Before his appointment as the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Dr. Munzali Dantata, has been a major player in the tourism industry in Nigeria.
He once headed the powerful National Association of Nigeria Travel Agents (NANTA) and later the President of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) from where he was appointed to head NIHOTOUR. As a a consummate specialist in the hospitality business, he shares his traveling experience with JIMOH BABATUNDE. Here is an excerpt:
On his journey into the hospitality business
I am a lawyer by training but the transition was possible, because I am an artist at heart. I draw, paint and write poetry. As a child and teenager, I was the first in the arts in my class and though I had some love for architecture, my going into law does not change anything.
As a lawyer, I had started off practising with the judiciary in Kano state. I resigned from that appointment to form my own chambers and sometime in the mid-80s, I set up a travel agency, All States Travel and Tours, which is still in business today. That agency became my window into the hospitality industry.
As you may be aware, there is a connection between tourism and arts and culture. In many countries of the world they both go together. Even here in Nigeria, the government is pushing arts and culture as one of our many products. That is why the federal government merged both arms to form the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.
On how long he has been traveling
I have been traveling for over forty years.
On what inspires his choice of destinations
I like going to new places. I am a curious person by nature. In 1996 I visited Onyeama coal mines, about 2 hours by car from Enugu. The friend that took me felt ashamed that though he was born and bred in Enugu he had never visited the mines until I took him there.
From 2000 to 2002, I visited all the eight national parks with my wife. The Conservator General was impressed. Just two weeks ago I visited the oil fields in the outskirts of Eket in Akwa Ibom State, because I had never seen a live oil rig. A senator from that zone arranged my trip.
On his best destination or city
London, United Kingdom. It has a balance of interesting places for everybody. I enjoyed it as a child. Decades later, I returned as a father with my children.
On his best destination in Nigeria
My best Nigerian destination is Obudu Cattle Ranch. It has the best landscape in the world. The Obudu Ranch/Resort has a temperature of between 26°C to 32°C between November and January,the nights are cool to cold during this period.
The lowest temperature range of 4°C to 10°C is recorded between June and September which is the rainy season.
Warm clothes,raincoat and water boots for hiking in rainy season. The Obudu plateau has an altitude of 1,575.76metres above sea level hence its tranquil climate. Now you know why I read law but ended up becoming a tour operator. It is about job satisfaction. I enjoy traveling and am tourist myself.
On what he takes along on his trips
These days I always carry my laptop whenever I travel. To go online, work and entertain myself on the move.
On what inform his choice of hotels
Clean room with international TV stations.
On his best hotel and why
Hilton Hotel. Because they are in many cities and you can earn points which can reduce your bill.
On his best airline
British Airways. It has good connections, comfortable seats and good inflight service.
On where he will like to visit next
Australia. Because I have never been down under. Australia is one part of the world that I have never visited. Though grouped in Asia, it is not typical Asia, nor is it part of the West.
On who he will like to meet on his trip
Local people. I like going to new places, meeting new and local people. I am always increasing my education.
On the best person he has met on his trip
A Zulu chief I met at Shakaland, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. The Zulu chief was the chief of Shakaland. Its a cultural tourism village. Dressed in full Zulu regalia the chief receives visitors all day. It was in 1999