Hospitality Providers Should Create Experiences to Capture Interest in Local Tourism Market, Says Ogunseinde

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The Executive Director, Uraga Real Estate Limited, Moyo Ogunseinde, said leisure and hospitality providers should create packages and experiences to capture the long-term interest of the local tourism market.

She disclosed this at the maiden edition of the West Africa Tourism Roundtable Series themed: ‘Domestic Tourism and COVID-19 – trends, and paths to sustainable hospitality, travel, and tourism businesses in West Africa’ in Lagos recently

Speaking on the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry and new paths to consider, Ogunseinde, said “it is important that leisure and hospitality providers ensure that we create packages and experiences to capture the long-term interest of the local tourism market.”

The Executive Director, who shared insights on the experience of hotel operators in Nigeria during COVID-19, hinted that hotel operators had to re-strategise and focus on the domestic leisure tourism market, whereas hitherto, the focus had been on the business and international tourism market.

Ogunseinde charged the participants to address some of the challenges of creating a local tourism market across the country.

In her remarks, Senior Advisor at Red Clay Advisory, Dr. Adun Okupe, stated that the tourism roundtable series was conceived because “we need to come to articulate ourselves better in West Africa and identify ourselves as tourism professionals, no one is going to do it for us.”

The roundtable series is a platform for knowledge sharing, networking, and more importantly deliberations on problem-solving to address the most critical challenges the industry faces, which would have a catalytic impact on the development of the tourism industry in West Africa.

In his remarks, the Senior Expert on Communications in Africa at the United Nations World Trade Organisation (UNWTO), Kojo Bentum-Williams, posited that “if we are ready to promote tourism in West Africa, we will need laws, mechanisms, infrastructure, and financing opportunities for businesses within the sector.”

Bentum-Williams, who was the guest speaker, maintained that there is much to be done, especially in connecting investors, updating the legal framework, and building the hard and soft infrastructure required for tourism development in West Africa.

In her remarks, the Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), Teju Abisoye, explained that it was important to create stronger linkages between the public and private sector, through active engagement.

“The potential of the tourism industry in West Africa needs to be harnessed, in a tangible way to make strong contributions to sustainable development. One of the key reasons for the slow growth of tourism in West Africa is the lack of prioritisation of the sector by the government.

“Yet, the government is faced with competing demands, requiring the tourism sector to develop its own voice and use this strongly to ensure tourism is given the priority it deserves and can make contributions to sustainable development.”

The hybrid online and physical event was well-attended by investors, real estate developers, travel operators, architects, designers, and tourism consultants across West Africa. Information was also traded to drive manageability and sustainability in the tourism industry during the session.

The statement asserted that the four breakout sessions brought about strategies, ideas, and actionable plans for the development of tourism in West Africa.

According to the statement: “Each roundtable was assigned to discuss identified topics relating to the theme of the event of unpacking the West Africa tourism economy, is there really an economy; the proposed areas for focus for domestic and regional tourism in West Africa, the extent to which COVID-19 has created opportunities for domestic and regional tourism and the proposed areas of focus for this and finally, how to ensure a stronger tourism network for tourists and service providers is created across West Africa.

“It is important to professionalise the sector and change its perception from a casual employer of entry-level staff to a serious employer of labour. The industry requires mid and senior-level tourism experts across a range of professions including tourism law, tourism infrastructure, tourism financing, hospitality-concept creators, brand managers, public relations experts, and the like.

“How can we attract the best minds to the industry? And how do we expand the range of activities of agents already within the tourism industry?

“Together with this, it is important for the agents across West Africa to identify and share best practices, what works, what doesn’t work well? How do we ensure the tourism industry is a learning one and how do we have a circular economy within the industry that focuses on learning and evolution?

“This circular tourism economy approach requires active engagement with the public sector to ensure that policies are made that benefit the sustainable development of the sector.

“We need to identify the public officials at the various levels who have travel, hospitality, and tourism as part of their portfolios. This can be expanded to include the creative sector which feeds into the tourism industry.

“To effectively engage as a sector, data is imperative as a tool to demonstrate the contributions of the tourism industry to the economy, and to socio-cultural and environmental development. How do we quantify these contributions?

“What metrics are we going to use? It is important that these metrics are harmonised and standardized across the region to take advantage of existing regional agreements and institutions in West Africa. Data is also important for decision-making and operational efficiencies.

“This data-driven approach can then be used to make the case for and develop destinations in West Africa, many of which remain in their natural, undeveloped states.

“To become attractive tourist destinations, concerted efforts need to be taken to elevate the natural attractions into tourism destinations with activities to engage in, and a programme/schedule of events to ensure that visitors have a range of activities to engage in when they visit.”