The Federal Government has been urged to help put the tourism industry on a proper footing by floating a tourism fund for practitioners.
Chief Mike Amachree, who made this call in Lagos during the week, said the fund will enable tour operators to finance their business besides having adequate knowledge of the products and services they are rendering.
He added that the fund will assist the tour operators access soft loans that will help them grow their businesses.
Amachree said the tour operators with their clouts in the travel industry are in a better position to attract tourists to Nigeria with the contacts they have with their colleagues all over the world.
“Since operators and wholesalers represent millions of dollars of business to airlines, hotels, car rental firms and attractions, they carry a lot more clout than individual travelers_and that opens doors.”
He said the business of tour operations need to be encouraged as the practitioners good tour buses to convey tourists when they come into Nigeria, noting that very few tour operators have good buses to convey tourists around the country.
Chief Amachree, who owns the Port Harcourt Tourist Beach, said other practitioners in the tourist industry like resorts owners will benefit from the fund.
“With access to fund, tourism operators in Nigeria will be able to take tourism to the next level and so make Nigeria one of the top destinations in the continent.
He noted that practitioners have been on this issue of tourism fund since the time of General Ibrahim Babaginda when they visited him at Aso rock where the Central Bank was directed to work out modalities for the fund.
He regretted that after two decades the tourism industry has not been able to get the fund that will help cushion the burden of operators.
Amachree said with President Goodluck Jonathan in saddle, he believes that this dream of tourism practitioners will come to fruittion.
He said as the Governor of Bayelsa state that President Jonathan did a lot to promote tourism in the South-South region as he supported tourism projects then. “Now as President of the country, he should do more for tourism development.”
It will be recalled that the President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Mr. Samuel Alabi, recently asked government to make funds available to help Nigerian investors in the tourism sector who are currently facing the financial crunch due to the recession_induced harsh economy.
The private sector practitioners body asked for N500 billion (US$3.2 million) in intervention funds to save the tourism sector in Nigeria.