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UNWTO reports will form the basis of tourism master plan implementation

There  is no issue that is topi    cal in the tourism industry in Nigeria today as the implementation of the Tourism Master Plan, and if there is  anybody to speak on it, it is the Minister of  Tourism, Culture and  National Orientation, Alhaji Muhammed Abubakar Sadiq.

Alhaji Muhammed Abubakar is of course the presidential implementation committee on tourism which I think has not been very active

So, when  the opportunity  to meet with him came during the week, the questionwas  put to him and he barred his minds on this and other issues in this interview  with Jimoh Babatunde. Excerpt

On what he met on ground on  resumption
Thank you. First and foremost, I met a ministry with a  determined work force  that needed just a little push so that they  can move the three core sectors of tourism, culture and orientation,  forward.

As it relates to the tourism sector, I met a tourism  master plan on the ground that needed to be implemented. Of course,  there was a committee  set up by my predecessor  that was supposed  to be implementing  the tourism master plan. But during the briefing  I received, I was made to understand that there was no concrete   step taken  in the implementation process that later  became  a subject  of controversy between the different members of the committee a  staff of the ministry.

However, I felt that we should take a  proactive measure,  I then sought for an audience and a     visit   to  the United Nations World Tourism Organization  in Spain,  whom I  believe was part of the  development   of the master plan and who I believe  have the capacity to help in the implementation  of the  master plan.

So  at that visit, we met  with the executive members of the UNWTO   and I  am happy to say that just last week we had a mission from UNWTO and  they interacted with stakeholders here and they had  gone back are  sending us their reports and how they think we should move forward  in terms of implementation.

There is of course the presidential  implementation committee on tourism which I think has not been very  active, of course there is the technical steering committee which or  whatever reason has not been active.

But I have tried to put some  structure in place to make sure they start working, the submissions  from UNWTO to other issues that are coming up within the ministry  are issues that will now be placed before the steering committee after deliberation  will be presented to the presidential committee.

I intend to brief  Mr. President so that he will be surely aware of what is happening. On the stakeholders met by UNWTO’s officials and  the steering  committee set up by his predecessor
Well not like it has  seized to work. It has not, probably it has not sat for a long time  and may be issues they were to have looked at   have not been looked at.

On  the stakeholders, they met with Nigerian Tourism Development  Corporation (NTDC), Bureau of Statistics, they met with United  Nations Development Program (UDP), because United Nations  Development Program (UDP) is part of the tourism master plan and of  course they will be able to drive it in terms of funding and development.

They also met with the National Institute for Hospitality  and
Tourism(NIHOTOUR)  as an agency charged with building capacity as well. They also  met  with the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN). That was  my brief.

On reasons for UNWTO visit to the  Nigerian Tourism  Development Corporation (NTDC) and the National Institute for  Hospitality  and Tourism(NIHOTOUR)

We are looking at the  implementation of the master plan holistically, so whatever  submission is made by UNWTO and what is deliberated in the ministry and the  steering committee and the presidential committee we will make recommendation.
Of  course, if it is agreed that re-organising any of our agency is  paramount we will do that.

On  the take off date for the  implementation of the tourism master plan By September I should  kick off, because we are expecting the reports from UNWTO before the  end of next week,   I think the reports will highlight some strategic steps  that will be crucial to the implementation of the master plan.

There  have been several workshops that have been attended by our staff in respect  to tourism statistics because capacity developments have been stalled because  of lack of synergies in the various arms of government in the collection of statistics.

On statistics gathering
Well  the impression I have is that the bureau for statistics had informed  them that the statistics they captured are related to tourism as  well. One other big challenge that I discovered was the fact that or  them to be able to attract and analyze those aspects that relate   to tourism.

I think that is their  work what we are expected to give  them those variables that are ours so that they can just extract  and help us analysis them. Because they are recognized by the law establishing  them as the sole agency responsible for collecting statistics and analyzing  them for   national development.

On the allegation that there  is provision in the ministry budget for tourism master plan  implementation in the past three years
For this year I have not  seen money for implementation, what we have is very meager. If they  had before, I am not in a position to say how it has been spent because  I was not there, but if at the end of this year you ask me how the one we  are expecting how it was spent I think I will be able to give you an answer.

That means there is a provision for it in the budget Yes, weather to the extent that it will implement the tourism  master plan or not is what I don’t know. Because it all depends on  budget drew for the implementation vis a vis what is provided in the  national budget.

On Abuja carnival funding
We will continue  to rely, to think that the private sector should fund the Abuja carnival.  That is our vision. If government is putting money in the carnival, probably  it is seed money, but of course we are thinking along the line of having  a longer partnership with the private sector   having an MOU that will span  for some years Probably at the end of the day it is not every  year you go out and look for money and people and people give you  whatever they think, but with what we plan they will already have  commitment to relate to a time frame which mean they know they are  committed to Abuja carnival for so and so number of years for funding.

Now  if we get that commitment, then government can completely hand off the funding  of the Abuja carnival, of course you know there was no funding for  Abuja carnival from government as all the money used was source from  outside.

This year we have started and the marketer has promised us  that it will be different, of course we still have some debt to  settle in respect to last year’s commitment, but we believe that  this year we have sufficient funds.

On the cultural policy’s  meeting
The meeting was targeted at specially on the fifth schedule  of the policy which dealt with the funding, the tax holidays and so  before I came, the national policy was presented to the federal  executive council and it did not scale through completely because of  the fear expressed in respect to tax holidays, tax rebates and  other incentives contained in the cultural policy.

So when I came I  saw that the policy had been lying there since it was returned back  to the ministry for further consultation, and nobody had done anything. So I directed  that we convey a stakeholder forum to look at those  issues.

The stakeholders forum looked into issues that relate to tax  holiday; tax incentives and of course the endowment for the arts. You  can remember that there was an Act, decree of 1991 or so for Art  endowment and nothing has been done I believe and so the  stakeholders need to look at it and the modern trends as well as  probably proposing for an amendment of the Act, together it now  comes out as a package for the culture sector. If we get this  tax rebate are we likely to have it in tourism also.

I think the  major challenge is trying to look at areas within the existing laws now  where you will be able to key in like for example   if there are  culture industries that are making … they can enjoy pioneer  status, so it is within the context of existing laws that we are  trying to see how the art sector is going to benefit. Of course  there could be incentives for the tourism sector

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