa Tourism works closely with the National Parks.

“This is why we are in support of re-establishing the PCT (Presidential Council on Tourism) to be chaired by the President where different stakeholders like Immigration, Transport, Aviation, Housing, Environment and relevant state governments come together to discuss way forward and create policies that enhance both in-bound and out-bound tourism. There is also the place of cultural tourism which is one of the fastest growing tourism markets. In recent times, destinations measure the impact of culture on Tourism by using the two as major drivers of destination’s attractiveness and competitiveness. It is our opinion therefore that the Federal Government should restore the Tourism Ministry, re-establish the PCT with relevant sub-sectors like Travel Agents, Hoteliers and Tour Operators as members. The Federal Government should also begin to market the “destination Nigeria”, which is one of the most viable on the Africa Continent with a view of attracting tourists,” Onung stated.

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