Director-General of the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mr Folorunsho Coker, said the new bill of the Corporation is pivotal to the development of Nigeria’s tourism industry.
Coker told ReportersAtLarge in Abuja on Thursday that his administration is strengthening the foundation of the country’s tourism industry.
Recall that The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation Act Cap N137 LFN, 2004 (repeal & re-enactment) bill 2017 (SB.429) started during the 8th Senate. The Bill scaled through all the hearings in the Senate, approved by the House of Reps, but President Muhammadu Buhari withheld assent to the Bill.
Explaining his decision to withhold the assent to the Bill, President Buhari said section 14(d), section 30(2d) of the Nigeria Tourism Development Authority (Repeal and re-enactment) bill contradicts section 4 (1-3) and paragraph 60 (d) of the second schedule of Nigeria’s Constitution.
“Section 30 of the bill proposing to levy a tourism fee on all inbound international travellers, a tourism levy on all outbound travellers and a tourism departure contribution fee of 1 per cent per hotel room rate.
“Such a flat fee has been fixed by the authority and a corporate tourism development levy of 1 per cent to be charged on the revenue of banks, telecommunications and other corporate entities. This will be inimical to the growth of the tourism and hospitality industry in Nigeria and constitute an additional burden on the tourism business,” the sent to the 8th Senate and read by the then Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki reads.
Coker said: “When oil was discovered in Nigeria, a legal framework was created for the industry for smoother and speedy operation. Another legal framework was created for the second generation banks, which revolutionised the banking industry. Then we needed to have digital money, so the telecom revolution was also necessary, and a legal framework was created for it. Tourism is another asset that also requires a legal framework which would allow people to invest in the industry, and for money to move around in tourism ecosystems in a way that is 2020 compliant.
“The legal framework in, for example, Dubai, South Africa and Kenya among others, are 2020 compliant. And these countries keep upwardly reviewing it to ensure an easier way of doing business, access to finances, and working regulations.”
The NTDC boss, who confirmed that the Corporation’s new law had been through the Senate and the House of Representatives, and to the President for assent, explained that “there were certain things in the Bill that were conflicting with the sphere of operations of other agencies, so the President objected to it. It’s been sent back to the House for a clean-up, then back to the President for assent.
He explained that solutions to the challenges facing the Corporation, stakeholders in the industry and the industry at large are embedded in the new legal framework, saying that the new law would bring more funds to Nigeria, “it would generate more revenue through alliance with operators in the private sector, standardisation of hotels and a development levy in the tourism sector.
“So, apart from our allocations from the Federal Government, we now have income streams through alliances with private sector entities and state government in terms of standardisation. We would have a tourism development levy that now goes into tourism development funds.’’
The NTDC DG noted that “financing without new law financing is very difficult. A lot of people take tourism investment as very risky. But if the government guarantees the risk to the lending institution for single-digit tourism loan, nothing more than nine per cent, then tourism would flourish better.”
Coker added that the new law would also improve business relationship with the private sector and develop tourism assets, “It would also allow us to interact better with private sector entities in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) structures where we must approximate the operations of the private sector entity for those things to work.
“PPP is the new magic phrase and the way forward; the government alone cannot do everything, but in partnership between the private sector and the public sector, we can move along.
“NTDC can as well do an international expression of interest and because the legal framework is now there, anybody can see the potential, see that the rules of engagement are clear and come in and invest.’’
Coker, while describing the Corporation as a marketing company, specifically on tourism inflow, said: “With these funds, we would be able to discharge our responsibilities as the marketer of the country’s tourism potentials and assets.”
He further revealed that “The legal framework encapsulates global best practices, which was enacted in 2018, so, you know that it is valid for at least 10 years before we may need to amend it.”
Talking about the efforts of the Corporation to encourage the custodians of the tourism assets in the country and other stakeholders in the industry, Coker said “We participate in major festivals in the country, and afterwards give advice on how to improve on the festivals and tourist sites. As simple as providing good toilets and souvenir shops around the tourist sites and at venues of the festivals would provide better experiences for tourists and visitors, while they also generate employment and create income. We have been encouraging the states to develop tourist sites in their domains.
“We have also continued to encourage organisers of festivals and event to be sacrosanct with them – holding the event when they are supposed to be held, not changing it – this allows people, especially the digital tourism entrepreneurs, to plan and push information out and people to attend the event. This is because anything you do in tourism must be sustainable for it to create meaningful jobs.
“We are fortunate to enough have a lot of natural resources like waterfall, forests, game reserve, parks… but beyond that God has further blessed us new mediums of cultural expression – the music industry; the movie industry, which is the number two in the world; our fashion that everybody pays so much attention to; religious tourism is a serious activity in Nigeria today, even our food, business and economic tourism. These new mediums of cultural expressions need to be well-packaged and sold to the world through the digital space.
Coker emphasised that Tourism isn’t one activity that anybody can just do. “So, we collaborate with other agencies of the government to create a complete service.
“There is a need for tourism policy that develops human capital for tourism. On this note, we have engaged with NIHOTOUR, a sister agency, in terms of training, while also charging the agency to push the educational institution that is already in existence to include tourism on their available courses so as to have more professional in the industry.
We work with the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS), among other government agencies, with the required synergy to make foreigners’ trip to the country seamless – such as ensuring ease in the procurement of their Visa. Visa-on-arrival policy is a plus. We work together with the immigration on this.
On the efforts of the Federal Government on the nation’s tourism development, the NTSC boss said “Every penny the Federal Government spent on the development of infrastructure is for the benefit of NTDC, making Nigeria more appealing to tourists. It is an investment in the tourism industry in the country.”
He also revealed that “We created two brands, the master brand is Tour Nigeria, to encourage people to go around Nigeria. The second one is Nigerian Flavour – our dress, food, music and religion, among others. We want people to TourNigeria to experience the flavours of Nigeria.
“We have held two successful editions of Nigerian Flavours. We encourage states to replicate them in their own regions.”