Mbanefo: Re-energizing strategies for growing Nigeria tourism

Posted: October 14, 2013 in travel & tourism
sally mbanefo, director-general, nigerian tourism development corporation (ntdc)

sally mbanefo, director-general, nigerian tourism development corporation (ntdc)

For Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, appointed last June as the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), the strategies and methodologies for marketing and growing Nigeria Tourism, as a sustainable industry is should no longer be business as usual.

The lip service, unquantifiable, unsubstantiated marketing jamborees that had handicapped or tainted marketing and development strategies by previous administrations at the corporations helm must be revised for Nigeria and Nigerians to reap any meaningful benefit from the sector that is generally agreed to possess immense potential enough to rival or even exceed crude oil as the biggest revenue earner.

This backdrop of opinion therefore informed the NTDC’s decision to convene a stakeholders’ forum, penultimate Monday, at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, for operators in the sector from mainly the south-west geo-political zone of the country, and even some from other parts of the country, and whose veritable platform provided an opportunity for Mbanefo to formally unveil her strategies for lifting the industry.

Speaking at the recently-concluded World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe, last month, Secretary-General Mr Taleb Rifai had noted that the continued growth of global tourist arrivals necessitates countries to adopt tourism as one of key pillars of socio-economic development.

Notably both Zimbabwe and Zambia have on their own placed tourism as one of their four pillars for economic growth. In Zimbabwe, tourism was identified and subsequently pronounced one of the four pillars of the country’s economic turnaround programmes in early 2009.

“The fact that international tourism grew above expectations confirms that travelling is now part of consumer patterns for an increasing number of people in both emerging and advanced economies. This underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development, being a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs,” Rifai, said.

Destinations around the world welcomed an estimated 494 million overnight visitors in the first six months of 2013, according to the Advance Edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer released also during the just-concluded UNWTO 20th General Assembly. These figures represent an increase of 5 percent or an additional 25 million international tourists compared to the same period of 2012.

Furthermore, international tourist arrivals are forecast to reach 1.8 billion by 2030 according to the newly-released United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) long-term forecast, Tourism Towards 2030. The report also indicated an increase in arrival for emerging economies particularly for Nigeria and the rest of Africa which are expected to see a 2 per cent increase in arrival from previous 5 per cent to 7 per cent.

In view of this development therefore, experts believe that Nigeria should jettison the mono-economy regime with its sole emphasis on crude oil and seek to explore alternative sources of revenue and which undoubtedly abound with tourism brimming with hugely untapped potential.

This is just as the decision by federal government to appoint Mbanefo at the helm of NTDC affairs was relatively welcomed by stakeholders who posited that her rich background in the private sector can grow capacity in the industry by way of opening of opportunities for operators in relating with other players in other sectors to boost operations.

The NTDC chief at the forum unveiled what appeared to be carefully thought out three-pronged strategy geared towards repositioning and growing the Nigeria tourism and aligning the sector so as to play a key role in federal government’s plans of diversifying its revenue generation base.

Mbanefo said the move to re-strategize was informed largely by varied expectations from the various government agencies and private organizations who form the stakeholders’ core of Nigerian tourism.

“It is against the backdrop of the desired objectives of the federal government to make the tourism industry, in general and the NTDC in particular, a revenue source and job hub, we cannot afford to continue treating these issues and expectations in a piecemeal manner,” Mbanefo explained.

In explaining her corporation’s choice of domestic tourism as fulcrum for driving Nigeria tourism, Mbanefo said this was informed by the huge potential and wealth that can the industry portends for national economy.

“The domestic market has very high revenue and job creation potential. If we assume that a low estimate of 20 million out of 160 million Nigerians travel locally for business, leisure, culture, religion or sports annually and they spend only 10 per cent of Nigeria’s per capita income of USD 2, 000 annually, we will have a USD 4 billion domestic tourism market and hence our focus at the NTDC on developing domestic tourism as the foundation for attracting international tourists.” she said.

Adding further, Mbanefo, said expectations from the legislative assembly, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) at tourism touch points like aviation, immigration, security and health and others, the Central Bank of Nigeria, financial institutions, development financial institutions, supervising Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, state tourism ministries and tourism boards, tourism value chain operators, Nigerian Diaspora, black Diaspora, international tourists, domestic tourists, media partners, Nollywood and the Nigerian music industry, the NTDC itself, has driven the corporation to a timely intervention of growing the sector.

Mbanefo stressed that the move would sub-optimize resources, time and talent for every stakeholder in the value chain and weaken the synergy between tourism development initiatives with other government programmed covering infrastructure, jobs, financial and national security”

The three-pronged approach which she describes as strategic imperative for moving forward include; rebuilding the NTDC, growing the tourism value chain and then re-inventing the Nigeria tourism industry.

On rebuilding the NTDC, Mbanefo explained that it is intended to deepen the tourism value chain as a significant contributor to job creation poverty reduction and revenue growth.

“We will design programmed and projects to re energize, market and defend ‘Brand Nigeria’ on traditional media, physical channels, brand touch points and cyberspace to attract domestic and foreign tourists. Leveraging ongoing programmes and initiatives from MDAs to multiply the creation and poverty alleviation capacity as contained in the tourism value chain; Create co-promotional marketing activities with the private sector as we have done with heritage, visa, ABC transport and others,” Mbanefo stressed.

On reinventing the Nigeria tourism industry, the NTDC chief said it represents the need to introduce programmes that change how value is created, marketed, sold, delivered and financed while enhancing competition collaboration and cooperation across the value chain.

Detailing activities and plans the NTDC has so far executed in her 90 days at the helm, Mbanefo said the corporation has been able to embark on organizational actions, facility improvements, advocacy, partnerships and alliances with the Central Bank of Nigeria especially in the area of securing a collaboration with the organization on statistics for border surveys on a cost sharing basis..

“The satellite account initiative which we have established will leverage the spread of mobile technologies for capturing tourists’ data at international entry points and domestic land terminals for purposes of planning, statistical analysis and monitoring of industry patterns through surveys to create a tourism value chain information management system. This project is nicknamed Project Fundamental and we have commenced collaborations with the CBN and frontline agencies to fast rack this project,” she said.

Explaining that the Reinventing the Nigeria tourism industry plans remains a medium term project, Mbanefo also revealed the Tithe Programme of the corporation, which she said involves creating an internet or cloud network base for every information and data for the Nigerian tourism sector.

Mbanefo also used the occasion of the stakeholders’ forum to reveals pipeline projects of her corporation which according to her include the establishment of a Tourism Development Fund (TDF), that is designed to treat the capital adequacy, allocation and timing issues associated with enhancing existing and developing news sites by states and private investors.

The TDF, according to Mbanefo, will have five windows for infrastructure, marketing, research, franchising, travel security and tourism skills development.

In addition, NTDC also plans to create access to finance and training for local communities to participate in the network of franchises to be operated by the small and medium scale enterprises sector as a result of both the Green City and the National Travel Hub projects as well as arranging funds for funds into the tourism Development Fund to boost various sub-sectors of the economy.

The NTDC therefore urged for cooperation from the Nigerian masses as well as the organized private sector explaining that: “Our strategies begin and end with the Nigerian citizen and you can therefore understand our focus on domestic tourism as the cornerstone for building a sustainable tourism industry that will attract foreign tourists and investors. We are not wedded to our ideas and are therefore open any idea that works better for Nigerians.

“We will be counting on the World Bank, Africa Development Bank, IFC, EU, DFID, and the AFC for seeding out tourism development fund and grants to support our institutional rebuilding efforts and infrastructure development under the policy direction of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.

“We have started collaborating with the states who own the tourist sites and attractions to see how we can work better on improving the marketing and funding for renovating existing sites and developing new ones. In this vein, I plan to commence site familiarization visits to all the geo-political zones starting with Taraba State in the North east so we can start showcasing Nigeria’s tourism assets and potentials while taking stock of the challenges.

Recall that at the New Economy Forum on Tourism in the new “New Economy,” which held in Madrid, Spain, early last month, the UNWTO chief, Rifai stressed that tourism creates jobs at a rate higher than many other sectors.

“Tourism creates wealth and jobs not just in tourism, but in other sectors as well: At a time in which many economies face domestic constraints on consumption, international tourism brings not only direct export revenues, but also a very significant indirect impact through its enormous value chain,” he said.

Describing other key points he said that tourism is one of the most resilient economic sectors.

“Thirdly tourism reduces poverty and supports development. Tourism accounts for 45 per cent of the exports of developing countries and is often one of the sectors in which developing countries enjoy a competitive advantage given their abundant natural resources. In this respect, tourism is increasingly an important and effective tool in aid for development. Fourthly, tourism is a major contributor to a more environmentally sustainable economy,” Rifai said.

For Mbanefo, therefore, the task of repositioning Nigeria tourism for viability, self-sustainability, wealth creation and self-sufficiency is well cut out, not only in terms of the seeming sceptical operators accustomed to seeing the business-as-usual culture in the public service circles, in particular, and past regimes of directors-general at the NTDC who had wilfully embraced the negatively, self-defeatist trend, but also in terms of the nature of the business environment in Nigeria that is bedevilled by infrastructure challenges and operational bottlenecks.

However, as many at the forum believe, the tenacity of purpose exhibited by Mbanefo, as evidenced by the clear cut framework of policies and strategies along with their practicable phases of execution, may see the new chief of Nigeria tourism defining and charting distinctively new territories for business.

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