The Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), and South African Tourism have both pledged to collaborate and strengthen ties between organisations to grow the tourism industry in both Nigeria and South Africa.
The organisations which acknowledge that the partnership between both parties have been mutual and beneficial promised to work closer by exploring areas in the industry that could further help in the needed tourism experiences, training of upcoming tourism professional and making access to both countries easy.
Speaking at the South African Tourism (SAT), office in Lagos during the presentation of The Award Excellence to the organisation by NATOP for its contribution to the growth of the association and tourism in Nigeria, Head, SAT, West Africa, Hloni Pitso, said the sector has a huge challenge in Africa that needs to be addressed by all stakeholders.
According to him, the African continent needs to grow economically and catch up with other industries in the world, adding that tourism is one of the tools to use to bring about growth in Africa. He said Africa countries need greater collaboration in the tourism industry to be able to market those experiences that tourists would like to see.
He said: “We have a huge challenge in tourism, and Africa as a continent needs to move forward but for us to be able to do that in this sector we need to use tourism to drive the growth. All the role players and the whole countries have to be involved. Just like in Europe, when one travels to Europe you will like to see more countries in one trip and Europe has made it so easy by investing in their infrastructure and most importantly in collaborations and partnership. We need more of these partnerships in Africa as a continent. I was privilege to be at the Lagos Tourism summit and what was quite clear in that summit is that there was a big disconnect between the government and the tour operators. The content of the subjects that they had talked about all the developments but the people to make sure that those process takes place are the tour operators. You cannot promote a destination without partnering with the tour operators.”
Pitso stated that the organisation is working closely with the South African government to ensure that visa processes are made easier for tourists who would love to visit the country for business or tourism.
He assured that the President, Cyril Ramaphosa is keen on resolving all bottlenecks surrounding the visa process, noting that with the new government in place in the country hopefully the tourism sector will experience growth.
“I have new hopes because of the new leadership that we have in place. There are lots of tractions you might want people to see and visa is a facilitation to all of these things, because nobody is going to come to your country without access. As an organisation we are trying to get the visa issue resolved and we believe we will get there.
“Awareness of the countries tourism sector is at 91% but it is not necessarily all positive awareness, some of it might be negative, you might be known for the wrong reasons. One of the things we are trying to achieve is to have positive awareness. We have reach that stage were people know South Africa but now we need to make sure that they know us for the right reasons and tourism is one of those reasons we need to make sure have positive awareness.”
Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT), NATOP, Mr Nkereuwem Onung who spoke at the meeting said he is optimistic that the collaboration between both organisations will grow stronger.
He said there is need to encourage tourism promoters in the industry who have taken it as a profession and to ensure that they can make a livelihood from the sector.
He said: “We need to start taking statistics of what we have done together and what it does to the industry. If we have taken 200 young Nigerians for training in South Africa, they have had the exposures, how many of them are in the business that has started something? What could we do to encourage the ones who have started? Those are the issues for us as a country because we are a national association. When you get people to train as tour guide and they do only one tour in a month, how will they survive? So it is about our industry, it is about the collaboration making impact.”
“Going forward, it is to look at how to make it much more beneficial. Can people make money out of this relationship? We know the problems we are having with our national government, it is our own government that should do what you are doing. But waiting for them could be till eternity.”
Also, at the event, President NATOP, Hajia Bilkisu Abdul, said the association will ensure that it sustain the relationship that both organisations have enjoyed, promising to carry all members along.