By Jimoh Babatunde
Stakeholders in the tourism industry rose in unison for the first time in a long time to express reservation on a proposed bill of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOURS), presently before the National Assembly that seeks to confer on the institute the sole authority to regulate the industry.
The ‘Bill for an Act to Provide for the Establishment of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism for Training of Personnel and Regulation of Professional Personnel Practices and Services of Hospitality and Tourism Activities in Nigeria and other related matters,’ seeks to effectively extend the control of the institute in industry practice.
The public hearing of the bill sent to NASS by the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) held yesterday in Abuja continued to generate contempt within the tourism industry as stakeholders flay the move by NIHOTOURS to establish the institute as regulatory and registration body for tourism establishments across the country.
Leading the onslaught is the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) that gave birth to the institute in 1999.
The NTDC Director-General, Mr Folorunsho Folarin-Coker, disclosed that NIHOTOUR would be going beyond the mandate for which it was established if the bill is passed into law by NASS.
He said that NIHOTOUR was established, principally, as a training institute for personnel and stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality industry.
“The bill will be giving NIHOTOUR the position of both a trainer and a regulator of everything relating to tourism; thereby disregarding the legality of other parastatal agencies.’’
Folarin-Coker said that the country’s tertiary institutions should be allowed to establish departments that would be training personnel in tourism.
He said that encouraging several tertiary institutions to be part of it would enhance the ease of doing business as enunciated by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo recently.
“It’s time for change and we all must embrace change,’’ Folarin-Coker said.
Former chairman of the Tourism Maste Plan Committee, Dr. Franklin Adejuwon that described the institute as a lame institution operating like a ship without rudder, said NIHOTOUR is an institution which should have been headed by a qualified educationist, but not so now.
“Ministry of education should step in and put that establishment right, it is an institution for learning , for developing cadres and not a regulatory institution . We should stop mocking ourselves within the committee of nations.”
He wonders if the institution is that of learning or a regulatory institution competing with the Federal Ministry of Education or even NTDC which ab initio was the parent institution to nihotour.”
Adejuwon noted that when the institute was set up by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Labour Organisation, “it was established as a training ground for different levels of cadres in tourism, travels and hospitality industry in Nigeria and West Africa sub region.”
The one time minister of State for Agriculture said parallel institutions in the world initiated by ILO /UNDP in other sub regions of the world like Utali college, Kenya has delivered in their mandates, but regretted NIHOTOUR has failed to deliver, instead it is seeking for more power.
“Have they checked the operational status of such institutions vis-a-vis the proposed bill and has anyone gone beyond the limits for which they were established in any country? I will answer NO
What now makes Nigeria different? Nihotour is a lame institution operating like a ship without rudder.”
The tourism writers under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Editors of Tourism (ANJET), who joined other stakeholders in condeming the proposed bill, said ‘Nihotour has completely gone beyond its brief and what is expected of it’
The body while describing the proposed bill as ‘death knell of hospitality and tourism.’, maintained that the proposed bill further compounds the precarious situation of tourism regulation in the country, as the agency itself should rather be seeking to grow its capacity in the field of training of industry practitioners.
“If it is a training institute then it should restrict itself to that regardless of the NOC/NOS/NBTE provisions. What it is seeking to be with the full provisions of this bill is become omnibus body and ombudsman of tourism, which shouldn’t be.
“If the bill is allowed to scale through, what then becomes the function of the NTDC and other agencies in the Culture, Tourism and Information Ministry, and by implication the value chain of tourism and other training institutions in the country?”
ANJET said “For instance, under the ‘Powers of the Institute,’ the institute wants to ‘set conditions and standards for institutions or organizations offering courses in hotel, catering, travel and tourism management or skill in Nigeria.’
This, ANJET believes this segment is ‘as ambiguous as it is conflicting,’ considering that other agencies also perform the same function, just there is a vast divide separating all four sub-sectors of tourism practice, as well as its practitioners.
Similarly, a hospitality expert and scholar, Dr Wasiu Babalola called for the outright rejection of the proposed NIHOTOUR bill by the National Assembly.
The outgoing Managing Director – Africa, Swiss International Hotels and incumbent Honorary Secretary, Institute of Hospitality UK in Nigeria said: “The bill should be rejected for the agency aiming beyond its mandate. Why should it try to define who a professional is?
“When did government starts deciding who should be president /chairman of council of professional bodies? Why should the agency want to take over the powers of NUC and NBTE? The proposers of the bill are surely ill informed.”