Every mega city that prides itself high in tourism has tour city buses. From London to Cape Town to Washington to Sydney, these tour city buses have become mini-monuments that appeal to both locals and visitors alike. Tour city buses whether in open-top double-decker or conventional style is one of the best ways to take in the highlights of any city and an elevated view of your surroundings. So, it is a thing of huge pride to learn that next month, the city of Abuja will start its own Tour Abuja City Project.
As a domestic tourism enthusiast, I am of the belief that charity begins at home and there is no better place to show this than putting our money where our mouth is.
With over 7,000 tourist sites and 4,279 hotels in the country, we can definitely get it right with domestic tourism despite our security issues. But questions even the most ardent pro-domestic tourism person will ask remain what state are these sites in? How secure are these sites? Am I getting value for my money from these hotels as I will do in other countries? Will getting there be more of stress than ease? All these questions have to be answered to propel domestic tourism in the country. It’s another summer period and the aircrafts are full to the brim with Nigerians traveling for their summer holiday with millions being expended on ticket fees, hotel and shopping bills. Such major revenue if spent internally can boost our economy, no doubt, out of 170 million Nigerians, if just 20 million Nigerians travel within Nigeria, we would have potential revenue of $4billion. That is something to think about as it will affect all sectors of the economy positively.
So, I was very happy when this was disclosed during the opening ceremony of a two-day NTDC staff retreat, held at the Village Hall of the corporation in Abuja. It was organized to equip the staff on how to generate revenue, as well strengthening their capacity for enhanced service delivery to tourism stakeholders. This is another brilliant initiative of the DG of Nigerian Tourism Development corporation, Sally Mbanefo who believes in capacity building for staff. She said, “I appreciate the fact that staff of the NTDC, the implementers of the corporation’s strategic imperatives, are the core stakeholders in the industry, hence, they must be well equipped and practically made ambassadors of the Nigeria’s tourism industry to drive development in the industry. We must feed the goose that lays the golden egg. As a result, capacity building and staff welfare are the priority on my agenda in repositioning the Nigeria’s tourism industry and promoting domestic tourism in the country.
Meanwhile, the Tour Abuja Project is as a result of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and ABC Transport on promotion of domestic tourism in Nigeria.
The Tour Abuja Project, according to Mbanefo, is to market tourist sites in Abuja, thereby encouraging residents in the city to visit tourist sites therein. She disclosed that ABC Transport had assigned two sight-seeing buses to the project to take Abuja residents from one tourist destination to the other, adding that these buses will pick people from nine designated bus stops to 24 tourist sites/landmarks in Abuja city.
A lot of responsibility comes with such projects on both sides, that is the regulator and the administrator and we cannot afford to get it wrong. The administrator must see to it that it runs professionally with professional and courteous drivers. The buses must be always clean and on schedule. The regulator must insist on professional tour guides who are conversant with these sites and their histories. Both parties must work towards making this a success. We have the large number of citizens to make domestic tourism a resounding success. If we get it right, we can increase the number of tour buses and have night city tours as done in other countries.
But I guess some of the questions I asked in the early paragraphs have been answered already with Mbanefo’s approach to achieving the domestic tourism development and promotion in Nigeria. It is very important to ascertain what state these sites are in before we even start promoting them.
The NTDC boss, earlier in her paper presentation titled, “Promoting Domestic Tourism: Tool for National Economic Development,” described budgetary allocation as the major problem facing the corporation, which according to her, if solved, will enable the corporation properly train its staff; regularly collaborate with the private sector operators in forging new ideas for the sector, and effectively market and promote Nigeria locally to boost domestic tourism. However, she maintained her stand on improving staff welfare amongst other things. “Why all the tourism master plans we have been having in the country did not work is that they abandoned the staff, and pay no or less attention to the welfare of the staff, that are going to drive the project, direct the strategic imperative of the organization,” she disclosed.
With projects like these, domestic tourism has definitely gotten a boost and I look forward to August when I can ride on it and write about it.
Still in the same vein, NTDC of recent signed a pact with The Gambia Tourism Board to propel a rapid development and best practices in the Nigeria’s tourism industry.
Mbanefo, while speaking during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the corporation’s Lagos office, pointed out that the partnership between NTDC and The Gambia Tourism Board was a landmark momentum in the tourism industry in West Africa, as the partnership will also develop and promote a sub-regional tourism brand.
She said: “Nigeria is a catalyst in the development of tourism in West Africa. We have the population, which is a great lubricant in the wheel of developing tourism. We also have the political will to explore the potentialities of the industry.”
The Gambia has an track record of beat practice in the industry. As a result, partnership with The Gambia will enable us to exchange notes, programmes, and share best practices.
Permanent Secretary of The Gambia Ministry of Trade, Mrs Naffie Barry, said that The Gambia, though advanced in tourism, was yet always ready to improve. “This partnership will ensure this. It will promote regional integration. Hence, The Gambia can promote herself in Nigerian and Nigeria can also promote herself in The Gambia. We shall implement the partnership. The partnership should not be seen as between The Gambia Tourism Board and Ministry and NTDC, but as between the two countries. The partnership will not only be a blessing to the two countries, but also the whole of Africa.”