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Flexibility in Fixing Travel Businesses Amid Challenges

olarin-Coker
olarin-Coker

September 19, (THEWILL) – The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), may not have been able to promote Nigerian tourism globally these days, but certainly it has been reengineering the nation’s tourism businesses in order to be at par with their counterparts across the globe.

Little wonder key players in the sector are readying for yet another boom of domestic tourism in the coming months. Practitioners therefore emphasised the need for digital technology in rebuilding the sector amid covid-19 pandemic and security challenges across states.

This was part of the resolutions reached during the South-South tourism stakeholders’ interactive meeting held recently in Calabar, Cross River State with the theme Use of Digital Technology to Revamp the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Amid COVID-19 and Security Challenges In Nigeria.

They noted that the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic brought huge challenges to all sectors of Nigerian economy but with tourism sector being the worst hit. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said that ‘the choice of theme for stakeholders meeting could not have come at a better time when at the helm of this endeavour is Mr Technology himself (DG NTDC). It is therefore certain that stakeholders and all the sector professionals will take advantage of this meeting to come out with workable and practicable solutions at the end of the day.’

He noted that gathering stakeholders in forum that offers the opportunity to seek options like this is most relevant and highly commendable. “It will certainly allow making some postulations as to how best to cope with the situation through identification of sound and workable strategies for a post COVID-19 engagement.”

The minister revealed the commitment of the ministry to “providing plain and enabling working environment for all agencies under its purview for optimum performance.”

He advised that inter-agency collaborations in both private and public sectors such as the one that produced this meeting should be strengthened rather than engaging in divisive personal pursuits which are unprofitable.

Cross Rivers State Commissioner of Culture and Tourism Development Eric Anderson emphasised the need to embrace the use of digital technology to enable us to revamp the tourism and hospitality industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic and security challenges in Nigeria.

Anderson remarked that the transformation to use digital technology as an innovation in the tourism sector has opened up new opportunities for tourism businesses to compete in global markets.

“Digital technology is helping the tourism/travel industry to improve on their day to day operations, modify business models while also improving the customer experience and patronage.”

He disclosed that with the introduction of digital technology, high-value services are being delivered in the industry.  He pointed out that reports from the global tourism and travels, in 2019 shows a drop to $4.7 trillion after suffering a loss of almost $4.5 trillion in 2020 with a significant drop in GDP by a staggering 49.1%, compared to 2019.

“In 2020, 62 million jobs were lost across the sector globally and until the sector experiences a full recovery, the likelihood of more job losses may still be looming. It is therefore imperative to recreate the sector deliberate for a viable outcome.

“Accordingly, the Nigeria Tourism Sector is not laid back but coming to grips with the adaptation to product and service enhancing technologies such as online transport solutions (bolt, online ticketing, etc), destination marketing on social media catalogues (Instagram etc) and others,” he submitted.

The Director-General Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mr Folorunsho Coker corroborating the submission of Alhaji Mohammed and the Cross River State Commissioner for Tourism on the effect of COVID-19 on Tourism said: “To say that tourism is one of the sectors worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020 is stating the obvious, as the advent of the virus disrupted, in a fundamental way, the traditional modes of human convergence, whether around economic, social or other forms of activity.”

He remarked that “the UNWTO recognized the year 2020 as the worst in Tourism’s recorded history with Tourism arrivals falling back to the year 1990 levels. The National Bureau for Statistics (NBS) reported that Nigeria recorded a trade deficit of N7.38 trillion in the year 2020.  The highest we have recorded since 1981.”

Coker commended the resilience of Tourism and Hospitality businessmen and stakeholders while expressing admiration for their steadfast commitment to grow the sector even in the face of huge economic and social challenges.

He revealed that “part of why we are here today is to collectively develop proactive and sustainable ideas that will properly organize the sector and accelerate its recovery in our country and the South-South geo-political zone. As stakeholders, we need to consider and deploy innovative recovery solutions that are homegrown and practical, tailor-made for our specific environment and people.”

He described Tourism as a powerful and beneficial agent of economic and social change, with significant positive contributions to the balance of payment in many countries throughout the world.

“The ability of Hospitality and Tourism industry to generate new employment opportunities especially for low-skilled and unskilled groups (predominantly populated by women and children) makes the sector a critical component in development agenda of this country.

“In this age of technology, the international tourism industry has adopted a third “T” (Technology) to drive “Travel and Tourism.”

“The evolution of technology is fostering big changes in the travel and tourism industry. We are currently in an era where technology is the major fulcrum that creates momentum in the leisure-travel space and indeed in all facets of human living,” he said.

He further disclosed that “the pandemic created a unique opportunity for mankind’s advancement by accelerating the deployment of disruptive technologies to make work and living easier in a contactless word occasioned by the virus.”  He added: development of digital tools and smart apps continue to disrupt and drive change within the tourism sector in recent times and these technological advancements are already transforming the tourism value chain.

“At the NTDC, we have been at the frontline of marketing the wonders of the Nigerian world as a particular destination through vital collaborations with technology giants like Facebook, Google and Wikimedia.

“Through this, a global online audience has been availed the opportunity to Tour Nigeria and witness the stories and cultural treasures of Nigeria. From our festivals to museums, renowned locations, and iconic landmarks, the images and online stories, as offered on our digital channels, unfold a rich tapestry that equally documents Nigeria for posterity.

“Tour Nigeria” is about exploring Nigeria virtually in a manner that will awaken adventurers, taking them on a journey into an authentic national experience that showcases the true spirit and essence of the country, encompassing historic, cultural and heritage sites, to sun-kissed coastlines, beaches, breath-taking waterfalls, natural springs, the grandeur of festivals, wildlife and magnificent plateaus.

“With the success of the protocols of safety and the coming of vaccines and other novel therapies that are lifting the climate of fear that  coronavirus has cast across  globe, we are gradually closing in to reap a bountiful harvest from digitalising the wonders of the Nigerian world. This will be in terms of motivating a huge volume of physical visits, as our planet makes greater strides towards recovery and heals. There will be a post-pandemic economic boom and tourism will be at its crest. It will be packaged, domestic and Nigerian for Nigerians, he said.

Coker disclosed that Domestic Tourism is six times bigger than international Tourism, hence, Tour Nigeria™️, and the economic revival which it is set on becoming a part of, signposts healing for the country, our ways of life, destinations and livelihoods.

“In its online manifestation, the Tour Nigeria brand is leveraged to become a premier destination for authentic Nigeria content, in a way that deploys creativity, arts and culture, all driven by technology, to advance the new national agenda.

“We believe that developing our domestic tourism market is key to attracting foreign tourists. We need to grow what we have before it can be attractive for tourists and investors.

“We also believe that it can only be achieved when the tourism laws are reviewed, standards are unified, manpower is properly trained, stakeholders collaborate, investments are attracted, and proper marketing and promotion are done.”

On his part, Chairman Akwa Ibom State Hotels Management and Tourism Board, Mr. Ini Akpabio revealed some of the factors militating against utilizing digital technology to revamp the Nigerian Hospitality and Tourism industries amid COVID-19 and security challenges.

Some of the factors, according to him, included “Lack of electricity and were available, low of a voltage; poor internet network; high cost of digital technology equipment; poorly trained owners of hotels and managerial staff of hospitality and tourism businesses.