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Why tourism is lagging behind in Nigerian economy —Omolara Adagunodo, MD, Jumia Travel

Omolara Adagunodo  is the managing director of Jumia Travel and an experienced  Country Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the hospitality industry. Skilled in Negotiation,  Sales, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Market Research, and Management. Strong sales professional with a  Master of Science (MSc) focused in Management from The Manchester Metropolitan University.  She speaks on some issues that are limiting the tourism industry from harnessing its maximum potentials in the economy sphere of the world.

By Ebunoluwa Sessou

Every September 27 is World Tourism Day and Jumia Travel decided to organize seminar for tour operators and travel agencies, what informed that?

As we all know, September 27 is the United Nation World Tourism Organization, UNWTO Day. It a day to celebrate tourism worldwide and with this year’s theme,  ‘Tourism and Jobs: A better future for all”, it is an  issue in Nigeria today. The unemployment rate in Nigeria is devastating hence the need to bring experts to the roundtable to discuss the industry and ways to grow the sector.

Omolara Adagunodo

Talking about industry expert, there are names that were mentioned during the seminar and there were at the event. Was it a deliberate action?

The people we have called are not the people representing an organization, they are experts in the industry. The Nigeria Association of Travelling Agents, NATA, or other people. The people we invited belong to those associations you were talking about. The discussion was not around the association but individual expert in the field.

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What are the challenges in the Nigeria tourism industry?

We have lots of challenges in the country, the major challenge we focus is been able to bridge the gaps of unemployment and tourism, so we are looking at the issues around unemployment rate which is at a scaring percentage, the avenue to fill this gap in the tourism industry, and it has been discussed during the seminar that the solution is around education. There is need to incorporate tourism into the educational system. There is a need to get tourism into school curriculum, so as to learn more about tourism business. It is important for people to know that tourism is not what you can wave aside. This is what Dubai is earning so much from today. We have Rwanda that started recently. We have South Africa and other countries that are earning from tourism. So Nigeria as a country with so much natural resources and human resources and potentials should not be lagging behind when it comes to gaining the benefit of tourism.

Do you think that Nigerian government is ready?

As private sector, we have to put it upon ourselves to grow tourism. If we think government is not doing what it ought to do to grow tourism the way it should be, then the question would be, what can the private sector do to start moving things? How can we collaborate with other people? Jumia Travel has a platform where we can sell tourism and travel related packages. We have asking people to come and sell their tour packages. We are also open to collaboration. Private sector needs to look inward to what how to key into the potentials in the tourism industry. We can seriously grow the industry. As private sector, we need government especially in the area of policy making. We need government to take tourism seriously. However, it is a mandate to move things as such as we can even before government starts looking at us. We need to get to the point of being taken seriously before the government would take us seriously and be ready to grow the sector.

What do you think about the fact that Nigeria does not have Tourism Minister?

From the national level, it is a problem. But we focus is not on that. Our focus is on what we can do despite the fact that, we do not have tourism minister. The truth is that, we do not have enabling environment as a country to grow tourism. But, what can we do without having an enabling environment? Nigerians are resilient people, they are goal getters and they want to achieve at all cost. So, how do we bring that mindset in growing the industry? And that is where our focus is. How do we create more jobs? How do we help new tour operators? We should have an institute for those who are interested in tourism to be educated. We should begin to think on how to bridge the gap and even bring more people who would be doing this in future.

Are there things Jumia Travel not doing when it comes to tourism?

We have been doing quite a lot in grooming the next generation. We are reaching out to the National Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, to bring people together on what we can do differently in terms of tourism. We can collaborate more with people who are already in the industry. This is something we have started and we are inviting people what they what to do differently, how we can step in, partner with airlines, tour operators, travel agencies. We want to be that one stop shop that is feeding the tourism and travel ecosystem in this country and we have been steps towards that.

Are there other things people should be expecting from Jumia Travel?

We will always be the one stop shop for travel and tourism. We do flight, hotels, packages and we have started ground transportation, we need visa assistance and you think around travel, you will get with us. We are still open for more collaboration.

In terms of natural resources, how do you hope to explore this area as well as grooming young people?

You have internship for young people. We also train people who want to learn about the business especially in terms of technology. There are lots of potential in using technology to grow the tourism business.   On the subject of NYSC, we have sent a proposal and we are awaiting approval on the levels at which we can partner with NYSC. This is a forum that brings young people all across the country. It is a good avenue to reach out to young people who would be interested in tourism and want to learn the business aspect of it. We see as a good opportunity and we are pursuing it.

What is the chemistry between tourism and technology?

Technology is wrapped in all aspect of life. There is no sector of the economy or industry that you are involved in that does not require technology. Technology is a tool to help you remain relevant in business. We need to understand how to use technology as a tool so as to be vast when it comes to marketing. Gone are the days when you have to visit a travel shop when you can book a flight. 80percent of the population are booking their flight online. You cannot ignore technology in tourism as a tour operator. Technology is a tool or platform that any serious minded business person should look into to grow their business.

Do you think women are being represented in the tourism sector?

Honestly, women are represented going by United Nation World Tourism Organisation, UNWTO, figures, we have practitioners in tourism and travel that is 60 percent women. I think, tourism is an industry that encourages more women and young people to come into business than any other sector. What I will advise is that anybody that is interested in tourism should get up. Tourism is a very fragmented industry and there is so much you can do. Just look for your point of entry and a mentor, work with such individual and grow. Our company today represents 60 percent presence for women and we keep encouraging more women to come into this business. Women are naturally more hospitable, warmer, they have more empathy than men naturally and I think, we are suitable in the tourism and hospitality industry.

 

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