From December 14 to 16, the city of Paris, France, will host tourism stakeholders and investors from Africa and the rest of the world at the Prestigious African Awards. The organiser of the awards, Funmi Rotiba, Chief Executive Officer, Special Tours and Travels Limited, and Imperial House of Culture Limited, a tour ambassador and the “Erelu Asa” of Yorubaland has had a long history in tour and travel management with a capacity for co-coordinating and sustaining relationships. She has had the privilege of representing Nigeria at several conferences and seminars within and outside Africa. She speaks with Omolola Itayemi on the essence of the event and how Africa could harness her tourism potentials, among other issues
Why are you passionate about tourism?
After a degree in Economics from the Lagos State University (LASU), I proceeded for the mandatory one-year National Youth Service programme. After the service year, my quest for a challenging career that will make me outstanding got me into tourism. Further researches made me realise that tourism is a largely untapped diamond in Africa. Thereafter, I got sold on tourism.
Today, my love for tourism is like the love I have for my life. I dream tourism and my passion increases with every passing year. I am particularly delighted today that I have grown and created great jobs for others along the way. It has been a legacy-laying career. Tourism drives me. My passion for every aspect of tourism – the cultural aspect, the traveling and events, and meeting great people is deep.
What are some of the tourism events and groups you have organised or chaperoned?
In the last 12 years, we have served as tour consultants to a number of countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and America. And through hard work and a penchant for results, we have handled great projects. Some of our patrons in recent time include the Oyo State Government, the Federal Government (under the SureP programme), multinational companies, and several schools with excursion to the United States of America and foreign missions.
We also handled various cultural programmes to South Africa, organised cultural tour to São Paulo, Brazil with the Isese and Ase groups and took two World Cup groups to both South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. This is besides foreign trade exhibitions and several summits/training trips that we have helped ministries, departments and agencies to handle across the country.
What are some of the challenges you have witnessed?
Most of the challenges are based on groups and individuals not understanding why they must patronize travel consultants or buy tour packages, majority also prefer to buy visa. But we handle all inclusive travels along with group packages for culture-related travels, tourism, holiday, event, seminars or training.
The other challenges faced include that of securing visas easily for clients who genuinely want to travel and return, issues of clients not having the right documentation, and convincing clients to allow us handle their complete tour package, as it is far cheaper than buying visas.
The Prestigious African Award is a tourism event scheduled to hold between December 14 and 16 in Paris, France. Why the awards and the choice of venue?
Prestigious African Awards is born out of love for Africa and the immense possibilities of tapping into and developing our true tourism potentials. The event shall, among other things, feature a cultural exhibition, an official Hall of Fame, an Imperial beauty pageant and an African Royalty presentation – an interactive session for participants.
Most awards are organised within countries of origin. But we wanted a common and fair ground where each African country could speak about what they want to do and how they want to develop their potential, especially in terms of attracting both foreigners and Africans back to their root. Paris, France is a lovely and bubbling city, which hosts many African people. So, we chose Paris because of the cultural theme and as a common ground.
What do you actually hope to achieve with the award?
Each participating country should expect redefined tourism development programmes and greater collaboration from fellow African countries going forward. The award would also present a good ground for Africans to further cross-fertilise ideas with foreign investors with a view to getting them to come and invest in Africa.
We believe strongly that, after the event, there would be a large turn-out of foreign visitors as tourists to participating African countries. , on the home-front, we believe citizens would also be primed to make more impact at the grassroots.
How would this award be different from others?
When people hear about award events, the concept is almost always known to majority. But this award is different, in that, we are bringing together the decision makers, decree makers, great investors and entrepreneurs. Royal fathers across all African countries would also be in attendance. The concept and idea is different from others. This award is a legacy-laying award; it is not just a party to attend.
You were recently decorated as the ‘Erelu Asa’ by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi. What does this mean to you?
I was chosen among 2,500 culturally-inclined people who are promoting the culture of their land. I was selected due to my numerous generosity and love, my passion for cultural programmes, and my mode and style of dressing.
It was indeed a pleasant surprise for me when, on August 9 this year, I was bestowed with this title. Ever since, however, I have been espousing what that title stands for – serving as an example and educating our people who misconstrue culture (asa) for spirituality and ritual or who love culture but do not know the lines dividing it from religion.
What has been your experience after the title?
It has been wonderful. Most people are usually surprised that I am quite young and could also communicate very well. They seem to expect an older title holder. Another reasonable number of people engage with me on religion, forgetting that culture (Asa) is a way of life. The work I am doing with this title has been redefining me and promoting me everywhere I go across the world.