Beautiful, Interesting, Dynamic Place, Says Asuquo-Ankoh

Mrs. Shalom Asuquo-Ankoh, a travel consultant and CEO/ MD of Travel Lab Nigeria Limited, a member of Naija7 Wonders, among others with sights on family tour packages as well a mentor, spoke with ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA on Nigeria as a dynamic destination and sundry issues

Mrs. Shalom Asuquo-Ankoh, a travel consultant and chief executive officer/ managing director of Travel Lab Nigeria Limited, based in Uyo, with offices in Lagos and other locations, is enamoured with Nigeria as a tourist destination and its prospects, describing it as a rare gem and dynamic destination to bask in. ‘‘Having visited thirty states in Nigeria, I will describe Nigeria as beautiful, interesting and dynamic place. The slogan, ‘Good People, Great Nation’, which was given to Nigeria by the late Minister of Information, Dr. (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili, always comes to mind anytime I think of Nigeria as a tourist destination. ‘‘Photographers like Dayo Adedayo, have covered the length and breadth of Nigeria and taken interesting shots of the sights and landscapes – we need to check out his website and see his books. ‘‘Another photographer, Bren Inyang, has a compilation of the largest colourful cultural diversity in Africa, which is Nigeria. It is about the culture of Nigeria shaped by Nigeria’s multiple ethnic groups: Over 200 million people made up of more than 350 ethnic groups; 527 languages, seven of them extinct; and over 1,150 dialects spread across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja). On the list of top 10 countries with the most languages, Nigeria is third after Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.’’

Nigeria could be soft or hard sell With such vast features and colours, one would have thought that Nigeria indeed would monthly get over one million international tourist arrivals projected as projected by but this is not happening. Rather than dispel, she says Nigeria should not be written off yet as it could just be a hard or soft sell depending on what the target is. ‘‘Nigeria could be a hard and soft sell depending on your target market or audience is. This factor regulates the approach one takes. Before now, the tourism space in Nigeria has always been attached to either musical or sporting events like football and after these events, the guests all disappear. ‘‘Now, however, tour operators in Nigeria, pioneered by the Naija7 Wonders team, want to have people buy tour products using any of the two mediums – either hard sell by a direct approach, as per ‘Nigeria is on my bucket list and I want to visit the country’ or soft sell based on advertisements (on television and social media) to drive interest. We are working on changing the current narrative.’’ Call on Nigeria govt to focus more on tourism For many, she sounds like an idealist if not incurable optimist on the success of destination Nigeria. To achieve this success, however, she calls for proactive measures to be taken by the federal government and one of such steps she says is to bring back the defunct ministry of cul‘‘Citing transportation as an example, accessibility to places like the UNESCO sites, cultural and heritage sites, forest and games reserves and parks, waterfalls, International Birding Areas (IBAs), rivers, lakes, mountains and plateaus among others, are not available and no one is in charge. Defined roles should be put in place and it should cut across the three tiers of government. Government should take tourism as a business and not a social affair Besides, she advocates for tourism to be taken as serious business by the government, with the right policies, investment and personnel to drive it put in place as it is done in the corporate world. ‘‘The gov-culernment should see tourism as a business. They should invest in building the necessary infrastructure in various locations. PPP strategies should be put in place and discussion with the private sector initiated, to drive its blueprint. ‘‘Nigerian government should stop playing politics with this sector that has served as the main economic driver of some countries. This sector could help reduce the unemployment rate ‘‘The government doesn’t have the answers and we know that, but they should engage with the real practitioners in the sectors. This would yield a better and positive impact than when clueless individuals with no plan for the industry are appointed.’’

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