Since the exit of the former Director General (DG) of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) the question on the minds of stakeholders of the tourism sector including travel and tourism journalists is who will the Federal Government appoint as the next DG?
Their concern stemmed from the fact that in the past, people who have manned the gates of NTDC have not had any major impact on the tourism sector as their tenures were marked by poor performance and lack of will to reposition the sector and truly market Nigeria as an enviable tourist destination.
To prevent a reoccurrence in FG’s search for a new DG, TLR highlights top five industry stakeholders who have a better understanding of how to manage the NTDC and sell Nigeria as a marketable destination to the world. Below is our pick of top five:
Ikechi Uko (born 12 January 1964) is a Nigerian travel business consultant, travel promoter, tourism development expert, media consultant, journalist and author. He is the Organizer of Abuja Bantaba and Akwaaba African Travel Market, the only international travel fair in West Africa. He is the project director of seven wonders of Nigeria (Naija7Wonders), CEO of Jedidah Promotions (an international media and tourism marketing firm for airlines, hotels and destinations across Africa) and publisher of Africa Travel Quarterly Magazine and atqnews.com.
At a young age, Uko had an eye on travel. He could give up anything to discover new places. He attended National Secondary School Nike, Enugu. He worked as ticketing officer with Nigeria Airways ABC in Enugu. He studied Geography at the University of Ibadan and graduated in 1985. He did his National Youth Service Corps in Bauchi State from where he moved to Kano State and taught in Gwarzo secondary school, Gwarzo and Rogo secondary school, Rogo. In 1988, he returned to the University of Ibadan to obtain his Msc in Geography with emphasis on environmental planning and remote sensing. He graduated in 1990 and went ahead to obtain certificate in Journalism from Times Institute of Journalism and Prince2 Practitioners Licence. His father, Mr. Samson Uko, played a huge role in cementing his passion, travel. Mr. Samson Uko worked with the Nigerian Railway Corporation and kept books. As a child, Ikechi spent his holidays reading those books and traveling to new places in the course of his father’s job. His late Mother, Mrs. Salome Uko Née Azubuike, a teacher, steered his early life towards Geography and taught him lessons in enterprise.
His passion for traveling and adventures led him to the publication of Travelers Weekend Magazine, a weekly magazine in 1996, along which he launched Travelers Awards. Travelers Weekend was the first regular travel magazine in West Africa. With the aim for the magazine to set the pace and to be Africa’s forerunner in the travel world, in 2003 Travelers Weekend Magazine was rebranded to African Travel Quarterly (ATQ). In 2004 he launched Travelers Awards and Exhibitions, the first attempt at introducing an exhibition into the travel environment. In 2005, Travelers Awards and Exhibition was rebranded to Akwaaba Africa Travel Market. Akwaaba African Travel Market is the only international travel fair in West Africa. With participation from international dealers in travel, tourism, aviation and the hospitality industries, it is regarded as ‘’Where Africa meets the world’’. Akwaaba African Travel Market is designated by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) as the official travel exhibition in Nigeria. It is the only international travel expo in West Africa in partnership with NTDC, listed by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a partner event for African Business Travel Association (ABTA) in West Africa, partner event with National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) and the only member of International Tourism Trade Fairs Association (ITTFA).
In 2008, he was appointed a member of the tourism committee Nigeria Vision 2020 in the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
In 2010, with the ATQ magazine team, he set up a committee to choose the 7 wonders of Nigeria, popularly known as Naija7Wonders. This was inspired by the poems of Pliny the Elder on the ancient wonders of the world and the ancient principles of Philo of Byzantium’s collection of marvels from around the world. After a thorough and detailed search of two years by tourism, hospitality and tour experts, with public voting, in 2012, the project team published the man made wonders of Nigeria, and the seven most sensitive, critical and exquisitely unique of them were selected as the Naija seven wonders (Naija7Wonders). These are the man-made wonders of Nigeria driven by the vision of Marcel Proust quote that says: “The journey of Discovery is not in seeing new things but in seeing old things with new eyes”. Naija7wonders, Nigeria most dramatic, breathtaking and unique man-made structure is endorsed by national bodies and associations in tourism, and applauded by international organizations. One of the least known of the seven wonders of Nigeria sites, the Benin moat was visited by UNESCO led by Prof. Wole Soyinka, and former Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Otunba Segun Runsewe referred to the Naija7Wonders as an epoch in the advancement of tourism development in Nigeria.
Having noticed that in Nigeria most travel businesses concentrate on Lagos without taking cognizance of the huge travel potentials in other northern states, especially Abuja, being the capital of Nigeria, on 5 July 2011, he launched Abuja Bantaba, a one-day speed dating event between investors and clients in the travel and tourism business. It also includes workshop that keep participants informed of what are going on in those industries to keep with pace with the rest of the world. In celebration of the centenary of Nigeria, on 25 April 2014, the 4th edition of Abuja Bantaba honoured 100 personalities who are key players to tourism development in Nigeria.
With these achievements and more in the travel industry, we believe Ikechi Uko deserves to be the next DG of NTDC.
He is the chairman of Calabar Carnival a post he has held since 2007. He is a former Special Adviser Tourism to Cross River state governor. Onah holds Master’s Degree, Theatre & Media Studies ( Theatre Arts Management – Admin & Events Management (in view ) from the University of Calabar. From 2013 – 2014, he developed a study on the ” Conflict of traditional norms in the packaging of Ikom Monoliths for Tourism in CRS.
He espoused on the inter organizational relationship in the Management of Carnival Calabar – a seminal presentation on the Production of the carnival Calabar product as a tangible and intangible arts form. Leading him to write his MA thesis on “Carnival arts management & Cultural Diplomacy: The Carnival Calabar Paradigm”. He has led vibrant group discussions on Nigerian Cultures and Cultural Policies – Cultural Pluralism and diversity as strength of the Nigerian nation – Folklore themes and the Nollywood revolution – organized and led an expedition Graduate school team to understudy the Alok Monoliths, ikom Heritage sites( circles) and the Salts ( Brine ) deposits and wells in Okpoma Yala LGA CRS as Tourism Products. In 2006, he was the Team Leader for the cross river state pilot tourism initiative certification program in Jamaica.
He also worked and participated with NCC and NCBA of Trinidad for behind the scenes and performance of the world renowned carnival of TT for the transplanting of frame works to carnival Calabar ( 2006/2007/2008)
He led team to a privately planned tour of the blue mountains, the Dingy house outskirts of Kingston; and Dunns river falls Ocho Rios St Ann Parish, the Marooned community of Achampong for the study of community based Tourism Initiative in St Elizabeth Parish all in Jamaica.
He was certified by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) as manager, Tourism Destinations. He formed and trained Tourism Associations: land and water Taxis; Tour Operators; Tour Guides, meet and greet training for front liners: information officers, protocol officers, Immigration officers, Police officers at all points of Tourists Entry for the Cross River state Tourism program.
Fatima Garbati is a seasoned technocrat in Commercial Aviation, specializing in Economic Regulation, Pricing and Bilateral Air Services Agreements. A career spanning over 25 years, she has represented Nigeria on the International platform at AFRAA and AFCAC. For a decade, she was the Chief Delegate for Nigeria on Commercial Aviation at IATA and subsequently as the chairman of the IATA Agency Panel for West Africa. She began her career at Nigeria Airways and attained the position of the Deputy Director of Marketing. She founded an aviation consultancy outfit which handled projects that harnessed her competency in aviation operations and international regulations. She was called back into public service and made the Director of Air Transport and Economic Regulation at the NCAA. Fatima is also an avid tourism practitioner and served as the National President for the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators as well as National Vice President for the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria. She has a BA degree (English Major Subsidiary) from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria Nigeria and a Post Graduate Diploma from the Institutes of Civil Aviation Cairo Egypt.
Ayo Olowoporoku, an MBA and a member of the Institute of Directors (IoD) is the Director of Finance and Administration of HSSL Global Ltd.
His early professional stint was with the UBA Nigeria PLC. and Union Bank Nigeria PLC. Both in Lagos. He later joined the services of Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Lagos in 1985 as Accounts Manager. Here he distinguished himself at different managerial positions in the Accounts & Control Department of the Prestigious Hotel. His diligence and professionalism led to his being seconded to the Sheraton Overseas Management Corporation in 1989 where he was awarded with the Certificate of Outstanding Services by Sheraton Corporations in 1990.
As the Director of Finance and Administration of HSSL Global Ltd., Olowoporoku is responsible for the formulation and supervision of the broad policy framework for the Company and the hotels under our management as it relates to the Finance, Accounting, Administration and Information Technology.
He is the founder of the first indigenous travel company in Nigeria named Jemi Alade Tours. He specialises is packaging tours to Nigeria. He has put together several marketable tours for tourists to explore and experience this vibrant country of striking contrasts.
Nigeria, a combination of over 2,000 years of tradition and culture with one of the most modern life-style on the African continent is known for her crude oil, cultural heritage, eco-tourism potentials and affordability. After several years of isolation under military rule, the country has emerged as the largest democracy in Africa and opening her doors for business and leisure visitors.
He helps visitors discover everything from ancient villages, markets, shrines, palaces to modern cities, highways, industries etc. Every kilometer, another language, land of a thousand dialects and diverse ethnic cultures, indeed Africa as a melting pot. He offers personalized services to tourists.