By Deji Abdulwahab
Some experts in the tourism and hospitality industry have called for a COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Roadmap for the sector.
They made the call on Friday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sideline of the South South Tourism Stakeholders Forum in Calabar.
The theme of the forum is “The Use of Digital Technology to Revamp the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Amid COVID-19 and Security Challenges in Nigeria”.
Prof. Bassey Esu, a Professor of Marketing, University of Calabar, said the industry had no roadmap after COVID-19 lockdown in the country.
Esu said that after the lockdown, the National Association of Road Transport Workers developed a roadmap to guide its operations but unfortunately stakeholders in the tourism industry were not asked to build a roadmap.
He added that in many events, people gave owners of tourism assets some rules to follow so that there would be no conflict.
“For any organised project, it begins with planning. If you fail to plan, it means you are planning to fail. Nigeria is not left out in the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic has caused.
“There was a lockdown, businesses had been lockeddown. The jobs we were doing were no longer there and had been laid off.
“Now, consumer attitude has changed and the way of behavior has changed. That is why we are saying that the new way of improving things should be put in place.
“What is the new way? This new way should be defined in a document approved by the stakeholders in the tourism industry. The idea is to fill the gap the pandemic has caused to the industry,’’ the don said.
According to him, there must be a purposeful political will of the government to open up the industry by taking some responsibilities to make our country as a destination sellable to even Nigerians before even selling to others.
“That is why we need a COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Roadmap. We have the National Tourism Plan of 2006. This master plan has certain provisions but we are unable to implement.
“What we need is to review it and bring a new reality to make it functional. So, there must be new road set standard and national standard of training must be instituted,’’ the don said.
He also stressed the need for government to invest in infrastructure development in the nation’s tourist sites.
“We have the forest that is called nature tourism and there is no road. You have a beach that has no facilities.
“ And you are marketing the beach and you just show it on visual reality for people to see the beach and crocodile. How do they access it?
“There is the need to improve on infrastructure, let there be good road that a tourist can follow and go.
“Let there be good electricity and drinkable water and of course eateries. These are things that they will come and see,’’ the don said.
Another lecturer of the University of Calabar, Prof. Chris Agbo, urged owners of tourism assets to properly package their products in order to attract potential buyers.
Agbo said, “`some people have a product to sell but they don’t know how to package and present it. If you don’t package your product properly, you won’t sell well. It won’t look attractive and people will just be passing it.
“So, my advice is that those who are into tourism should be able to come together and learn from one another. Some people might be good in packaging, they will support and assist in packaging your products to sell and make money.
“Tourism is the only sustainable industry that Nigeria can boast of. The oil will soon finish but tourism does not finish in fact it gets better, especially with the technological world we are in today.’’
The don also called for the conservation and protection of gorillas to prevent them from going into extinction.
“In the whole world, we have only 300 cross over gorillas and 150 are here with us in Cross River. Gorilla does not give birth to twins, it is only one and they take about eleven months pregnancy.
“So, if you lose one, it is a terrible blow. So, that is the advocacy we are actually doing here and we are asking people to come and join us,’’ he said.
Mr Ini Akpabio, the Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Hotels Management and Tourism Board, identified lack of electricity, poor internet network, high cost of digital equipment as some of the factors hindering the use of digital technology.
Akpabio urged the government and other relevant stakeholders to address the problems in order to revamp the tourism and hospitality industry in the country. (NAN)