Stakeholders chart roadmap for technical committee on review of tourism master plan

Posted: December 14, 2016 in general
tourism-masterplan

(From left): The Director, International Tourism, Mrs. Ronke Wole Fasanya, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Mrs. Ayo Adesugba, and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the inauguration of the Technical Committee on the Review of Nigeria’s Tourism Master Plan in Abuja recently.

VICTOR NZE

The penultimate Wednesday’s inauguration of a Committee on the Review of Nigeria’s Tourism Master Plan by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is as both welcome as it also calls to question as to why it is taking the Federal Government this long to commence implementation of a blueprint designed to grow the tourism industry ten years after it was created.

It would be recalled that, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday, November 23, inaugurated the Technical Committee for the Review of the country’s Tourism Master Plan, incidentally the third committee for that purpose, with a call to members of the committee to articulate realistic policies that will drive tourism from the periphery to the mainstream of the economy.

The Minister while admitting that even though the Tourism Master Plan was originally designed in 2006, a plan of action to implement it was abandoned half way hence the need for members of this committee to review it in consonance with contemporary challenges and realities and the peculiarities of Nigeria.

“This team is to review our own Tourism Master Plan and see which aspect of that Master Plan needs to be reviewed in consonance with what has happened both in terms of technology, politics and even in terms of climate change.

“We are talking about reasonable and sustainable tourism because what we are offering to the world in terms of cultural and natural resources are also dependent on Mother Nature, and you must make sure that we do not expend it or expose it in a manner that children unborn will not have anything to show for it,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammed said part of the drive of this administration to make tourism one of the pillars of the nation’s economy is the resuscitation of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) and the review of the Master Plan.

He said the Steering Committee on the PCT had already commenced the drafting of the Council’s agenda, which will be handed over to the President, further announcing the readiness of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to assist Nigeria in the review of the Master Plan, having contributed immensely to the drafting of the initial plan.

Members of the Review Committee include representatives from the Federal Ministries of Information and Culture, Interior, Budget and National Planning, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism, as well as the National Association of Nigeria’s Travel Agencies.

However, while commending Mohammed for revisiting this document which was abandoned by the previous administration mid-way into its tenure, it is worrisome to note that for a document designed to provide a framework for the development of the national economy in general and the industry in particular, it has taken this present administration nearly two years to commence action in that direction.

Since the new democratic dispensation in 1999, the sector has had six federal ministers in Chief Frank Ogbuewu, Chief Babalola Aborishade, Chief Adetokunbo Kayode, Senator Bello Gada, Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, Chief Edem Duke, and Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yet the sector has no acceptable masterplan to articulate or guide policies.

To underscore the importance of tourism to any economy in the world, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General, Dr Taleb Rifai, recently pointed out five key reasons why the sector will be a strategic pillar of any truly sustainable economic future, even as he remarked that tourism still 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.

“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 stated.

According to the STR Global, leading provider of data on the hotel industry report, Nigeria showed the highest RevPAR growth YTD June 2013 (15.2 percent) and the highest average daily rate (ADR) among the African countries at US$273.80.

Speaking at the recently-concluded two-day Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition, in Abuja, former Executive Director of the NTDC, Mrs Sally Mbanefo, revealed that tourism sector alone generated $1.1 billion for the country in 2015.

Mbanefo added that country generated the revenue from the related expenditure incurred from the more than 6.01 million tourists that visited the country in 2015, while the balance of 853 million dollars was generated from 4.8 million tourists that visited in 2014.

“In 2014, about 4.8 million people arrived and the related expenditure was 853 million dollars. While in 2016, about 6.01 million came into Nigeria and we generated over 1.1 billion dollars as the expenditure related to their arrival in this country. This is an economic indication of the value that tourism can have in any economy where the government and the private corporate sector give value to it.”

She also said that Nollywood had created job opportunities for more than two million persons, 30,000 were working in restaurants and over 11,000 were in the hotel business.

With more flights and frequencies and application for licenses by international airlines, the tourism industry in Nigeria, with particular reference to the business travel market, in addition to the hospitality sub-sector appears to be the biggest beneficiaries of this boom in the tourism industry, even in the face of seemingly daunting challenges encountered by other practitioners in the sector.

Indeed, though Nigeria tourism is gifted with immense potential, tapping and exploiting these potential, and aggregating the rewards across all sub-sectors with over five decades after political independence of the country has, however, remained at the paperwork level.

Towards evolving the National Tourism Masterplan, it would be recalled that former Minister of Culture and Tourism, now late Chief Ojo Maduekwe had inaugurated the President Technical Committee to put in place a sustainable and comprehensive National Tourism Master Plan for the country.

That committee included 12 members drawn from both the public and private sectors with Dr Franklin Adejuwon as its chairman as well as Professor M.O Filani, Mr Kingsley Onuoha and the now late Matts Da’ Silva as external members.

The project commenced February 7, 2005 with an inception report delivered in March of the same year which opened up further line of actions and strategies.

The mid-term report was submitted to the Federal government August 7, 2005 and a Draft Master Plan report submitted December 12, 2005 while the Final report was submitted in February 2006 with the key recommendations focused on tourism policy, administration and management, development of tourism products, marketing approach, international and domestic transportation, hospitality education and training, tourism organization, legislation, management of information systems.

The committee presented that final document to the Federal Executive Council in May 2007 for final approval and official presentation to the public for implementation.

The document was charged with the responsibility of providing a framework for the sustainable development of tourism in Nigeria, identifying priority areas and clusters for tourism development; structuring the development of tourism facilities in terms of time and location.

Furthermore, it was also charged with identifying finance and investment needs, identifying potential tourism markets and also the appropriate strategies needed at both the policy and operational levels for implementation of the Masterplan.

It can be concluded that the original Nigeria Tourism Masterplan was assembled by local experts in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

And it was officially launched by in three volumes, in fanfare, by then minister Prince Adetokunbo Ademola in Abuja, in October 2007 just as its epileptic implementation commenced in March, 2008.

Volume 1 is said to be Current Situation Analysis, Volume two on strategic recommendations and implementation programme while Volume Three contains Technical Reports and Appendices. There is also a separately bound Executive Summary.

According to the contents of the document, it was designed to be implemented in three phases; with Phase 1 the short-term programme to be implemented before 2008. Phase Two was the medium-term programme with 2011 as the target completion date while Phase Three programme was to terminate by 2017.

That document was to be supervised by the Tourism Master Plan Implementation Committee, which terms of reference included the implementation of the first two years or short-term time frame of the master plan; among others.

Sadly, years later, the Nigeria Tourism Masterplan has till date undergone three ad-hoc committees including the original committee set up for its implementation, yet with implementation nowhere in sight.

Stakeholders in the tourism industry, have often called to question the document’s seemingly unworkable provisions, as they termed it ‘an alien masterplan,’ even as now some have questioned the rationale for a review committee instead of an implementation body as contained in the original document.

For Mr. Andy Osa Ehanire, Vice President, South-South, of the Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria, (ATPN), the major problem with the Nigerian Tourism Masterplan stems from the fact of its very documentation rather than its implementation; from its non-domestication rather than its intended objectives.

“More than the $280m in currency in which the deal was transacted, the language, presentation and scope of the socio-cultural issues in the plan do not lend credence to any serious role by our local consultants. This preliminary evidence apart, reinforcing the perception that our local experts could only have played passive or minimal roles in producing the master plan, I had earlier made a controversial statement that this master plan is a dummy, but nobody took me up on it,” Ehanire stressed.

Continuing, Ehanire, who also doubles as chief executive officer of the Ogba Zoo & Wildlife Park, in Benin City, Edo State, said: “Master Plans are actually like a 25 year rolling budget, in which even some lacklustre regimes could still boast of a 20 to 40 per cent performance in, let us say, ten years, but here we are still on the drawing board after all these years, in spite of bountiful resources that flowed through the Tourism Ministry over this period.

“This Committee ought to be one set to review the cumulative performance on the Master plan, but behold, it is a Committee to review what to make of the document itself. How else can we not realize all this while that this situation is a major case of policy stagnation for a critical sector as tourism. So, no one should be accused of being rude if it is said that our industry players and leaders have been like lame ducks or a sector peopled by charlatans.”

Notably, while reconstituting the first Implementation Committee for the Tourism Masterplan in 2011, then minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Duke, said due to the document’s shortcomings, an implementation committee constituted in 2008 had to be disbanded in 2010; and a task team comprising all relevant agencies constituted in April, 2011 to ensure the implementation which was expected to have been completed in the fourth quarter of 2012, with the guidance and assistance of experts from UNWTO.

“Nigeria provides very unique interesting tourism products and facilities, capable of being developed to promote both international and domestic tourism, however, the implementation of the Masterplan has been a major challenge to the ministry,” he admitted.

On the argument that the masterplan is alien to the Nigerian environment, this position could only stem from the fact that while the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provided part funding for the document, the UNWTO provided consultancy support as well as other organizations which could be disposed to providing required services such as the association of International Scientific Experts in Tourism.

By implication, and through the recommendation of the Adejuwon-led committee, the UNWTO having carried out a project identification mission contracted the Tourism Development International; Limited (TDI) based in Dublin, Ireland, as the international consultants. TDI fielded 8 experts drawn from different fields wile Nigeria matched the international consultants with 8 Nigerian experts and four national counterparts to produce the tourism master plan.

Till date, several brand identities and plans of action in the country have also been launched for Nigeria Tourism under the period under review from 1999, but all without the guidance of the masterplan.

Many in the industry have also wondered as to why the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), the agency charged with the monitoring and regulation of the sector in the country, was left out of the technical committee on the review of the masterplan as constituted by Mohammed.

On the way forward, therefore, operators remain upbeat.

“We have our work well cut out for us. I say this because we are now going to play catch-up with countries who are clearly ahead of us in the industry and as if that is not enough, they already have a well-developed infrastructure base to back and support the industry. So that’s why I said we have our work cut out for us. But the good thing is that there appears to be some level of seriousness on the part of government to do the right thing,” said Mr. Tony Akande, a Lagos-based restaurateur.

For immediate past Director General of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), an agency under the Federal ministry of Information and Culture, Prof. Tunde Babawale, the committee remains unnecessary, since the original document should have been implemented to know its shortcomings, before a review committee is set up.

“The committee is totally unnecessary largely because we already have a well thought-out and documented tourism masterplan in place. The only thing that was lacking is implementation and you are not likely to detect its grey areas or shortcomings in it except you begin the implementation.

“As far as I am concerned, this is another effort intended to waste the tax-payers’ money and operators’ time. I’m not bothered about the composition of the so-called technical committee. I would have instead expected more of a tourism stakeholders-committee. I also think it should have been an implementation committee rather than a review committee since the document had already been put together with the assistance of the UNWTO in the first instance, since 2005. Inspite of this lacuna, we are now talking about the review of a plan. Is this not absurd?

“The other thing to note is that the past Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration had already set up a Presidential Committee on Tourism (PCT). Instead of the planned review of the masterplan as embarked upon by this present administration, which allowed itself to be distracted by being presented with briefs on the PCT, what it needed to do is recompose the PCT and let it get back to work.

“We are now inviting the UNWTO to assist in reviewing the document; the same agency which spent time and money producing the document for us. We are asking them to come back when we have not even implemented or began implementing the one they produced for us. This is ridiculing ourselves before the world.

“As far as I am concerned, this committee is a wild goose chase and instead we should concern ourselves with attracting investors just as the original masterplan had proposed and clearly defined for us by setting up a Tourism Masterplan Implementation Organization (TMIO) to implement the lingering masterplan as contained in the original blueprint.

On his part, while urging the committee to revisit the masterplan’s position on the five Cluster Areas provided for in the document, Ehanire also drew attention to the country’s zoological gardens and wildlife parks.

“There is need for a sixth Tourism Cluster for the Niger Delta Region that bears the brunt of oil extraction. The relegation of Great Benin as a foremost brand for the promotion of culture tourism, in view of its rich history and artefacts that dominate international museums is shocking. Such should be a far more viable site for a Culture Resort, as against an obscure site on the Atlantic coast.

“My Memo number 20 at the 2012 National Council on Tourism sought the repositioning of zoological gardens as one of priority sectors for national tourism development.

“There is need to cement the foundations of our national tourism architecture through a seminal inauguration and institutionalization of the Local Government Tourism Committees being enshrined in the enabling NTDC Decree.

“We have monuments at the threshold of attaining UNESCO Heritage status in need of restoration. The bane of Nigeria’s tourism is a misguided fallacy of seeking to promote or market what is yet to be developed, since as the saying goes, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. A Master Plan cannot be as daunting to us as rocket science or nanotechnology. For something that is basically about us, it should never have been like an inscrutable deity for which successive administrations continue to swear allegiance with the riddles intact, when in actual fact we may have been sold a dummy,” Ehanire stressed.

The urgent need to commence concrete action towards actualizing a tourism masterplan for Nigeria has become even more imperative now with the global economic downturn and as governments all over the world scramble to explore other sources of boosting income.

“There are examples of countries in the world which have produced and successfully implemented their tourism masterplans, like Jamaica. We cannot reinvent the wheels, let’s put our acts together and start the upward movement,” Prof. Babawale advised.

 

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