NTDA: Gradually killing tourism in Nigeria

Posted on: November 22, 2023, by :

*Almost two years after NTDA Act of 2022, agency still comatose

Folorunsho Coker, DG NTDA

In the less than five months from now, the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Authority (NTDA) Mr. Folorunsho Folarin-Coker would have completed the third year of his second and last tenure as head of the apex federal agency in charge of tourism marketing and development in Nigeria . He would have headed that agency for seven uninterrupted years.
He was first appointed as head of the agency in March 2017, and reappointed in 2021.
It is not too early to start looking at the last seven years that Coker has been in-charge of public sector tourism in the country.
At inception, Coker articulated his vision for Nigeria tourism. He promised to de-emphasize foreign tourism programmes and pay more attention to domestic tourism. Many industry practitioners hailed this vision and believed that a focus on domestic tourism would boost the industry and create new business opportunities for practitioners.
Coker came up with ‘CHIEF’ agenda as his mantra, which was encapsulated in a five-point agenda.
For those wondering what CHIEF means, it is: C-corporate governance and regulation; H-human and capital development (this encourages creation of jobs and engagement with tourism stakeholders); I-infrastructural development; E-events and marketing; F-finance and investment.

The failure of CHIEF
To drive this agenda, NTDA under Coker conceived the Tour Nigeria brand ostensibly to ‘drive domestic consumption, commercialize tourism and generate employment’. So far, almost seven years down the line, how has this vision fared? Tour Nigeria project is only mouthed on the pages of newspapers. It has no impact in any way in tourism development or marketing in the country.
In the area of corporate governance, the agency in the last seven years has regressed under the current leadership. Years back, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) which is now NTDA was at the forefront managing, and coordinating activities and programmes to elevate the industry at both local and international levels. As at today, the only NTDA’s publicised development effort was the building of a toilet facility some years back in Plateau State. It would be nice for the leadership of the NTDA to mention other projects.
In the last two years, hardly would any stakeholder point to a single activity that the NTDA has embarked upon effectively. The national tourism calendar currently boosts of mostly private sector initiated projects like the National Tourism and Transportation Summit (NTTS), the Akwaaba West Africa Travel Market, and others. The only major programme from the public sector comes from NIHOTOUR, the Gatronomy Festival. Where does the NTDA feature in all these?
Billions are voted annually to the NTDA as the apex tourism agency, yet there is little or no activities to show for it. Rather than develop tourism, the parastatal through its inertia, is killing tourism in Nigeria.
In the past, there was a semblance of efforts by the agency to register its presence at international airports, hospitality establishments, tour sites, and religious establishments to collate data to have an idea of tourism activities in the country. Under the current dispensation, this has been jettisoned.
Human and capital development which Coker mouthed is almost zero. There is an imperial air that the leadership of NTDA exudes in relationship with the private sector tourism practitioners. It never makes any meaningful efforts to engage the private sector to know its problems and make efforts to solve them, and by extension, move the industry forward. To the leadership of the NTDA, practitioners are like irritants that needed to be kept at arm’s length.
Despite the annual budget the NTDA receives from the government, there is little or no programme it organizes that adds meaning to the industry in Nigeria. So, the question is: what exactly is the NTDA doing for tourism in Nigeria?
The WTM 2023 embarrassment by NTDA
The most embarrassing and rather shameful display of all, was the NTDA director general’s recent visit to Nigeria’s stand at the 2023 World Travel Market (WTM). This was a programme the NTDA used to organise the industry to participate and exhibit in the past.
After so many years of Nigeria’s absence, the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) decided to champion Nigeria’s participation in the foremost global travel exhibition. While the heads of other national tourism agencies led their countries to WTM, the NTDA boss was a passive participant, a visitor rather than player. How can the industry grow with this kind of attitude?
All the efforts in building the Nigeria’s brand at such global event, has been squandered. 24 years after, Nigeria is re-enacting the infamous non-participation like at WTM 1999 which Iechi Uko’s Travellers Magazine dubbed ‘Obasanjo’s Shame in London.’
Despite the clear cut lofty roap map the NTDA under the current leadership set for itself, it has been unable to walk the talk, as a result, tourism is dying in Nigeria.
The initial complaint was that the NTDA found it difficult to function due to the old act setting it up.
For six years, the leadership lobbied and pushed for a new act. This was achieved in February 2022, when former President Muhammadu Buhari signed the new Nigerain Tourism Development Authority Act of 2022 into law. Despite this, NTDA is still in doldrums. The question now is, what does the NTDA leadership have as excuse for non-performance?
Until industry practitioners a re ready to demand performance from the NTDA, things might not change, tourism in the country would continue to die slowly.

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