Since his assumption of office as the Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, has brought about changes in the way the country is portrayed at international travel exhibition and fairs.
At the recently held ITB travel fair in Berlin, Germany, he took out time from his tight schedule of attending to visitors to have an interview with foreign and Nigerian journalists. Here is an excerpt
On the countryâ€™s gains from international fairs?
It is true that this is our second international outing this year, but I must tell you that with such outings you donâ€™t count your gains immediately, itâ€™s an investment. An investment is what you reap later. As the Director General (DG) of Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), the number of enquiries, contacts and investors that have visited the Nigerian stand and the number of private sectors players that have been coming to these international fairs with us is a sign that there is improvement. It is a marked departure from what it used to be in the past where we just come to fairs and no impact is made.
But now, there are impacts, even the Organisers can now appreciate why we are here and they could see that something is happening at the Nigerian stand. Most African countries now come to look at our stand and say look if Nigeria can do it why not their own country.
I believe we are already setting the pace and most of the African countries believe in what we are doing and they are taking a cue from it. To me, the benefit I can tell is improving at about the range 45_50% from what it was in the past.
On the lack of private sector participation in the countryâ€™s stand unlike others
I can tell you that for the very first time, we have three major hotels participating with us, this include Eko Hotel, Chelsea Hotel, Divine Tours, Dicta Travel Agency and tour and representative of Hotel Owners in Abuja.
The truth is that the average private sector person in Nigeria sees himself or herself like a local champion but we are now exposing them to the international market. And the approach to the international market is quite different from the domestic market.
Now, the few that have come have seen the benefits, so they are going to tell others and we are going to do the same thing. So, I can tell you it is unlike before when we donâ€™t have private sector participants.
Infact, we also have about four private sector companiesÂ who also want to come and show case their products and services with us, which is what other countries are doing, whichÂ is also welcomeÂ and we are going to encourage them. It is going to be a partnership thing.
We also can even use them as our contact person in any part of the world. So, to me I believe that more private sector players will come in but we have recorded some good numbers of private sector players that attended this year and we would have more by next year.
On what he is doing for domestic tourism in Nigeria Let me say this to you, Nigeria has never had it good from what we did recently. There s no single festival in Nigeria that NTDC has not promoted, not one. Infact, there are more traditional rulers visiting NTDC coming for collaborations.
We have produced tissue papers, jackets, travel stuffs and a lot of promotional materials for almost all the festivals in Nigeria; from Osun Osogbo, Ibi Fishing Festival, Argungu, Nwonyo Fishing festival , Calabar Carnival, Abuja Carnival,Olibiri and so on .We have produced everything for them .
So, domestic tourism is about awareness which is the first strategy we adopted. Now, we are now promoting Domestic tourism by calling on each traditional opinion moulder in each community to come up with at least one festival or event that can sell our tourism, which is what we achieved in 2009.
If you notice, most of the traditional rulers have been visiting us, that is part of the strategy. We may not say it in that way but that is what we are doing. So, right now NTDC is giving 70% to development of domestic tourism and 30% to international that is the strategy we have adopted.
On collaborative efforts with transporters, tour operators and airlines on domestic tourism In that regards, I have already called for a meeting with tour operators. The people to package tours are the tour operators because we want them to be in business and employ more Nigerians. And I can tell you right now that over 50 tour operators have come out with different packages.
On compliance by hotels in Nigerian with registration In the area of registration of hospitality enterprises, we are lucky that we have succeeded in 65% in the past , it was next to zero level. I must use this opportunity to commend Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who have worked with us.
Even, if you go to CAC to register aÂ hotel, you must come back to us to sign an MOU with us. So, what we have done is that you canâ€™t be talking of grading and classification without registration to know how many hotels you have.
A lot of people call me that they want to do classification but they donâ€™t understand what is involved .Grading and classification is capital intensive because we need to send independent valuers, monitors, who will go to the hotels as if they are guests and get us the right and correct information.
Government needs to put in what we call the seed money and I am trying to getÂ the money out because no state government can remove from its budget to use its money to do grading and classification , that state government will be wasting their resources but the federal government can afford to do that.
Some states think the idea of hotel registration is just naira and kobo but is beyond that. It also includes national security of our country and we cannot compromise our national security for any amount of money. So, far Nigerians are keying into it, appreciating it, understanding it and it has helped us a great deal now that we have hit over 65% registration.