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16th February, 2016.
The guest speaker, Professor Pat Utomi, Director of Domestic Tourism, Federal Ministry of Information & Culture, Mrs. Ada Okoli and Chairman, Cross River State Carnival Commission, Mr. Gabe Onah congratulating the new executives of National Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) at the gala/awards night.

Professor Utomi, Dayo Keshi, others, sensitized stakeholders at NATOP AGM in Calabar

By Omololu Olumuyiwa

The Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) utilized her Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2016 to orientate delegates and stakeholders in the tourism sector through an educative conference on marketing Destination Nigeria.

The "Destination Nigeria Conference 2016" with the theme: "NIGERIAN TOURISM: The Missing Link in a Diversified Economy" organised concurrently with NATOP AGM was used as the orientation platform on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at the Transcorp Hotels, Calabar.

NATOP was established in 1993 in order to formalize the business of tour operation in Nigeria to create a recognizable identity and platform for the operators to network, expand their business scope as well as contribute to the development of the industry and the nation's economy.

The president, Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), Mr. Nkereuwem Onung earlier in his welcome address has highlighted the need for the conference at the right time when it appears that tourism is not a priority of the present administration with the scrapping of the Federal Ministry of Tourism.

Onung stressed that with the emergence of the conference, NATOP will strive further to deliver on her mandate of contributing to the development and promotion of Nigeria tourism through strong advocacy, policy implementation, engagement with government bodies or relevant authorities and persons both within and outside Nigeria as a way to championed the course of tourism advancement in the country.

"The conference is timely due to the fact that despite the potential of Nigeria tourism, our policy makers have not seen it as an alternative to oil with an earning capacity of over $7 Billion", Onung said.

He also reiterated the failure of Nigeria to market and promote the destination Nigeria in international travel trade shows throughout 2015.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed in his address read by the Director of Domestic Tourism, Mrs. Ada Okoli said that tourism sector is a key in the ongoing diversification of the Nigeria economy. "If we get it right, which we must, indeed exciting time awaits us", Lai Muhammed said.

Muhammed said further that the government's battle against insecurity and the fight against corruption will as well contribute largely to the efforts to make Nigeria a top destination in Africa. "Other areas include the provision of infrastructural facilities such as transport, communications, water supply, roads, education, health care services and electricity", he said.

The Minister hinted that the Federal government in order to boost tourism and gave it the required impetus in contributing to Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has taken the following initiatives; ranking tourism among the six priority sectors of the economy; review of National Tourism Policy of 199o; provision of attractive incentives for prospective investors; encouraging public-private partnership (PPP) and launching of the Nigerian Tourism Development Mater Plan.

The renowned scholar and the founding Senior Faculty of the Lagos Business School, Pan African university, Professor Patrick Utomi in his keynote address said the positive impact of 'Strong Service Culture' should not be over emphasized as a driven force to make Nigeria a destination of choice in Africa.

Professor Utomi in his simple terms of Service Culture defined Service as "The performance of work for another" and Culture as "The total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action."

He said for Nigeria to be enjoying the high inflow of tourists as a destination, the visitors must also have a good account of their experience in the country.

Utomi disclosed further that "Developing a service culture requires time and consistency".

He highlighted the significance of the international airports and the Immigration Officials in projecting the country positively in Africa. "Immigration officers at our various airports needs to play a vital role in ensuring that our airports is a good reference welcoming centres for the country to be a must visit destination for tourists and as a great source of revenue generation for Nigeria", he said.

The special guest and Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Mrs. Dayo Keshi in her presentation at the forum on the "Role of the creative Industry in promoting and developing tourism".

The NCAC boss hinted that at this crucial period of dwindling of oil price and its attendant effect on the Nigeria economy participating at the conference will be an avenue to create the awareness and knowledge that is required to place the creative industry on the same pedestal like oil, solid mineral and agriculture.

"We need to change the perception and the way culture is viewed especially by policy makers and encourage them to see and appreciate culture, of which the creative industry is part of an economic prism. Like any other economic sector, it needs support, it needs investment, it needs infrastructure, above all, it needs the conducive environment to grow and develop", Dayo Keshi said.

The National Council for Arts and Culture was created in 1975 as a front-line agency of the now Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. It has the responsibility for the overall co-ordination, development and promotion of the living arts and culture in Nigeria.

The NCAC boss disclosed that in line with the mandate of the organisation, what they do and their future plan concerns tourism advancement in Nigeria.

"In our course to develop and promote the country's tangible and intangible cultural heritage, NCAC has achieved through its programs and activities especially with its flagship programs, the annual National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST)", Mrs. Keshi said.

Mrs. Keshi disclosed that the African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC) of NCAC is an event that involves other African countries. She highlighted that in the 4th edition of AFAC held in 2015 about fifteen African countries participated.

She stated further, "Our aim is to scale up the expo both in participation and in content to attract increased participation from the continent as a way to attracts more foreign participation and visit to appreciate Nigeria arts and crafts potentials".

The Director General hinted that the NCAC is having a very ambitious plan to introduce more specialized festivals between now and 2017 as a way to further showcase Nigeria.
Among these events mentioned are; National Durbar Festival; National Boat Regatta; National Masquerade Festival; Festival of Nigeria Contemporary Arts; National Folk Songs Festival and Traditional Textiles and Fashion fair.

The NCAC boss stated that apart from their potentials to consolidate Nigeria's tourism, promote employment and wealth creation, the existing and proposed festivals, if well packaged and promoted to international standard could also help change the current negative narratives of Nigeria which could lead to increased foreign direct investment.

Mrs. Keshi said perhaps the most crucial is the nexus between festivals, tourism and economic development especially in job and wealth creation. It is this nexus that makes festivals an integral part of tourism.

She emphasized on the need for the revitalization of these products, to make them attractive, unique and competitive to meet foreign and modern demands.

The President, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Chief Tomi Akingbogun lauded NATOP on the conference initiative and the steps taken to help the growth of the tourism sector in Nigeria.

Akingbogun used the forum to emphasize on the need for the creation of Tourism Bank for the stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality industry.

He said it will be an avenue to have easy access to loans to fast-tract and implement their business expansion to meet the required standards of the visitors and help to succeed in marketing Destination Nigeria.

"Tourism investors requires long time loans which is not always available through most of the existing commercial banks while the creation of the Tourism Bank will be a saving grace for investors and stakeholders", Akingbogun hinted.

In his goodwill message, the Executive Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade congratulate NATOP on their AGM and appreciate the fact that Calabar was considered as the venue of the important events.

His Excellency disclosed further that Cross River state considered tourism as her oil and have to be in support of a NATOP AGM which is a viable event for tourism promotion in Nigeria.

The Chairman, Cross River State Carnival Commission, Mr. Gabe Onah speaking further on behalf of the governor charges the NATOP members on the need to further promote the State and especially the annual "Carnival Calabar" which attracted the participation of foreigners from various countries like Brazil, Belize, Rwanda among others last year.

At the NATOP Gala/Awards night, the organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market and CEO, ATQ Tours, Mr. Ikechi Uko prior to the presentation of awards to the recipients in recognition of their support to NATOP in the past commended the founding president of NATOP, Mrs. Fatima Garbati as one of the key initiators of NATOP formation and existence up to date.

Also, the newly constituted executives of NATOP unveiled are the CEO, Remlords Tours, Mr. Nkereuwem Onung who retained his post as NATOP President; Vice president - Alhaji Olumuyiwa Salami, Managing Director, Dvine Tour Brokers Ltd; Treasurer - Mrs. Bolaji Mustapha, CEO, GET CENTRE; General Secretary, Ime Udo, CEO, Leadway Tours.

The Ex - Officio members are Mr. Ikechi Uko (Akwaaba/ATQ Tours); Mrs. Fatima Garbati (Speed Tours); Abiodun Sanni (Tourways International); Mr. Jemi Alade (Jemi Alade Tours) and Chinyere Umuasiegbu (Globallinks Travels).

Among the people and organisation honoured at the NATOP Gala/Awards night are the former Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Commission (NTDC), Chief Olusegun Runsewe, the former first lady of Cross River State, Mrs. Onari Duke, Mr. Emeka Anokwuru and Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

As a way to display the entertainment and dancing skills usually showcase at the Carnival Calabar, the Cross River State Carnival Commission dancers thrilled the delegates in their colourful regalia and mesmerizing dancing steps.

NATOP also created fun-time to exposed the delegates and guests to the fascinating tourist attractions in the beautiful city of Calabar. A well packaged city tour was organized on the second day of the AGM and Destination Nigeria conference.

Notable among the places visited are Millennium Park - The cenotaph at the park is put in place to commemorate the fallen heroes of First World War of 1914 to 1918 and second world war of 1939 to 1945. Here, names of Nigerians from all regions of the country who enlisted and sacrificed their lives in the First and Second World War were bodily written.

Lord Luggard House - The Official Residence Area of Lord Luggard where he stayed to administer the Southern Protectorate is still a sight to behold after over 100 years of its existence. This building originally known as government house was prefabricated in Britain in 1884 and erected in old Calabar to accommodate the early British administration of the Niger Coast territory.

Slave History Museum and Marina Resort - This is where one can almost feel the awe and fear that gripped the slaves just before they were carried aboard the slave ships, knowing that they would never see their homes again. The highly emotional "Slave History Museum" is "A Must Visit" for all tourists and visitors.

Other places visited are the 1894 First Storey Building; U.J.Esuene Sport Stadium; Governor's Office; Federal Secretariat Complex and Cultural Centre.

The NATOP AGM have in attendance dignitaries that cut across government, private organisations, stakeholders and icons in the travel, tourism and hospitality sector among whom are Commissioner for Tourism, Plateau State, Mr. Peter John Mwankon; Managing Director, Suffy Tours & Cruises, Vincenzo Orlandini; Executive Director, Pyramid Hotels, Mr. Charles Ogar; Trade Relations Manager, South African Tourism, Mohammed Tanko Kwajaffa; Mrs. Tourism United Nations World 2015, Ebelechukwu Enemchukwu among others.

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Travelscope Magazine is a published by Bisoprints Communication as a rallying point for the advancement of the industry. It has grown to become a clear market leader focusing on constant innovation in the emerging travel, tourism and hospitality sector in Nigeria.


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