Nigerian youth have been urged to embrace tourism because it is big business. This is was the clarion call from the organisers and eminent personalities that graced the 8th edition of Youth Tourism and Hospitality Leaders Forum at Jogor Center, Ibadan last week. Speaker after speaker stimulated the audience on the prime place tourism would play in the social, cultural and economic life of the country in the coming years.
The event witnessed a full hall of young people from all walks of life, students from tertiary institutions, tourism practitioners, the academics and the media. Scholarly papers were presented by Dr. Raphael Alabi, Coordinator Tourism and Development Programme, University of Ibadan and Ibraheem Kukoyi, Department of Hospitality and Tourism, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
In his opening address, Omololu Olumuyiwa, the Convener, charged the audience on the imperative of for the younger generation to wake up to the realities of great opportunities that abound in the tourism and hospitality industry.
â€œWe now live in a global village in which the travel, tourism and hospitality industry daily assumes greater importance both as key economic industry, as it is today the greatest creator and employer of labour and catering as a major source of revenue earner for many countriesâ€, Omololu explained.
Yemi Alade asserted that tourism is big business. Alade is one of the foremost tour operators within the industry who is in the forefront of stimulating and packaging inbound tourism for audiences from in Asia and other countries into Nigeria. He is the Managing Director of Jemi-Alade Tours.
â€œItâ€™s gladdening to see that our youths are now jeering up for tourism. Yet thereâ€™s still so much to be doneâ€, he said.
â€œTourism is taking what you have in your country, state or locality and packaging it for external audience. Let us open up our minds to know that tourism is about business. Donâ€™t trivialize itâ€, Alade said.
Dr. James Rapheal, on his remarks revealed that he was successfully moved from doing tourism as a hobby and turned it into a profession.
â€œMany people see tourism as capital intensive; but Iâ€™m here to prove to you that itâ€™s notâ€, he exclaimed, and stated that Ibadan has many discovered tourism sites and several undiscovered.
â€œYou might want to spend money travelling out of Ibadan for tours. But why donâ€™t you start from the ones that are nearest to youâ€, he charged the audience.
Abiola Bakare, Sales Manager, Kenya Airways said: â€œTourism is serious business. But if you donâ€™t have passion, you canâ€™t survive in tourism business.
â€œIf you start tourism business today; if you donâ€™t have the passion and training you may not excel in it. Academics need to steer research in the industry. But the challenge is transforming the trainings in tourism into creating jobs.
â€œWhen we talk about inbound and outbound tourism, we need to stimulate our domestic tourism and the last few years we have started seeing growing focus on domestic tourism in this country. And we need to embrace itâ€, he maintained.
During the event, Mr. Kenneth Oudah, Director of Studies for Stay Up Aviation Institute of Technology, Ibadan gave out 5 scholarships on the behalf of his institute.
Awards of distinction were presented to some distinguished gentlemen, among which were Jemi Alade, who received the award of Destination Nigeria Ambassador; Dr. Raphael Alabi, Tourism Educational Ambassador; Dr. Raphael James, Educational Tourism Ambassador; Barrister Bosun Oladele, Youth Tourism Empowerment Ambassador; Tope Ogbeni Awe, Tourism Journalism Achiever and Paschal Ogunkoya, who went home with the Youth Tourism AmbassadorÂ award.