COVID-19: Tourism stakeholders Bemoan Non-Inclusion In Lai Muhammad’s Committee

by Olamilekan Okeowo

…As Industry Operators Seek N150bn Palliative From FG

Following the set-up of a committee by the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to study the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the creative industry and advise the Government on the best way to cushion the effect, National President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria FTAN, Alhaji Saleh Rabo, has questioned the exclusion of her members in the committee.

FTAN is the umbrella body of about 23 tourism-trade associations and professional groups which cumulatively represent the largest number of tourism enterprises across Nigeria.

While speaking on a TV program monitored by The Culture Newspaper, Rabo expressed his dissatisfaction on being sidelined in the scheme of things.

“We had expected the government to sit with us because of what we contribute to the Gross Domestic Product, GDP of the country and also in terms of the numbers of people the tourism/hospitality industry employs. We are however surprised when recently we saw a list of the creative industry committee. Because as far as I am concerned, the list I saw is that of the creative industry, it wasn’t a tourism committee. We were just mentioned on the sides that we are expected to send in our nominees.

“If you are forming a committee for the tourism industry, are you not supposed to make the tourism practitioner the major participants in that committee, unfortunately, this was not done,” he said.

He added that during a recent Presidential Task Force, PTF briefing on COVID-19, when the Minister was asked a question about tourism, “instead of talking on the tourism and hospitality, he was only focusing on the creative industry, I think something is wrong” he said.

On the way forward, Rabo said it had become imperative for FG to sit with the industry operators and fashion out a way of addressing the impact of the pandemic.

“The best way for us to achieve something and be able to move forward is for them to invite us because as the private sector operators of the tourism industry, we are the driver of the tourism industry. It is the government’s responsibility to set policies and create a conducive operating environment. If they do not invite us or involve us in discussions, how can we then work together? How can we then achieve anything? As it is now, they are not inviting us, on our part, we are ready for them. We are not fighting them, we are just not happy at how things are being done presently. All we are interested in is to see the country progress because Nigeria belongs to all of us,” he added.

Before the formation of the Minister’s committee,  FTAN has sought the intervention of the Federal Government in the tourism sector asking for N150bn relief package to keep the sector and practitioners afloat.

According to the association domestic tourism and hospitality businesses and operators should be included in the planned N2trn COVID-19 intervention fund and other proposed palliative measures of the government, a move it said is “expedient and justified.”

FTAN noted that following the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic in March 2020, consequent international travel restrictions, national travel bans, and subnational lockdowns have led to massive cancellations of tourism and hospitality services in destinations all over the world including Nigeria, where hotels and hospitality establishments are running on empty capacity.

“Consequently, the travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors in Nigeria have, unimaginably, taken a direct hit with attendant tales of woes including corporate bankruptcies and large-scale job losses. The inclusion of Nigeria’s tourism and hospitality industry in the Federal Government’s COVID-19 economic stimulus package and palliative measures is expedient and justified, considering the enormous contributions of travel and hospitality sectors to the nation’s overall economic growth and massive employment of labour,” FTAN said.

Rabo, therefore, called on the Federal government to, as a matter of national economic emergency, provide financial intervention and other palliatives to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s tourism and hospitality industry.

“We recommend that the government, through the Economic Sustainability Committee, should apply the N150 billion intervention fund on a combination of different forms of fiscal and monetary measures and palliatives including operational tax reliefs, investments tax holidays, import duty waivers, financial grants for domestic tour operators and other struggling SMEs in the industry.”

The President of FTAN also listed some tourism development policies which could be implemented in Nigeria to promote sustainable tourism development including to Incentivize Tourism Investment, Domestic Tourism Promotion, Tourist Host Community Programs, setting up of a Tourism Advisory Council, and the Establishment of a Tourism Development Fund.

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