There is a close affinity between culture, arts, and tourism. A sound tourism education must of necessity have arts and cultural contents and vice-versa.
With Mrs. Chika Balogun, Director-General of the National Institute for Hospitality & Tourism, piloting the affairs of NIHOTOUR, her experience as one time project anchor in the celebration of Nigeria's culture week in China and in Brazil, and her membership of the National Heritage Council and Endowment for the Arts, will no doubt come handy in the fulfillment of stakeholders' expectations of a synergy between arts, culture, and tourism.
But getting tourism education right has always been a major challenge in the quest to get Nigeria blossom in global tourism business. Indeed, home front tourism education has no focus and lacks sustainable definition. It was from zero to zero until Chika Balogun came to the scene almost four years ago.
For over 30 years, 1987 to be precise, the birth and successful lobby by Nigeria to serve as creative tourism education hub in West Africa powered by International Labour Organisation and other United Nations agencies, met with brick walls of ineptitude and organisational dislocation.
The Institute had mushroomed early at formation under the contraption of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, which could not help its overall objective of producing trained tourism hands to service the emerging hospitality and tourism enterprises across West Africa. It was then a mere department.
Before Chika Balogun came, the National Institute for Hospitality & Tourism, NIHOTOUR, hemorrhaged, not only from poor funding but also from misinterpretation and misapplication of its core values and mandate. NIHOTOUR bled from poor vision and mandate execution, making it fit only as conduit pipe to waste and fritter away government meager funding for tourism education.
Significantly, the Institute lacks the statutory powers to husband effectively tourism education within Nigeria's federating units, having sadly lost its frontier privilege in West Africa.
From the Bagauda Kano head office, signs of imminent collapse stared this all important tourism training and certification school in the face. The feeble attempt to relocate the operational structure to Abuja under Munzali Dantata was a mere sleaze to confound the beggar status to which the school was reduced to.
Desirous of breathing life into the 'dead' Institute, the government brought Chika Balogun, a supposedly 'green horn' to superintend a fresh start for NIHOTOUR. Balogun was then not known in Nigeria's tourism circles. The industry players kicked and waited for President Buhari to push her out with the winds of change blowing across the entire national administrative environment.
It was a dream aborted as Buhari held on to Chika Balogun to break the backbone of 30 years of neglect and lack of direction for NIHOTOUR. Indeed, Chika Balogun's forays into the Institute's strategic rebirth met with disdain and at some point, instigated tourism public and stakeholders' bitterness and dismay.
Chika Balogun held on to her vision to run through the race with unexplainable humility, hard work and stride to make a difference. First, she had to tour the over 14 training centres of NIHOTOUR across Nigeria, from Kano to Enugu, Osun to Benue, all by road and at the risk of her life, a passion very uncommon with women in government or even men who see their position as means to fly first class.
Soon and within four years, NIHOTOUR rebranded, won the hearts of stakeholders, fronted democratised process of tourism education and playing the role of tourism education incubator and facilitator. From providing the needed parameters for standardization of services in the sector, NIHOTOUR under Chika Balogun brought most states in the federation to key into the gains of having tourism training schools and need to create youth tourism empowerment centres.
The Project Smart Jobs in collaboration with Consolidated Alliance Group attests to Chika Balogun's futuristic vision to transform tourism education through the private sector. Today, this effort has turned out over 1,000 employable and self-employed influencers in Edo State. Enugu, Benue, Bayelsa, Kano, Lagos, Plateau and other states are basking in this prosperity.
In Nigeria's tourism space, Chika Balogun has rebuilt the battered image of NIHOTOUR. An orator with strategic academic background from Kent University in the UK and Harvard University, this University of Jos alumna has skills in project management and construction which she deployed to re-establish NIHOTOUR as Nigeria's prime tourism training and certification citadel.