• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Why stakeholders are pushing for uniform standards in hospitality industry

Why stakeholders are pushing for uniform standards in hospitality industry

…SON, FTAN, LASG lead campaign, implementation

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling that granted state governments the right to regulate hotels, restaurants and tourism, standards have been on the decline.

The Supreme Court had on July 19, 2013, dismissed a suit filed by the Attorney General of the Federation, seeking the control of the hospitality industry by the then National Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), now National Tourism Development Authority (NTDA).

The court hence upheld the contention of the Attorney General of Lagos State that the 1999 Constitution, as amended, only empowered the National Assembly to regulate tourist traffic and not hotel registration or licensing.

While that was a victory for Lagos State and for those clamouring for economic autonomy for states, sadly, the ruling has negatively impacted the hospitality industry since then.

Currently, there are parallel registration and regulation structures for hotels across the country, as each state enacts its own laws.

The sad development has resulted in little or no standards in the hospitality sector across the states except for the international brands that stick to their global brand equity and standards.

From Lagos to Abuja, Kano to Port Harcourt, Enugu to Jos, hotels open every day claiming standards that are not justifiable.

As well, many guests are being ripped off by some of these hotels that claim 3-star or 4-star, but deliver mere guest-house standards.

In the recent past, some foreigners on business trips in the country accused their Nigerian travel agent of ripping them off by paying more for less standard accommodation. Presumably, they asked for a 4-star hotel and were offered 2-star accommodation.

The argument put up by the travel agent was that the hotel is 4-star and the hotel management also insisted that they are 4-star property.

There are many such ugly incidents across the country due to the lack of uniform standards for the hospitality industry, as well as the absence of a singular authority that is responsible for grading hotels and enforcing the implementation of standards.

In a bid to address the challenge, some stakeholders have been meeting to deliberate how best to regulate and ensure standards in the industry.

One such effort was the standardization conference for tourism and related services organised by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), at Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos, recently.

The conference, which was held on the theme, “Implementing International Best Practices in the Hospitality Industry”, witnessed the gathering of major stakeholders including; Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), National Tourism Development Authority (NTDA), National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), hoteliers, among others.

Speaking on the rationale for the conference, Ifeanyi Chukwunonso-Okeke, director general, SON, noted that standardisation is important to strengthen quality in tourism and hospitality businesses in Nigeria.

He cleared the air that SON is not aiming to take over the regulatory functions of other government establishments, noting further that it has become very necessary to put in place standards in the Nigerian hospitality industry that would be acceptable across all markets, locally and internationally.

“Today, SON is collaborating with FTAN, tourism private sector umbrella body and the Lagos State government to implement existing international and national standards in the hospitality industry,” the SON director general said.

“These are NIS ISO 22483:2021- Hotel Service Requirements and NIS 489:2020- Hotels and Serviced Accommodation Management System and Rating, Requirements and Guidance for use.

“These are built into a certification scheme, to carry out certification of hospitality establishments within Nigeria”.

According to Chukwunonso-Okeke, SON’s certification will ensure international best practices in the different tourism business operations.

“It will steer the zeal for hospitality businesses to adequately train their staff and ensure consistency in their service delivery,” he said.

Chukwunonso-Okeke called on the industry stakeholders to embrace the certification, noting that it would add value to hospitality establishments and also assist them to compete globally, improve reputation, increase confidence of employers and employees as well as earning power.

He said tourism being one of the largest employers of labour in Nigeria and capable of gainfully engaging the youth, could also increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

On her part, Toke Benson-Awoyinka, Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, pledged the support of Lagos State government for any initiative that will ensure standards in businesses in the state, especially in the tourism industry, which has huge employment and revenue generation potential.

The commissioner, who was represented by Oloruntoyin Atekoja, permanent secretary of the ministry, noted that the state’s partnership in the SON’s conference was necessitated by the fact that you cannot achieve good quality, consistency and competitiveness within the tourism and hospitality sectors without putting in place good standards and enforcing them.

Bearing in mind the challenges in meeting international standards, she encouraged the stakeholders to embrace it because of the many opportunities it offers for growth, innovation and sustainable development within the industry.

“Standardisation enables us to embrace international best practices, it elevates our offerings and also strengthens our position as a premier destination for travellers seeking unforgettable experiences.

“Let me reaffirm the unwavering commitment of the Lagos State government in supporting initiatives that promote standardisation and excellence in tourism and hospitality-related services. It is in line with this standardisation that the ministry is currently digitising its hotel licensing processes and other regulatory activities.

“As we all know true progress can only be achieved through collaborative efforts.

“I, therefore, encourage all stakeholders, government agencies, industry players, academia, and international bodies to work hand-in-hand toward implementing international best practices and setting new benchmarks of success,” she said.

Speaking from the private sector standpoint, Nkereuwem Onung, president, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, decried that the hospitality industry has not fared well in the last decade due to the parallel registration and regulation structures across the states.

Considering the diverse standards and the confusion they breed, Onung noted that standardisation in the tourism industry was long overdue.

Also being fair to the states, he noted that the constitution empowers them to regulate their respective hospitality industry, but that the federal regulatory agencies need to seek collaboration with the states to ensure smooth and uniform standardisation in the industry.

“At this point, what we need is collaboration among all stakeholders at state and federal levels. We all need to forget our differences and agree to push for uniform standards to address poor standards and other related challenges in the hospitality sector,” Onung said at the Lagos conference.

The conference also witnessed the readiness of the Nigerian Tourism Development Authority to collaborate with other stakeholders in the uniform standardisation campaign. Speaking at the conference, Folorunsho Coker, director general, NTDA, was convinced that the move was not against the mandate of the authority, but rather complemented in achieving the same goal of quality service for the sector.

The conference also had many presentations on relevant topics by Chidinma Ewuzie, desk officer SON, and Ebi Semodei, general manager, Ogeyi Place Hotel, Port Harcourt.

The participants also benefited from the deliberations, meaningful networking opportunities, and tangible outcomes.