Travel and tourism writers in the country have joined other stakeholders to decry unfolding moves by the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOURS) to push through a bill presently before the National Assembly which seeks to confer on it the sole authority to regulate the industry.
The writers under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Editors of Tourism (ANJET), also an affiliate of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) who said ‘Nihotour has completely gone beyond its brief and what is expected of it’ described the proposed bill as ‘death knell of hospitality and tourism.’
Tagged the; ‘Bill for an Act to Provide for the Establishment of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism for Training of Personnel and Regulation of Professional Personnel Practices and Services of Hospitality and Tourism Activities in Nigeria and other related matters,’ the document seeks to effectively extend the control of the institute in industry practice.
The proposed NIHOTOURS Bill which comes up for Public hearing, June 15, has continued to generate contempt within the tourism industry in the country as stakeholders flay the move by NIHOTOURS to establish the institute as regulatory and registration body for tourism establishments across the country.
The tourism writers, who joined other stakeholders from travel agents, tour operators, park and leisure services providers, maintained that the proposed bill further compounds the precarious situation of tourism regulation in the country, as the agency itself should rather be seeking to grow its capacity in the field of training of industry practitioners.
“If it is a training institute then it should restrict itself to that regardless of the NOC/NOS/NBTE provisions. What it is seeking to be with the full provisions of this bill is become omnibus body and ombudsman of tourism, which shouldn’t be.
“If the bill is allowed to scale through, what then becomes the function of the NTDC and other agencies in the Culture, Tourism and Information Ministry, and by implication the value chain of tourism and other training institutions in the country?”
According to ANJET, in the Hospitality and Tourism Establishment (Registration, Grading, and Classification) regulation bye-law enacted by the Federal Government in 1997, Section 1, Sub-Section 3 of that bye-law provides that no person shall operate a hospitality or Tourism establishment ‘unless he has obtained and in possession of a current certificate of registration from the Corporation,’ which by implication confers on the NTDC the duty of a regulator.
“We also believe that the issue here should be about the National Assembly clarifying on the Supreme Court ruling of 19 July 2013 which validated both the Hotel Licensing Law of Lagos State (as amended) and the Hotel Occupancy and Restaurant Consumption Law of Lagos State, while the offending sections of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Act rendered null and void.
“We recall that the Supreme Court in dismissing the case filed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and upholding the contention of the Attorney General (AG) of Lagos State Mr. Ade Ipaye, held that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (CFRN) 1999 as amended, only empowers the National Assembly (NASS) to regulate tourist traffic, a term which does not extend to hotel registration or licensing,” ANJET posited.
It was the view of the Supreme Court that the NTDC Act went beyond its powers as stated in the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution which is to regulate “tourist traffic”. This effectively challenged the constitutionality of the NTDC’s powers to unilaterally regulate and control of hotels and tourism in Nigeria. The court therefore validated the respective laws of Lagos State.
According to ANJET, this issue of a recognized regulator should preoccupy the National Assembly members into quickly moving to resolve the issue rather than creating another platform for the emergence of another controversy within the industry, as there still remains grey areas in the law that needed to be sorted out to ensure proper growth and development in the industry.
For instance, under the ‘Powers of the Institute,’ the institute wants to ‘set conditions and standards for institutions or organizations offering courses in hotel, catering, travel and tourism management or skill in Nigeria.’
This, ANJET believes this segment is ‘as ambiguous as it is conflicting,’ considering that other agencies also perform the same function, just there is a vast divide separating all four sub-sectors of tourism practice, as well as its practitioners.
While the Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN), described the move as ‘obnoxious,’ the Institute of Tourism Professionals, on its part, said the proposed bill negates the tenet of the Federal Government’s recently signed Executive Order which seeks to ease the process of doing business in the country, by creating ‘bottlenecks for tourism professionals.’
“We must do all what is possible to stop this obnoxious bill. We should also be present at the public hearing to vehemently oppose the bill,” said ATPN.
“The bill seeks to negate the new Executive Order of the Acting President on the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria as it seeks to great Bottlenecks for Tourism Professionals Distinguished Senators are therefore urged not to support illegality,” said the Institute of Tourism Professionals.
Also reacting, the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) said; ‘the proposed bill is an attempt to ‘corner and colonize Nigeria Tourism by a training school and should be discouraged wondering why an institute wants to overreach itself.’
Similarly, a hospitality expert and scholar, Dr Wasiu Babalola called for the outright rejection of the proposed NIHOTOUR bill by the National Assembly.
The outgoing Managing Director – Africa, Swiss International Hotels and incumbent Honorary Secretary, Institute of Hospitality UK in Nigeria said: “The bill should be rejected for the agency aiming beyond its mandate. Why should it try to define who a professional is?
“When did government starts deciding who should be president / chairman of council of professional bodies? Why should the agency want to take over the powers of NUC and NBTE? The proposers of the bill are surely ill informed.”
NIHOTOURS, an agency in the Ministry of Culture and Information, has two campuses has for some time come under heavy fire, as industry watchers insist the agency is challenged in its statutory role as a training institute established to boost capacity in the industry.
The institute has two campuses located in Lagos and Oshogbo, the Osun State capital.
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