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Why Nkereuwem Onung is making case for FTAN presidency

…his agenda speak volume of repositioning tourism

If you have ever had anything to do with Remlords Tours and Car Hire Services as a client, you will testify to the great service and attention to details by the staff.

Well, the excellence in service delivery, innovative product offerings and peace of mind for clients, are part of the service culture instituted by Nkereuwem Onung, the visionary founder and CEO of the wholly indigenous destination management company.

Probably, the success of the Calabar-Cross River State-based tour company, made members of the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) woo Onung to lead the association, at a time it was moribund. As expected, Onung led the association, steering it from moribund to become the mouthpiece of tourism practitioners in Nigeria.

From that feat, NATOP did not let go, instead, the umbrella body of tour business in Nigeria unanimously made Onung chairman of its board of trustees (BOT), a position Onung holds till date, which has also allowed him to continue with his good work for Nigerian tourism.

Of course, Onug became NATOP’s preferred candidate for any national responsibility; hence the association supported him to represent it at the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), the umbrella body of private sector tourism practitioners.

It was no surprise that Onung emerged vice president of FTAN, a position he has held till today, as well as, a national assignment, which has taken him to many states across the country and abroad.

Read Also: Nkereuwem Onung, acting president of FTAN, pays homage to Father of Tourism in Nigeria

However, with the regrettably and recent death of Rabo Saleh, former president of FTAN, who was almost finishing his tenure before his demise, the Nigerian tourism community is urging Onung to naturally assume the position.

Considering that FTAN is a well-run and organised body guided by world best practices in its activities, Onung prefers an election, in which the members will officially hand the leadership of the federation to him.

In respect of the development, he has declared his intention to run for FTAN presidency, though there are other candidates vying for the same position as well.

Already, he has unveiled his 7-point agenda, which he hopes to actualize with his team and the support of industry stakeholders.

As expected, he has been reaching out to tourism stakeholders across the country to inform them of his intentions, discuss his agenda and seek their support in an all-inclusive FTAN, which he wants to run.

First, he wants to consolidate on the gains of tourism and better engagement that will push tourism to the national and global limelight again and seeks prosperity for the industry and its players.

“We have lost out on a whole lot of issues about tourism in terms of engagements, which were inappropriate and did not take us anywhere. We will begin to consolidate on the gains of the past 12 years and raise tourism and FTAN to national prominence”, Onung said.

Recognising that member associations are the strength of the federation, Onung promised that when elected, he would strengthen and unify member associations of FTAN and raise the visibility of the body to begin to engage appropriate institutions together. This is part of the agenda he wants to pursue vigorously when elected.

“When we are united in purpose everybody will give us our rightful place, we will also begin to contribute properly to the economy. If we articulate and create proper consensus in terms of where we are going, then we have the same narratives as we go forward, there is no way people will not take us seriously”.

He also assured that when elected, he would work collaboratively to champion the growth of domestic tourism as the industry has the capacity to sustain itself and boost GDP if Nigerians patronage their local attractions and support indigenous tourism initiatives.

He hopes to use the FTAN office to canvas for a favourable environment for tourism enterprises.

Also on his agenda is ensuring appropriate engagements that will enable tourism to warehouse necessary data, lack of which made the federal government to subsume tourism under the Ministry of Information as there was not enough data to measure the contribution of tourism to Nigeria’s GDP, at a time the present administration was cutting down on non-performing sectors.

The CEO of Remlords, NATOP BOT chairman and vice president of FTAN, assured that he would use his tenure as FTAN president to improve on data capturing and working statistics that would tell how tourism is fairing in terms of contribution to the economy.

“We need to work and show what tourism contributes to our GDP in order for the government to see tourism as a serious industry and one it can trust to impact GDP, then we can change the narratives for good”, he said.

While funding has been the bane of tourism development in the country, Onung noted that if elected he would help to improve sources of funding for tourism development across the country.

“We have a lot of things going on at different levels and people at different levels engaging in tourism, pocketing money without analysing the effect of the activities to national tourism. Are there grants in the industry, yes, but there are people who are condoning such grants because of their approach and I believe that the national associations and FTAN that is well articulated will conduct itself in such a way that we use statistics to access some of those funds”.

He decried how the tourism industry, which suffered the most during the pandemic, did not get Covid-19 palliatives, and he assured of appropriate and collective engagements going forward to ensure the welfare of members.

“I believed that if there is the proper articulation and the media brought into it, we would have been able to make more inroads towards getting funding for the industry”, he said.

Another agenda is improving FTAN’s relationships with governments and international associations.

According to him, FTAN does not intend to be at loggerheads with the institutions of tourism as he believes that there are avenues that the federation can engage them professionally for them to give an account of their stewardship to Nigerians. “There are things that can be done and platforms that can be created that everyone who runs an agency of tourism can give an account of what they have done and not wait for four years to be over to begin to tell us what they have done and what they have not done. So, it is possible for us to raise that consciousness and at the end, tourism gets better in Nigeria”.

He also hopes to digitise and restructure FTAN’s secretariat for effectiveness and easy operations.

The restructuring, according to him, will make the secretariat more businesslike in terms of delivering value to members and other industry stakeholders.

Explaining the rationale for the proposed restructuring when elected, Onung said, “We need to raise the stakes because if you don’t raise the stake and visibility of the federation, it might be difficult for you to say we are holding a tourism national conference that the whole country will look forward to in terms of influencing policies of tourism and going forward and making tourism much more visible for government to at least restore our ministry”.

Besides the agenda, he has been a campaigner for a standalone ministry of tourism to enable the industry to be focused, fully utilize its potential and impact the economy.

It would be recalled Onung used the opportunity of speaking at any tourism fora, summits, interviews and other media engagements to always urge the federal government to create a standalone ministry of tourism.

At one point, Onung coined the slogan, ‘Bring back our tourism’ and it stuck with industry practitioners.

Now and when he is elected, Onung has better chances and opportunities to press further for a standalone ministry of tourism.

Moreover, most industry stakeholders have endorsed him based on his pedigree; from growing his private business to world-class, turning around NATOP from a moribund association to an enterprising one and now an opportunity to grossly improve and make tourism count in Nigeria if elected as FTAN president.

The ball is on the stakeholders’ court and we hope they will play it in the right direction!

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