FOLORUNSHO Coker, in a statement by the Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, was appointed as the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Saturday, April 1, 2017. He replaced Dr. Paul Adalikwu who was acting as the Corporation’s boss on secondment, from the Ministry of Water Resources. And Coker fully resumed Tuesday, April 11 (exactly a year today).
Prior Coker’s appointment, three acting DGs – Sir Borniface Eboka, Mrs. Mariel Rae-Omoh and Dr. Paul Adalikwu – presided over the affairs of the Corporation, after Mrs. Sally Mbanefo was relieved of her job as the NTDC boss.
Coker’s appointment was applauded, welcomed, and predicted as a turning point for the Corporation and the Nigerian Tourism industry at large by major Tourism stakeholders and observers of the industry. Confirming the predictors’ submission about his appointment, Folorunsho Coker turned out to be a vibrant and ebullient administrator who casts new light on old problems, the unusual one who solves unusual problems and moves on to anticipate and tackle new ones as they come. He sees opportunities where ordinary men see problems.
The NTDC boss, through his conduct, style of approach and responses to tourism issues in the last 12 month has eminently displayed a robust sense of understanding of the tourism sector, with visible achievements as testimonies, which have redefined the Nigerian Tourism industry.
Nine, among Coker’s achievements within a year of steering the ship of the NTDC, which have not only positioned the Nigerian Tourism industry for speedy development, but have also revolutionised the sector for blissful economic engagement are:
Improving NTDC Workers’ Working Environment
He intelligently evaluated the strength of the NTDC, which is the workforce, and how to get the best out of them. Consequently, he put machinery in place to improve on the working environment of the NTDC workers, significantly renovated the Corporation’s headquarters in Abuja and Zonal Office in North West (Jos), and acquired a new befitting office for the Zonal Office in South West (Lagos). He also improved the staff welfare packages in the areas of promotions, health benefits, and service benefits for retirees.
Introduction of the New Nigerian Tourism Road Map
Having put machinery in place to ensure a better working environment for the NTDC workers, Coker then came out with the new Nigerian Tourism Road Map, a five-point action plan – acronymic CHIEF (Corporate Governance & Regulations, Human Capital Development, Infrastructural Development, Events and Marketing, and Finance & Investment) – to promote and develop the tourism industry by promoting domestic tourism and encouraging ease of doing business in Nigeria.
Introduction of the New Tourism Master Brand, #TourNigeria
He also introduced a well thought out, finely honed and sharpened new Tourism Master Brand, ‘Tour Nigeria’, to unlock and tap the creative fortunes in the tourism industry. Tour Nigeria, a marketable product initiated for the promotion of domestic tourism, focuses on creating an emotional connection to Nigeria, and looks at what the country is blessed with and how Nigerians can better consume it.
Declaration of Tourism as a Business
Coker stressed the need for a businesslike approach to the development of tourism in Nigeria and appealed to stakeholders to see tourism through the lens of business, rather than the prism of arts and culture. This, he expressed optimism, would accelerate practical development of the industry.
Working on a Contemporary Legal Framework
Acknowledging the fact that only by having a well fettered legal framework, duly passed and assented to by the legislature and the executive can there be a viable, vibrant, productive, progressive and economically rewarding tourism sector, Folorunsho Coker pursued the passage of the new NTDC Act through the Nigerian Senate – NTDA, Act N137 LFN, 2004 (Repeal and Enactment) Bill 2017 (SB 429) – now pending in the Federal House of Representatives for concurrence. The complete success of this will practically empower the Corporation to develop, promote and market the Nigerian Tourism industry, thereby advancing the sector and making Nigeria and Nigerians hugely benefit from the enviable goodies of the sector, just like their foreign counterparts. No doubt, the absence of a legal framework in the constitution and statutes had stagnated the advancement of the tourism sector in Nigeria.
Exploring the Digital Technology to Drive the Nigerian Tourism Promotion
Keying into the immense power of Nigeria, with a population close to 200 million and 76 per cent mobile penetration, Coker chose to drive tourism promotion in Nigeria with digital technology. In the light of this also, he commenced the digitalisation of NTDC with the training and empowering of staff in collaboration with Google for best practice in the tourism business, particularly in the area of data gathering. This, no doubt, is a viable means to sell the Nigerian tourism, not only to Nigerians, but to the global world.
Adding of New Mediums of Expression for Tourism
Coker also added new mediums of tourism expression for tourism – music, fashion and food – which are capable of driving his domestic promotion plans. This informed the debut of the ‘Nigerian Flavours’, an event held in Abuja, in collaboration with the NIHOTOUR, and aimed at showcasing the rich culinary diversity of Nigerian cuisine and delicacies. He also partnered with private enterprises for the successful hosting of events such as Delphino Picnic, Jam Rock Easter Fiesta, Wizkid Live in Concert, The Beach Carnival, Felabration in Abuja, Africa Fashion Week and Bayside Vibes Festival in Takwa Bay, just to mention a few, in encouraging tourism value chain.
Coker’s acknowledgement of the dare and urgent need to develop tourist sites in the country led to the draft preliminary tourism development plan for the rehabilitation of the Tiga Dam, Kano State; National Park and Zoo, Abuja; Katampe Hill, Abuja, and Owu Waterfalls, Kwara State, while Kura Falls – 64 hectares of land allocated by Plateau State Government is under design at present.
Finance and Investment
The ebullient NTDC boss also improved collaboration and partnership with both private and public entities, and other stakeholders for support towards the development of the tourism industry in Nigeria. He also considered it expedient to increase and improve budget performance in project execution and implementation between April 2017 and April 2018; while he identified a new source of revenue generation for the Corporation through event marketing (ticketing, sponsorship and vendor management) which has improved NTDC’s income stream.
Going by the pace of Folorunsho Coker’s strides at sailing the ship of the NTDC and driving the Nigerian Tourism industry within the last one year, there is brighter hope that by the end of his tenure at the Corporation, Nigeria will walk tall among the comity of tourism nations.