By Frank Meke
Confederation of Private (sector)Organisations of Tourism in Ecowas ( COPITOUR) is the long awaited answer to anxieties of collaboration within the west African countries.
Let us take a head count of these countries, some English speaking and others, French speaking, different regional socioeconomic and political alliance and alligence, yet same black face and blood. Some pundits says, difference in tongues within same regional bloc slows down tourism economic recovery and collaboration.
Let us first count how we are, I mean the ecowas tourism power states. Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Mali, cote d’vorie, sererra Leone, Benin, Liberia, Ghana, Chad, Gambia and Burkina Faso.
Well counted? Now, the simplistic of the protocols which many people in the industry, possibly accesses, is freedom of movement, pegged at ninety days without visa, yet the huge needs and presence of the industry suffers neglect and confusion from interpretation at the various border posts by all mighty Customs and Immigration authorities of all the countries put together.
Now, the Confederation of Private sector tourism organisations, says, the industry needs a proper market appraisal within and as spelt out by the treaty among member nations, signed, May 28th 1975.
Certainly you don’t need to be diplomat to know that the treaty is shaky on many fronts, particularly on Culture and Tourism components driven areas in technology, logistics, taxes, levies and investment in hospitality industry and ownership of Arts and crafts, galleries and transportation, Ground and Air.
Industry success stories are usually border closed and frustrated to birth incarnation in sister members environment.
Mamadou Raccine, a front line hotelier ( hotel owners has always led everywhere) , Mayor of Senegal leads the west Coast Confederation campaign, standing for the French speaking countries, and all, while Ghana, picked the English speaking slot at the absence of Nigeria, about two years ago, when the behemoth caterpillar private movement reared up its head.
At its post covid meeting held in cote d’vorie last week and attended by Nigeria’ s reformed and recalibrated Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, (ftan), ably representated by its President , Mr Nkereweum Onung, the organisation felt the presence, and remarkable brilliance to which its future was defined in a broader perspective by own industry leader, Mr Nkereweum onung.
Since he came on board almost a year ago, Nkereweum Onung has brought new narratives to our sector, repositioned the sector, though miles still to go and had left tourism battles to small people.
Honoured at Abidjan meeting with a strategic portfolio as the organisation’s Director, legal Affairs and Institutional Relations, Nkereweum Onung no doubt is placed in a vintage position to interrogate, Connect and fuse together the biggest west coast corporate tourism industry Armanda, powering verifiable socioeconomic countdown ever seen in the lifetime of Ecowas region.
On a recent trip to South Africa, it can be seen how the madiba nation, systematically connects the South African region, pushing its futuristic collaboration agenda West coast, with Nigeria and Ghana, on radar, signalling to the private sector to grab the gains of tourism and leave spoilers at the border post.
Now to those, who may wish to join hands with representatives of each private sector body under the Confederation, it is pointedly important to ask ourselves what are the major problems troubling west coast tourism.
For instance, do our service providers comply with regulations expected in areas of operation?.How many of our investors and investments are in man made and nature based economic activities, do our services rate, particularly our hospitality sector match global ranking? And our products(?) , are they competitive and dynamic to meet changing needs of tourists?. Are our public authorities, in tune with these expectations and abi who sabi pass, na ehhn wey dey play?
Anyway and you must excuse me, South Africa, ranks Africa visit to its diverse destination offerings at 86 percent before covid, possibly leading the continent to a global acknowledgement to birth the highest tourism growth rate among all regions of the world.
Sadly, this high growth rate in international tourist arrivals, Ecowas region is on marginal scale compared with South and North Africa.
Lessons, our largely dependence on international visitors particularly the British and Americans, makes Ecowas tourism destinations vulnerable and only the Africa to Africa Tourism consciousness as championed by Mrs Susan Akporiaye of Nigeria’s National Association of Travel Agencies can make a difference. Indeed, Nkereweum onung is the right path and one prays, that this Ecowas private sector response can no distant time, make a difference.