Nigeria put up splendid presence at 2013 UNWTO summit – Nihotour DG, Dantata

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The Director General of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Dr Munzali Dantata, has said that building more training schools was not among the institute’s priority at the moment, even as he disclosed that Nihotour was poised to enter a new phase in its history.

Launched in 1988, Nihotour is an agency under Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation. Its mandate includes ensuring “that training offered at all levels and cadres are streamlined, focused and (properly) coordinated”.

When the institution took off in 1988, it was a tripartite project: the three partners, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Federal Government of Nigeria; signed the agreement setting up Nihotour in 1987. At its beginning, Nihotour was charged to provide training and grow manpower for not only Nigeria’s hospitality and tourism industry, but also for the entire West African region.

But, faced with sundry challenges, including want of adequate funding, it would seem that this institution has enough in its plate, just grappling with demands on the home front. This might explain the apparent amnesia over its seemingly forgotten sub-regional responsibility.

Interestingly, Nihotour currently boasts only six training schools nationwide, in spite of its 25-year history. Now, at the rate hotels and sundry other hospitality outfits are springing up across Nigeria, could six campuses keep pace, when it comes to training enough manpower for a sector recording galloping growth over the last decade or so?

Speaking in Abuja, during an exclusive chat with Travels on Monday, September 2, 2013; Dantata, who has been DG of Nihotour for about seven years, declared: “Nihotour is now moving on to becoming more of a regulatory agency for the training of industry sector manpower”.

With regard to the perceived inadequate number of Nihotour training schools, Dantata explained: “First of all, the institute has a policy. This is to have a training school in each of the country’s six geo-political zones: North-west, North-central, North-east, South-west, South-east and South-south. We have achieved that with the current six training schools we operate”.

On the need for more training schools to groom manpower for the tourism and hospitality industry, Dantata revealed; “We are planning to get the private sector and state governments, even local councils, involved in setting up training institutions for tourism and hospitality students and prospective practitioners”. Dantata, who is a former President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA); continued: “For an analogy, let’s look to the central bank, which regulates commercial banks.

“The same thing we want to do: to provide regulatory services for tourism and hospitality training schools that do not necessarilly have to be owned or operated by Nihotour. Gradually, we want to be more of a certifying agency, to tidy up the system and ensure that standards are maintained”.

When asked to summarise what he met on assuming office in 2006 and strides recorded by Nihotour since he became the institution’s helmsman, Dantata offered: “When I came to Nihotour, it was not very visible and the private sector, especially hotels, had minimal contact with it. In fact, here in Abuja, HOFA (Hotel Owners’ Forum, Abuja) were simply doing their own thing. But, after I assumed office, tactfully, we were able to reach out to them.

“Today, we have programmes for hotels and other relevant bodies. The programmes include both in-house and regular courses that hotel and hospitality sector employees attend at our training schools. Our programmes include beginners’ courses as well as training to upgrade the skill and competencies of practitioners.

“We are sometimes invited by hotels to come and help them out in recruitment and equipment. I would say that, this is very important recognition by the private sector. In fact, for me; this is very important as one of the most positive legacies I would leave behind”.

Dantata was in Zambia for five days to attend the recently concluded UNWTO (United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation) summit, co-hosted by Zimbabwe, which ran from August 24 to the 29th. As to how the exercise went for him, personally, this DG enthusiastically declared that Nigeria put up a splendid outing.

“I found the forum very rich as a lot of topical issues were discussed. O, it was a very successful UNWTO summit and the Nigerian delegation was very strong. Apart from the Tourism Minister (Chief Edem Duke), there was also a delegation from the ministry. Although Nihotour was not part of the ministerial delegation, we were firmly behind our minister”, he remarked.

Expatiating, Dantata added: “Nihotour had to be there because we are an affiliate body. Membership of UNWTO has many advantages. Such benefits include access to UNWTO’s library and subscription to industry publications et cetera”. The UNWTO, he further submitted, has over 400 affiliate bodies, both public sector and private sector worldwide. These include hotels, airlines, government agencies and so on that identify with the tourism industry.

Concluding, Dantata observed: “Altogether; three presidents: Zambian president, Zimbabwean president and the president of Malawi attended the summit. The plenary was very rich, going by the addresses of the presidents, ministers and UNWTO Secretary General. There was also an election and the secretary general was re-elected. Among the affiliate members, there was also an election as well as presentations regarding our institutions and the situation in our sub-region”.

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