NATOP strengthens bids to grow domestic tourism in Nigeria

•As stakeholders commend Ooni on tourism innovation

The National Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) has practically continued to open newer frontiers, to not only creating a domestic cluster and circuit for seamless travel and promotion of tourism, but also strengthening the value chain of developing a national road map for domestic tourism in Nigeria.

Since the reactivation of its Annual General Meeting year back, the association has re-established a rallying point for industry players in the allied tourism sector to see the reason for meeting minds on how to practically repositioning the domestic front of Nigerian tourism.

In the last three years, NATOP visibility was anchored on it genuineness in strategically investing time and money to explore old destination and discovering newer ones through different pre and post events domesticated tailored tour packages to assess and prepare promotion materials to sell tourists sites, products and destinations.

To its credit, Cross River, Lagos, Kaduna and Plateau states have been visited with post visit testimonies of NATOP’s practical promotion which improved their tourists’ arrival afterwards.

Recently, the association strengthened the tourism status of Ile Ife in Osun State, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi hosted the fourth edition of the NATOP AGM at the Ife Grand Resort, an opportunity that did not only availed tour operators across the country to visit the rich tourists offers of Ife and Osun State but also to synergise on possible ways to attract domestic and diaspora tourists to the credo of the Yoruba race.

The pre-AGM seminar which had in attendance core tourism stakeholders in the public and private, among who are the Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture(NCAC), Chief Segun Runsewe; Representative of the Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation(NTDC), Mr Folarin Coker; President of Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria(FTAN), Mr Rabo Saleh; President National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mr Bankole Bernard; Representative from the Ministry of Information and Culture, Chief Executive Office of INFOGEM, Chief Ayo Olomoko; Osun State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Culture and Tourism. Dr

In her opening remark, the president of NATOP, Hajia Bilikisu Abdul who was in high spirit thanked the attendees for being part of history, adding NATOP is devoted to development issues in the area of policy, advocacy, promotions as well as development of tourist destinations and attractions, including creation of enabling environment for her members to thrive and engage in activities and events that aim to add value to the Nigerian society.

She expressed optimism that the theme of the AGM which is discussing the impact of culture, partnership and governance will enable the association to achieve sustainable tourism development in Ile Ife, Osun State and Nigeria.

Speaking the Chairman, Board of Trustees of NATOP, Mr Nkereuwem Onung, lauded the Ooni of Ife for his giant strides in tourism and called for synergy between the tour operators and the monarch, adding that the private sector needs to convince government to give recognize and attention to tourism.

“There is need for us to join hands together to grow tourism and also put pressure on the government of President Buhari to prioritise tourism. We believe that the low hanging fruits of tourism will grow our GDP.”

The Director-General of National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC), Chief Segun Runsewe. Runsewe commended NATOP members for holding their AGM in the culturally and historically important city of Ile-Ife.

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi who received NATOP members with great enthusiasm for choosing Ife for their AGM, also thanked the NCAC boss, Chief Runsewe for the high value and premium placed on cultural promotion in Nigerian and for his foresight at sustaining the tempo.

Oba Ogunwusi who bestrides the cradle of the Yoruba race and sits on the oldest traditional throne in Black Africa, commended Runsewe for pushing the quest for a new culture economy to the front burner of national discourse, making Nigerians very proud.

“I can see everything turning around for culture and tourism in Nigeria very soon and I stand to appreciate Runsewe’s undivided attention and dedication to see the sector blossom profitably” he said.

The Ooni, who is also a frontline investor in tourism economy with the Ife Grand Resort planted to drive domestic tourism, called on the private sector to join hands with Runsewe to change and sustain the positive narratives for cultural tourism as poverty buster and employment influencer.

Earlier in his address, Chief Runsewe, who led industry operators to appreciate the Oba for hosting NATOP delegates, praised the vision of the Ooni of Ife for transforming the geo-tourism and economic landscape of Ile-Ife through the luxury resort.

“This place is a masterpiece planted by a visionary leader and I am encouraged by this very significant intervention which represents the very picture of what we want to see in Nigeria from our people and other traditional rulers,” Chief Runsewe.

To further open the resort and the entire Ife land tourism architecture to visitors, the NCAC boss told the Ooni to use his goodwill to attract the construction of a light rail from Lagos to Ile-Ife.