Coker: Tourism is Business, Not Arts nor Culture

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Demola Ojo

The Director General of the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mr Folorunsho Folarin-Coker, has stressed the need for a businesslike approach to the development of tourism in Nigeria.

Speaking Tuesday at the Jumia Hospitality and Tourism Conference 2017 held in Lagos, Coker appealed to stakeholders to perceive tourism through the lens of business, rather than the prism of arts and culture.

“I would like to define clearly that tourism is a business. It’s not arts, it’s not culture. It consumes the products of culture that throws up a unique art. But it’s a business. There’s a general misunderstanding, especially in government, where it’s tourism, arts and culture. No. By default, the people have a culture. The culture throws up a unique art.

“Tourism is the business of transportation and hospitality that consumes those things that culture throws up.”
Coker – who was keynote speaker at the conference – addressed an audience that included many players in the tourism industry, especially budding entrepreneurs using new media as a marketing tool to drive tourist activity within Nigeria.

Continuing he reaffirmed NTDC’s focus on domestic tourism. “I’m honestly not looking at the millions of dollar-earning foreigners to charge into Nigeria and spend the same kind of money they spend in Rio or Ibiza. The only way we are going to grow that international market is if we have a strong domestic market.

“In America in winter, they move from New York to Miami. In the UK, they move from London to Brighton. Those domestic industries are shock resistant because it’s dependent on the people there.”

In his opinion, domestic tourism is also the only sustainable form of tourism because even when cases of terrorism occur – like it has in some of the leading global destinations – the people don’t leave because it’s home for them.

Coker continued, “Nigeria has immense power with a population of close to 200 million with 76 per cent mobile penetration. You have three billion impressions a day, people who spend three hours daily on their mobile decives. That is soft power. Some of you using social media to drive your businesses, that is the power you are unleashing.”

Listing the country’s selling points he said, “We have music which pretty much dominates Africa and is heard all over the world. We have film; Nollowood is number two in the world, at least by numbers. And you can’t tell me you don’t see the influence of Nigeria’s fashion…

“When you take the music, the film, the fashion; this is lifestyle. Lifestyle is simply our new mediums of cultural expression. So instead of the Atilogu dancers, you can have Wizkid and Davido.”

Coker shared his vision of stimulating the industry. “We can subscribe – in our domestic focus – to a digitally-driven, entertainment-fueled tourism agenda,” he said.

He explained that the bedrock of tourism is not the big footprint of foreign brands but rather, the many cottage industries manned by passionate indigenes. “That is what allows tourism be the largest employer of labour in the world, even over the oil industry.”
Speaking further he said; “We’ve created the Tour Nigeria brand, for us to focus and create an emotional connection to Nigeria our country, and look at what we have and how we can better consume it.

“We know the new mediums of cultural expression of our Nigerian film, our Nigerian music, our Nigerian art. That is what we’re going to tour around Nigeria.”

Using the example of the One Lagos Fiesta he birthed as Commissioner for Tourism in Lagos State, he proffered that if this can be replicated in different locations across the country, there can be a January to December tourism calender.

“If you know what is happening in Calabar, Enugu, Sokoto, Bauchi, it allows you to plan, it allows you to forward buy, it allows you to discount. We’re trying to create within the Tour Nigeria concept, a calender of events that allows the tourism industry to create packages.”

The DG NTDC also let the audience in on its action plan to move the Nigerian tourism industry forward via the CHIEF acronym. “CHIEF is something majority of Nigerians can identify with. CHIEF represents Corporate Governance & Regulations; Human Capital Development; Infrastructural Development; Events and Marketing; and Finance & Investment.

“I would also like to look at the financing and the titles of some of our traditional destination.”

Like real estate, he suggested that these titles could be used to raise funds for the sites’ development. Clusters also need to be developed around these sites to stimulate productivity and commerce, generating revenue in the process.

Coker also spoke on the current senate hearing on the amendment of the NTDSC act. “Looking at the regulatory framework, the NTDC was set up in 1992. Looking at 1992 and today, so much has changed. Before, everything was advertised in the newspaper, now it’s online. How much was a dollar in 1992, how much is a dollar today What is the demand for tourism today? What is our population? So many things have changed. But the legal framework that governs the tourism industry is still from 1992.”

He continued that the present senate has, thankfully, looked into this issue and hopefully, new laws would be passed to help vitalise and reinvigorate the tourism industry in Nigeria.

After Coker’s speech which was received with rapturous applause, there were two panels to discuss, analyse and shed more light on burning issues related to the tourism industry in an evolving global economy.

The first panel themed ‘Using New Media to Merchandise Major Nigerian Sites and Destinations’ had as participants Chiamaka Obuekwe of Social Prefect Tours, Funmi Oyatogun of TVP Adventures, Fahrenheit Hospitality, Jeff Fischer of Welcome Centre, Paul Okojie of Golden Tulip and Damilola Koya of Eko Hotel & Suites.