Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) has said that its 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be used to awaken, rediscover and realign its members to the original objectives of the apex association which is to market destination Nigeria and stimulate increased influx of tourists in to the country. The theme for the meeting is, Nigeria Tourism: the missing link in a diversified economy, and it will hold in Calabar, Cross River State pn the 11th February 2016.
According to Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, President of NATOP, the apex association is laden with the ‘responsibility to market and attract influx of tourists to the country; but for a long time many of us has deviated from that purpose, choosing to market other destinations in Nigeria, taking our people to other countries while we leave our own country less marketed as a destination. This year’s AGM is set to change all that’.
The need for this change of focus, according to the president, is necessitated against the backdrop of dwindling numbers of tourists arriving Nigeria which has also reflects on falling fortunes in the earnings for both tour operators and Nigeria as a whole.
He noted that, ‘Nigerian tour operators are the biggest suppliers of tourists on the continent. In 2015 Africa suffered 3% loss on arrival, down from 4% annual growth in the past years. And despite a shrinking spending power due to the falling prices, a lot of Nigerians still travelled abroad. The interim figure from NCAA showed that more than $1.5 billion US dollars was spent on international flight tickets last year’.
Onung said that that tour operators have been at the fire front of supplying tourists other countries outside Nigeria, but that such trend has to change. But he equally noted that Nigeria has abundant tourism resources which are not being properly packaged by the States for proper marketing.
The Naija 7 Wonders, supported by NATOP, has documented 55 top tourism destinations in Nigeria, but these sites are owned by these States. So, we are inviting the owners of the tourism products to come and meet with the tour operators to create a synergy.
Going down memory lane, the NATOP President, while speaking to journalists revealed that ‘this year’s AGM will hold in Calabar, because it was in Calabar in the year 2000 that NATOP Through the support of FAAN, ADC, BA and Mrs. Onari Duke help drive the rise of Cross River as a tourism destination.
At the AGM, NATOP will honour those visionary supporters who worked hard to creat the tourism vision that Cross River implemented and delivered. Outside Cross River NATOP has partnered with Naija 7 Wonders to promote destinations Nigeria. And for the first time in Nigeria in 2012, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) during the tenure of Otunba Gbenga Runsewu as Director General that Nigerian tour operators were involved in World Travel Market (WTM). NATOP also partnered annually with Akwaaba African Travel Market to bring people into Nigeria.
The president also noted that the guest speaker for this year’s event will be Professor Pat Utomi, and he would be speaking on the theme of the conference, while he went on to reveal that the sponsors for this year’s event is sponsored by South Africa Tourism, Rwandair, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Cross River State, and NCMM.
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State is the Chief Host, and there will be presentations by the Chairman of the Carnival Calabar, Gab Onah. The Special Guest of Honour is the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, while the Lagos State Commissioner for tourism and culture, Mr. Folorunsho Folarin-Coker will present a paper titled., ‘Converting Our 9-digit Population to Money: the Lagos Perspective’.
Hloni Pitso, the West African Regional Director of South Africa Tourism, which is one of the sponsors will present another paper titled, ‘How Government Policies Drive Tourism: Lessons from South Africa’. Mrs. Dayo Keshi, Director General of National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC) will speak on the role of culture in the development and promotion of Nigeria, while the Director General of National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Alhaji Usman, will speak on Preserving Nigeria’s Heritage and Monuments for a Tourism Economy.
The NATOP’s annual general meeting is reaching out with invitation to all culture and tourism parastatals, and to all State tourism commissioners and tourism boards to come and present their tourism products to tour operators.