Home Tourism My Fears for NANTA And Nigerian Travel Sector – Erelu Funmi Rotiba

My Fears for NANTA And Nigerian Travel Sector – Erelu Funmi Rotiba

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Erelu Funmi Rotiba

Erelu Funmi Rotiba is an amazon of many parts.  She worked her way up the ladder in the industry, deaf to envious critics, generous and a mentor to young persons,  particularly the female folks who wish to make a career out of tourism and travel.  

Rotiba owns Special Tour and Travels Ltd, a travel business hub she runs alongside many other inspired creative business opportunities. Rotiba has featured in many Nollywood movies and is  the South West Coordinator, National Association Tour Operators of Nigeria.  In this interview with Frank Meke, Rotiba fearlessly shares her views on the industry and its many troubles.

Greetings: Congratulations on your Nomination as OYO State Tourism Ambassador.

Answer: Thanks sir, but it’s just a nomination,  no wins yet but it’s a great initiative from the office of the Commissioner of Tourism in oyo state.  Initially I wanted to turn  down the nomination due to certain issues bordering on how  we do things in the country but I thought that being part of it win or lose, will attract attention to the sector in oyo state and also for the mere fact that I do my business here and have good relationship with the state. 

QUE: You been silent for a while since we met in Ekiti for the NATOP AGM? 

Ans: True, but you know that my Tours and Travel portfolio is huge and most a times, I am out of the country with tourism and trade groups, and facilitating students tours which gives me much pleasure to be close to the young ones. These young persons are not afraid to ask you questions and I love their independent minds and each time,  I have the opportunity to escort them on educational trips, I just wish to be young again. Their capacity to love and share their fears, express forgiveness is like an open bible. I just love kids and despite pressures to take trade groups,  government officials and traditional rulers to see how they can better learn and contribute to the growth of Nigeria, I still find time to take our children out to meet the world. 

Que: What about Nigeria, I mean tourism in Nigeria?

Ans: That’s why I am a member of nanta and NATOP.  It simply means that a lot of us believe in Nigeria despite the challenges of the times, particularly insecurity. In this business image and security is everything and it’s our fervent prayer that God will help President Bola Ahmed Tinubu find solutions to insecurity in Nigeria. I recall our last AGM in Ekiti, it was a deliberate decision to host it in the state to help draw attention to many cultural, historical and natural resources  in the state. NATOP invested so much to protect our invited guests and if you see what is going on in Ekiti culture and Tourism space today,  it is to the credit of natop. It is also indicative, a barometer that sustainable tourism and culture businesses can only gain momentum through collaboration. 

QUE: Are you still in NANTA or you have left? 

Ans:  First, let me officially congratulate you for what you are doing in the Nigerian tourism space. I read your column in the Sun, listen to your radio programme, which is a pride to Nigeria and as I tell usually inform my clients and contacts abroad that Nigeria sets the pace in tourism promotion in the media space more than anywhere in the world. NATOP is mindful of this media intervention and rightly awarded you its best advocate in tourism journalism in 2023. On behalf of natop and Nigeria,  we say a big thank you and also to many of your colleagues. Now to your question, I am still a member and pay my dues as at when due so I have not  potted but I have plenty fears for Nanta.   I know what am saying and the signs are there. 

Que: How? Why?

Ans: One of our industry leaders called me recently to ask questions on NANTA. He sent me a report you wrote sometime ago on this fear and I quite agree.  There’s no tension in NANTA but a silent movement against oppression and under hand business practices. In NANTA, If you have potentials to do great and contribute to the success of the industry and even to nanta growth, some entrenched interests will cut you down and that is why I decided to stay low. I didn’t do that because am afraid of anyone but to pay more attention to my businesses which have suffered because I was committed to the good of NANTA. So I fear for the young trade professionals whose current agitation for equality and opportunities will not be met. Why should I waste my time in the midst of those who preach something different and do another thing differently. There are so much hypocrisy in the system, cheating and lying against those who have great potentials to contribute to the industry. 

Que: Tell us specifically why you kept away from the activities of NANTA,  particularly western zone?

Ans: You know a time comes to call a spade a spade. I watched the video clip of your radio programme last week Thursday and I think you are on point on your observations. NANTA 2024 elections results is already written and I can tell you who the winner is because of the way we are made. You know Ibadan,  South West zone is the headquarters of this process which beats imagination.  I know what is going on now,  all kinds of hurried and doctored registrations for merely election issues and not for the future survival of NANTA. We are watching. 

Que: Is that why you longer participate in nanta activities?. 

Ans: Partly and importantly, yes. Look,  when I joined nanta many years ago,  I ideally love the reasons that gave birth to the association but after awhile, I practically experienced oppressive and unrelenting promotion of unethical practices at my zone. My dues  were not remitted for  to headquarters. When I found out and complained, I was told it should be treated as a family affair.  How can a serious association treat fraud as a family affair. There’s so much manipulation and envy in the system.   when you hold contrary opinion, they gather to tear at your reputation and malign you. The President, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, has really tried for NANTA.  Same thing they did to me, it’s same thing they did to her as nanta president.  I really don’t know where she got the strength and wisdom to withstand their shenanigans but I wish nanta well at the elections in next month in lagos   It is going to be tough to do the right thing  I don’t have problems with anyone but I know that the election will not  define the future. There are forces which want to dominate others, particularly the non iata registered members or those operating outside bank guarantee ecosystem. 

Que: Going forward? 

Honestly I don’t see any change in the nearest future except nanta is allowed to be run democratically. What can anyone do when the elections of the Association is heavily monetised? If you are weak,  they pay for your soul, your vote, register you by force by fire, and if you resist,  they employ wholesale blackmail,  remind you of how they once gave you water and food when you were hungry. What can you expect going forward? Some people  want to perpetually keep the young  practitioners in slavery. In the North where our members do more of  hajj and religious tourism business, some few have unsettled the market with their egocentric rascality and oppressive tendencies. NANTA needs someone to liberate the members from the oppressive shackles of a few.

Que: On FTAN?

Mr. Nkereweum Onung is a jolly good fellow and is trying to reposition the association. I find his gender equality drive very interesting and as a woman, it gives us opportunity to have our say but the industry is not supporting him enough, ditto the government tourism agencies and the ministry. In fact, he is by virtue of his position as FTAN president, the official representative of the industry and should be accorded some attention and respect by the federal government through the office of the Minister of Tourism. But you know  in Nigeria, power is not given but taken. 

Que: On NATOP?

We are trying to rebrand and push forward. You were in Ekiti and witnessed our pull, and I believe it’s going to get better,  much better. Though we wish to collaborate with government at levels but you can see how we work hard despite challenges to promote Nigeria within and outside our shores. 

Que: On your next move(s).

Ans: Hahaha,  just keep tracking me. I still have lots on my plate and I thank God for the strength and wisdom. I am grateful to those who have supported me through various tourism projects and engagements. Nigeria is goldmine for tourism, and culture. We must collaborate more and support each other. The pillars unto dishonour should be exposed and If found in place of leadership space, be voted out and given red card. 

Que: Any other areas you may wish to speak about?

Ans: Thank you sir. I will stop here but I will be watching out for NANTA election next month. I want to see if I am still a prophetess who can see nanta tomorrow.

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