We want industry professionals to head tourism parastatals, says FTAN BoT Chairman

Chief Samuel Alabi is a former president of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN)  and he is the current Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman of the federation. He was one of the special guests of honour and an  awardee of the National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism’s (NIHOTOUR) industry merit award at the World Gastronomy Day 2022 held recently at the International Conference Centre Abuja, Nigeria.

In this interview with Africa Travel Herald (ATH), Alabi shares his opinion on the event and also made some suggestions on the way forward for tourism in Nigeria. Excerpts:

What is your impression of the 2022 World Gastronomy Day celebration organized by the NIHOTOUR?

This is unprecedented. I have been in this industry for more than 30 years; I can say confidently with my position in the tourism industry and specifically in the hospitality sector, this is unprecedented and should be done annually. 

This is a way of exporting Nigerian cuisines abroad. This will encourage our guys to export their skills to places like Canada, America and other places. As the Chinese Kitchen everywhere in the world, it is high time we had Nigerian kitchen. I can tell you what I have seen today… I don’t know that we have varieties of food like that-North West, South West, South South , some of the items, I had to be educated before I could eat them.

Even as a Nigerian and from the hospitality industry?

Yes, even from the South West that I am from, I found out that there are cuisines that I have never seen before, and I tasted them, and they were wonderful. It is a worthwhile venture; I hope proper packaging will be done to export these items.

In what area do you think it could be improved upon?

From what I have seen, it is about time and space. The exhibition and food tasting supposed to be given more time and space, because some of us were not able to move as freely as possible. This is because of the large number of attendants. The turnout and exhibitors were very encouraging. You have China, Ethiopia and so on, you have them like that.

And then you ask yourself how did they conceived this programme that it will have such high level of response?   I can tell you, this is it. I hope government, by extension would not rest it here. They will continue to organise it, and before we know it, Nigerian graduates, Nigerians who are ready to do it, will begin to push abroad with this.

On another note, to see the mobile kitchen, was something else. It was designed so much so that if there are event, the vehicle will be driven there, there and then you have a kitchen with state-of-the-art facilities.

Guests can be served ala carte…

Yes, there in the kitchen. It is there complete. Anything you want in the kitchen, it is there. So, you ask yourself, these ideas where do they come from?

But he was your former Vice President, FTAN North West…

That is what I am saying. You know I was earlier interviewed before, I said I am not surprised Turaki Nura Kangiwa is doing well. He was in the industry before he was appointed. He was not just appointed because somebody loves his face. No, because they have put a round peg in a round hole, it is making NIHOTOUR a success, and this is not the only thing he has done. He has done a lot of things. So, the government should continue with such practice.  Bring people from the industry, they will not do copy and paste, they will be doing their own. I have known NIHOTOUR for long, when has NIHOTOUR done this in the past?

Are you saying the director general of NIHOTOUR has made a case for appointment of industry practitioners into key sector positions in the public sector?

Yes, that is what I am say. And you can see the way he was moving around freely. You can’t see anything ‘DG’ in him. You know some people will go and sit in one corner…can’t you see he was going around?

I didn’t see…

No, he was very free because he is an industry man. He didn’t see himself as anything. He moves about telling people what to do. We should at least give some positions on merit and experience to add value to the industry.