Africa: ‘Appoint Tourism Practitioners in Decision Making Positions’ – Rita Obidike, SKAL President Lagos and Top 100 Tourism Personalities Winner
The recently held Abuja Jabamah Tourism Expo has come and gone but not without a list of Top 100 Travel Professionals inducted and celebrating the recognition .One of the winners is Rita Ofure Obidike who is the President of SKAL Lagos Nigeria.
In this interview with our correspondent FRANCIS OGWO ,the journalist turned tour operator speaks on the Tourism sector in Nigeria and more:
ATQ: Pls tell us about your journey into Tour Business
It was divine! I came to a point in my life when I needed to think of what career or business to adopt. I looked inwards and asked myself – what would I love to do even without getting paid for it? I could only think of travel and tourism. And that’s one of the best decisions I ever took in my life
ATQ:Why the career switch away from journalism.Was it chance or passion driven?
It was first and foremost a change in location. From Jos to Lagos. Then I realized that am publicity shy. And finally, I don’t like to talk too much. So I probably wasn’t cut out for journalism
ATQ: As a tour practitioner,do you think the sector is ripe to take over as Nigerias economy mainstay with the gradual shift from dependence on oil?
(Wears a serious look)110% sure! I believe that there are times and seasons for everything. Like the biblical Elijah who thought he was the only prophet alive, I thought Skal international and a few others were the only brands passionately pushing Nigerian Tourism, “for real”, until very recently when I got more exposed to the sector. Right now both the private and the public sectors and even free lancers are pushing Nigerian tourism aggressively. The passion is there, the interest is there, we only need the government to give some more motivation, encouragement by way of enabling environment and all actors should collaborate much more. The sky would be the beginning for Nigerian tourism
ATQ: As a member of the American Society of Travel Agents,what do you think Nigeria is not doing right or getting right in making our Travels & Tourism sector go beyond it’s present?
I think I already hinted on this in my earlier answers. We all have a role to play. We need the infrastructures and enabling environment. The government needs to place tourism professionals in places of authority. And needs to encourage more Nigerian owned careers like Air Peace and others in what ever ways possible. The private sector needs to invest more in the area of travel and tourism. The tourism training institutes should be equipped and supported by all sectors. And it’s important for the tourism organizations and bodies to work together to form such a formidable force.
ATQ: What is your view about the growing call for Tour operators to sell Nigerian destinations?
It’s one of the best things that has happened in our industry in recent times. It gladdens my heart to see different bodies responding positively to this call. Our country would be better for it. It’s one of the easiest ways of tackling the high rate of employment and insecurity of today. It’s indeed a good development because we have more natural tour sites than most other popular destinations in the world.
ATQ: You were recently honoured as one of the Top 100 Tourism Personalities in Nigeria.What does this mean for your career?
“It’s an honor that I never expected in my wildest dreams. I had no idea I was contributing so much in my little corner. I was elated standing side by side by the Chefs, tour operators, hoteliers and awardees from other arms of the industry. It means also that tourism is working in Nigeria.”
“To whom much is given much is expected. This recognition has challenged me to give more of my time and resources as much as I can”
ATQ: What is your advice to the young ones aspiring to be like you?
Get all the necessary qualifications you need to excel. Make sure you aspire to be the best in whatever you do. Be innovative. If you sow well you would reap in abundance. Finally, be ready to “stoop to conquer” by showing willingness to serve at all times.
By Francis Ogwo