By Adedayo Adesugba
Over time the definition of Tourism has been met with diverse self interest of different interest groups and others who see the Tourism space as one that can be easily accessed, due to its abstract nature and reach into all aspects of human existence. It has been the practice from my school days to have practitioners and none practitioners debate over what Tourism is and what Tourism is not even from the adopters of this most revered profession. I remember we used to debate on which one is more important, other components of Tourism or Hospitality. I later realised that this is an exercise in futility.
With the entrance of Covid-19 and contemporary learning that demands new ways of thinking which has seen traditional ways of making money eroded, Tourism seems to be the least path of resistance for all and sundry to access scarce funds in a developing nation like Nigeria. Back then, most people didn’t want to touch the practice. When I chose to study Hospitality Management, my parents opposed me vehemently, since it wasn’t one of the so called choice of careers that was seen to be honorable. Tourism studies then was for dropouts or those that couldn’t make the grades to study the traditional courses like medicine, engineering, accounting, law, etc. Fortunately, I wasn’t a drop out having completed my O’level studies with good grades enough to undergo any course of study in the humanities of my choice. Nonetheless, I chose to study Catering and Hotel Management as it was known in those days.
Today, these traditional courses despite their relevance is fast becoming much more specialised and driven by machine language that is more comprehensible to the younger generation, thus finding the pre-millenials grasping for new opportunities of relevance. On the other hand, the abstract and humanities studies are commanding new attention as creativity in the Arts & Music is more accepted with the ability to command much attention and rewards in a fast changing world due to our penchant for the less cerebral.
To this end a considerable number of strong individuals are finding the Tourism space a viable one for them to muscle in. So we are now suddenly realising that the Arts and other forms of creativity is now Tourism.
As much as I don’t have a problem with people defining Tourism which ever way they wish for as long as it serves their personal interest and purposes, what I take exception to is the thinking that is fast becoming the norm that Tourism practice can be driven from the roof top without consideration for the foundation and pillars that makes Tourism a success in countries that understand what Tourism is and have been successful in its practice.
Tourism traditionally has six fundamental drivers, which are Travel Agencies – _inclusive of the technology phenomenon called the Online Travel Agencies_ -, Transportation, Tour Operations, Hospitality, Information & Guiding, and Destinations. I recently saw a need for the inclusion of Hygiene & Safety and Leisure & Entertainment.
These two new additions have been included due to the fast changing nature of the industry. So, these eight listed above, can be said to be the drivers or substructure of Tourism practice today.
What we need to note is that these as the foundation for building the Tourism industry demands that we approach the building process _”bottoms – up_” like a properly designed structure than building from top-down. No one puts up a building and starts from the roof.
Now note the sequence of my list. You can’t start a foundation without digging the ground, neither can you practice Tourism without first locating the Tourist who has a need for Tourism services. You can’t provide entertainment without firstly providing the one to be entertained, this makes the Travel Agencies Tour Operators, Transportation and Hospitality, practice the primary base for the Tourism trade.
Tourism practice is intelligent practice. It’s not for the uncouth or those that have not taken time to properly educate themselves in the practice. You will not be a sound practitioner of the Tourism trade simply because you’re gifted in the Arts. Tourism is sound character. It abhors mediocrity. It’s a noble practice. It demands product integrity and competence. A hotel staff must have integrity to sustain patronage and succeed in the Tourism trade. A flight attendant must be courteous and must also have the patience and endurance to tolerate the worst of her/his flight guests. The Travel Agent is like a keeper of an investment portfolio, he/she must be vast in the knowledge of recommending the best routes at the most affordable price for the tourist. This knowledge is not pedistrian. A knowledgeable Tour Operator most be able to put together the best and most pleasurable tour packages at the most affordable price.
The knowledge of regional Geography is critical. The knowledge of hotel and accommodation types and food is critical for success in the trade. This business is not for the incompetent or the mentally lazy. The legal practice of _”invitation to treat”_ must be fully comprehended to ensure that the product advertised is exactly the product presented to the guest. The safety and comfort of the guest must be ensured at all times. Tourism is a noble trade, I repeat. Tourism impacts on life itself. It is not for the self-centred nor is it for those that seek for self gain. Places where the philosophy that governs it have not been adhered to are now demanding that the rules that makes it bring life must be adhered to, thus the need for sustainable Tourism practice. The book, _Tourism, Principles, Practices and Philosophies defines Tourism_ as _*”the processes, activities, and outcomes arising from the relationships and the interactions among tourists, tourism suppliers, host governments, host communities, and surrounding environments that are involved in the attracting and hosting of visitors”.
For those that wake up one day and find out that the jobs that are relevant to their course of study are not available and want to jump into the Tourism trade, you need to go back to school. Tourism is a spirit. The need to acquire the spirit is absolutely critical, and its gotten from properly being educated, lest you’ll end up being one of those that are destroying the industry. It’s a gentleman’s business and not for rough necks, neither is it for charlatans.
The truth is I’m not surprised at what is unfolding in Nigeria in our trade. The muscling in of the unlearned. Oil is no more selling. Tourism is a low hanging fruit. A vacuum for authentic leadership has been left open for years. Government have refused to regulate the industry for many nefarious reasons. One is that majority of the hotels are owned by politicians and highly influential people who can bend the rules in a highly corrupt environment.
Now, there’s no more oil money to share, agriculture is not for lazy bones and the proceeds is long coming so the easiest access to easy money must be Tourism, thus the sudden interest. Covid-19 will be our teacher.
Unfortunately, we forget that for Tourism to succeed it requires massive investment and a gradual build up with strong political will to do right. We also forget that Tourists have a choice of destinations. Domestically, any State in Nigeria that’s serious about Tourism will do exceptionally well. Likewise if Nigeria is serious, we will attract Tourists and take in our share of Tourist arrivals in a highly competitive regional and global industry post-covid-19.
As we all know, these three elements are not exactly our nature.
There’s the need for a secure environment, massive infrastructural development and funding for authentic Tourism businesses. Without these, we’re on another path to deception.
As we go forward, I hope all the agitations is not that funds that will likely be granted to Tourism sector practitioners, will not end up in private pockets. I hope it will be utilised for the rebuilding of our economy through the valuable value proposition that is called Tourism. If this is done, our safety and prosperity will be assured.
Adedayo Adesugba is the Chairman of the Institute of Hospitality, UK (Nigerian Chapter), he writes from Lagos.