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13th January, 2017.
R-L: South African Tourism, Regional Director for Africa, Evelyn Mahlaba, Chief Executive Officer of South Africa Tourism, Ntshona Sisa, Regional Manager for West Africa, South African Tourism, Pitso Hloni and Vice President, Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), Mr. Olumuyiwa Salami during the hosting of SAT officials yesterday. (Photo: Franklin Ihejirika)

NATOP hosts South African Tourism delegation on strategic tourism partnership

By Franklin Ihejirika

The Nigeria Association of Tour Operators, NATOP on Thursday, January 12 hosted the South African Tourism delegation at the GET Centre in Lagos on a strategic tourism partnership meeting aimed at promoting mutual beneficial relationship between the two bodies.

Speaking at the meeting in Lagos, the chief executive officer of South Africa Tourism, Ntshona Sisa stated that South African Tourism is looking at a beneficial partnership across Africa that works. He said South African Tourism has seen positive statistics on growth in Nigeria which it hopes to reciprocate.

Ntshona said SA Tourism needs to build a strong symbiotic tourism relationship with Nigeria that is not only one-sided in favour of South Africa alone. He said South African Tourism expects a lot from its West African team in Lagos.

SA Tourism CEO noted that the country has always taken the lead on things that are humanitarians which informed the insistence of the home affairs on birth certificates of children.

He stated that the home affairs has to balance the growth of tourism and other things that bring visitors to South Africa so as to keep the country safe.

Ntshona said the country has to also amplify so as to market less developed areas of South Africa that may not be Johannesburg, Cape town, Durban and others.

He said South Africa Tourism would like to market Nigeria well at home including its readiness to receive Nigerian visitors.
Ntshona added that it is determined to expose Nigerian tourism attractions to South African local media.

He lamented the visa situation where genuine Nigerian tourists go through difficult times in the hands of South African High Commission.

The SA Tourism chief executive officer maintained that the body does not have control of the home affairs on issues of visa.

He said South Africa has an event (INDABA) which is aimed at marketing the best Africa has to offer to other countries, including the WTM Africa where friction arises sometime between the government and private sector.

Speaking earlier, Ikechi Uko, the organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market and The Team Leader of Team Africa disclosed that NATOP has articulated events and programmes it want to market to tourists including South African tourists.

He listed some of the events to include, Carnival Calabar, Kano Durbar, Osun Osogbo, Akwaaba African Travel Market and destination Lagos. He solicited the help of South African Tourism in the area of training for its members.

Uko emphasised the need for a symbiotic relationship with South African tourism where south African tourists would be able to reciprocate by visiting Nigerian destinations.

Speaking also, Mr Abiola Lawal of flyboku.com, the managing director/CEO, GET Centre, Mrs. Bolaji Mustapha and the chief executive officer of Diamond and Pearls Travel also raised the issue of difficulties in visa procurement, prolong processes involved is the visa procurement, need for mutual beneficial relationship, need to make the visa process easier and more learning and partnership with NATOP as it concern training.

Earlier before the meeting with the South Africa Tourism Chief executive officer and his team, Mr. Uko stressed the need to have a lot more people to join NATOP so that they can share from the experiences of the experts in the industry especially in the area of training. He said if NATOP does well, Nigerian tourism industry will do well.

Uko noted that one of the problems encountered during the Calabar Carnival was the problem of hotel for guests.
He observed that Calabar do not have enough hotels to handle the high influx of tourists and visitors coming for Carnival Calabar.

At the event, Mr Ikechi Uko celebrated his birthday with NATOP members and the South African delegation present.

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