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Nigerian Tourism Has Capacity To Bridge Our Foreign Exchange Deficit — Omopeju Afanu Say



In a brief interview with Telegraph and released to The Eaglesforesight for publicity, Omopeju Afanu has shared her experience.

Below read the full interview:

Give a brief of your background; biodata and education

I studied Veterinary Medicine in University of Ibadan but I have an eMBA (Hotel and Hospitality Management and Construction Management).

What was growing up like for you?It was very interesting as we had exposure to a lot of things and my parents were not very stifling but allowed us to do what we wanted trusting we would be wise enough to make the right decisions

Who of your parents influenced you most growing up?

My mum (her passion and dedication to her family should be praised)4. What is your motivation and inspiration in life?To impact as many lives as possible in my own little way5. What is your life philosophy?Just be good no matter where you find yourself or in whatever situation you may be in

You are project and management expert, how did that come about?

Well, it was an evolutionary process. I started as a fashion designer while I was in University; setting up a brand called Orisun-Ewa Creations. The business was actually doing pretty well but I realized I could not grow as much as I would love to if I didn’t get the right team to work with, so I was forced to abandon that passion (which still runs in my veins) and started interior design for hospitality projects and eventually evolved into project management. Then, I started business development and mentoring after I completed my Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management programme at Enterprise Development Centre. I picked up a few more certificates in Project Management and 3 Agile Certificates (SAFe Scrum Master, SAFe POPM and ICP Certified Agile Coach)

What inspired your journey into Nigerian tourism and hospitality sector?

While I was transitioning from my fashion business I met my Mentor and Chairman (of blessed memory) he was about to start a hotel project and asked me to handle the interior design. He exposed me to the business world, I learnt so much from his tutelage and I also did a lot of personal relearning and unlearning particularly when he said, “go out into the world and succeed, I think you are capable of managing your own business”.

How would you describe the journey for you so far?

Very interesting because it has taken me to so many parts of the country from Afikpo to Minna to Awka to Calabar to Port Harcourt to Owerri with a few challenges along the way. I have also been opportuned to serve in a 2 major hospitality organisations (Association of Hospitality and Tourism Consultants, Executive Secretary/CEO and Institute of Hospitality, U.K. Nigeria Regional Branch, Regional Secretary) and I have also been a thought leader and speaker in several hospitality fora lending my knowledge and expertise whilst learning a lot about this very great industry

How challenging is it for you?

Well, the greatest challenge has been convincing a client to invest more funds in a project after an assessment and you see a lot of errors in the construction, design or finishing of the project, then you are saddled with the responsibility of telling the client 50% of his previous expenditure has been down the drain with a need to reinvest in the project to bring it up to standard.

What has kept you going in the industry?

My passion for the industry, constant learning and a lot of doggedness and having a can do mindset

How would you describe the present state of Nigerian tourism?

I would say largely untapped because the tourism and hospitality sector is a multi-billion dollar business. Nigeria has the potential to become a leader in the West African Tourism space if we are able to properly develop most of our tourist sites to internationally approved standards and harness that great resource which can help diversify our economy. The sector has the capacity to contribute immensely to bridge our foreign exchange deficit in the country.

What is responsible for the poor state of development and promotion of Nigerian tourism?

I would attribute it largely to the Government and their poor handling of several issues such as poor development and management of our tourist sites, security challenges and poor accessibility to these sites.

Do you see the recent creation of a federal ministry of tourism as a welcomed development?

Yes, it is indeed a welcome development as perhaps more funds would be provided and dedicated for the development of the sector now that there is a dedicated minister bringing in the requisite expertise and focused on developing the sector as a whole forming the basis of the ministers KPI as against when it was lumped with Culture and Information having competing demands.

What are the five top key areas you would want the new minister to focus attention on?⁸⁸8⁸Identify and engage with key stakeholders to harmonise the activities of the various stakeholdersDevelop a Road map working with these key stakeholders Identify bottlenecks to the development of the sectorEngage and work with other MDAs to remove all impediments and barriers to the growth of the sector including but not limited to security, visa procurement, accessibility of these sites) Development of Tourist facilities by engaging with the private sector and international leisure and tourism companies under a PPP arrangement

How should the private sector operators respond to the new dispensation and what should be their role in achieving this five top key points of yours?

They should be ready and willing to engage with the Minister and provide the requisite support for the development of the sector. They should come together as a group to effectively harmonise and agree on the multifaceted challenges facing the industry and collectively proffer solutions to these challenges so they are speaking as one voice as against many divergent views which would ultimately impede the desired results.

As a consultant for the hospitality sector, what has been your experience and the key issues in dealing with Nigerian hospitality investors?

Most investors put a lot of money in the construction phase with a lot of it going to waste as they do not engage the right hands to handle the project so they spend double sometimes triple what they should normally have expended at the development phase. So, you see that the finishing of some of these projects don’t end up reflecting the volume of investments put into it. Once you surmount the hurdle to redesign you face the next hurdle of operational funds. You find out most investors don’t make provision for operational expenses, ideally they should budget for at least 6 months of operational expenses, which can be quite capital intensive so you see a lot of hotels struggling after they open for business. This affects the quality of service the facility is able to offer thereby ultimately affecting the revenue the facility should be generating and the standards they intended to set

What makes Nigerian hospitality sector an attractive bride for the international hotel chains?

I would not say its that attractive considering the current number of room keys we have in Nigeria in relation to our population. We need more hotels in Nigeria and the capacity to effectively unlock the tourism revenue would definitely make Nigeria the attractive bride of the West African region for the large hotel chains. We don’t have up to 20 hotels in Nigeria that have over 500 rooms and most of these international brands are big players and they invest in or brand very large scale properties with minimum of 200 rooms (which is a small hotel by all standards). Meanwhile Lagos alone should have over 50 of such facilities talk less of Abuja.

What are the key things that the local brands need to do to compete effectively with the international brand and even become global brands?

Structure and Standards!!! Most local brands lack standard operating procedures or have the requisite structure in place that can make them effectively complete with the international brands. On the flip side, if you look closely at some of the international brands in Nigeria they are unable to maintain the same standards as you would find abroad. So maybe there is also the Nigerian factor at play, which has a way of watering down service standards.


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As the founder of Copperhouse Hospitality, what is the remix of the company and how far has it established itself?

Cooperhouse Hospitality is a turn-key hospitality company, we have created a niche in the development space and gradually creating a niche in the training space which we intend to scale up in the next year through partnerships as well as an enhancement of our service offering to bridge the employee gap at the entry level in the industry leveraging technology.

What is the remix of Association of Tourism and Hospitality Consultants of Nigeria (ATHCON) and how much has the association contributed to deepening the development and promotion of tourism and hospitality in Nigerian especially as some people criticize consultants for not doing enough in terms of enthroning the right practices?

ATHCON is here to set the standard and help harmonise the quality of service obtainable in the industry. We would assess the so-called consultants, only eligible and verified consultants would be members of the Association thereby bringing in some level of sanity, structure and standards into the hospitality and tourism space. We would also be providing capacity-building programmes for members, that cut across the hospitality and tourism industry, to enable them upskill and constantly improve the quality of their service offering. ATHCON is a collection of the various leaders, experts and members of the many hospitality and tourism associations, institutes and bodies in Nigeria thereby providing a rich member base, extensive learning experience and a great opportunity for improvement and enhancement of service standards

Where do you want Nigerian tourism to be in the next four years?

Ranked as one of the Top 10 tourist destination in Africa taking up a very sizeable share (10-20%) of the tourism market in Africa with a multi-billion dollar revenue streamHaving at least 1 world class tourist site or theme park set up in each of the geo-political zones of Nigeria.

What is your message to the private sector operators?

We all need to come together as a group to make this sector work through collaborations and partnerships leveraging on individual and collective strengths to enable us build a very strong and formidable tourism and hospitality industry. Let’s look for the potentials in Nigeria and harness them to build an industry that can compete easily within Africa and globally.

How do you unwind?

Spending time with friends and family, a visit to the spa

Which is your topmost local and foreign destinations and why?

Foreign destination: Dubai, there is always something new to see or experience.

Which are the next local and foreign destinations on your basket of to do and why?

Boat cruise on the Caribbean. I think it would be very exhilaratingThe newly improved Ikogosi Waterfalls

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