‘I’ll Make NIHOTOUR, Tourism School, Irresistible’
Not much is known about the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), the nation’s ‘sleepy’ tourism school established to provide training for hotel workers, travel and tour companies as well as tourism-reliant organisations. Travel and Tourism stakeholders had praised the Federal Government when a technocrat was appointed recently to manage the school which has existed for over 26 years. The new Director General, NIHOTOUR, Alhaji Nura Sani Kangiwa, who is already doing things differently with partnerships/collaboration, says there’s light on the horizon. In this interview with Justina Uzo Okpanku, the Polo player and tourism administrator, said NIHOTOUR’s focus is on building a better institute to bring back confidence. He shares his views on training, food and beverage strategy, technology among other things
Recently, we saw your efforts at sports-tourism segment of the tourism industry especially during Argungu International Fishing Festival. Tell us about the 2020 edition (Argungu International Fishing Festival).
The 2020 Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival was epochal for many reasons, including the infusion of Polo tournament, which is sports tourism. Recall that prior to 2020, the fishing festival hadn’t been held for 10 years. So, it was a Herculean task breaking the jinx to host the fishing festival and to include other tourism features. We were also able to make the fishing festival truly international by ensuring the cultural participation of five neighbouring West African countries.
What has been your experience as the new helmsman at NIHOTOUR?
It has been quite revealing. Yes, there are some challenges but they are not insurmountable.
What prepared you for the job?
A number of past professional assignments, both in the public and private sectors. You know, I had previously been a civil servant working in the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which saw me involved in diverse projects. For example, I was the Head of Marketing and Public Relations of Abuja Carnival 2005/2006/2007 during which Abuja Carnival won ‘Best Tourism Innovation’ in 2006 by the Commonwealth Secretariat. I was also Secretary, Exhibition Sub- Committee, Nigeria at 50 2009/2010; Secretary, Publicity Sub-Committee, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Commission for Africa Meeting in Abuja – 2002; Secretary, Media and Publicity Sub-Committee- 2nd Commonwealth Tourism Ministers’ Meeting in Abuja – 2005 and Secretary, Publicity Sub- Committee UNWTO Regional Conference on Tourism Communications (TOURCOM), Lagos- 2005.
My activities in private sector as a tourism promoter led to my election as the Vice-President of FTAN North West zone in 2017. I was also the Senior Special Assistant on ‘Tourism Matters’ to the Governor of Kebbi State from 2016 to 2018. All the experience garnered in some of these assignments prepared me for multiple, diverse challenges I might face in the industry.
What is your agenda for NIHOTOUR?
I want my tenure at the NIHOTOUR to be a watershed in the development of Nigerian tourism sector; especially in the training and retraining of manpower for the industry. It is my belief that no amount of investments in either infrastructure or in expanding tourism capacity in Nigeria that will ever be successful unless the necessary manpower in the required numbers and at the required levels of knowledge and skills are provided to manage the sector. My commitment to seeing NIHOTOUR achieve its mandate in this respect remains unshakable.
The founding fathers established NIHOTOUR to provide skills proficiency, technical upgrading programmes and professional knowledge-based education in the hospitality and tourism industry in Nigeria and West Africa; in the like of Utalii College Kenya, which caters for East Africa. I will not rest on my oars until Iam able to achieve this for the Institute.
What are you doing now?
We are working to upgrade the capacity of NIHOTOUR to deliver on its mandate. We are working to overhaul the training facilities in all our training campuses to make NIHOTOUR vibrant and responsive to new challenges. We are also working on programmes as well as modalities for the training and empowerment of rural women and youths on tourist host community participation and self-employment. We believe that until Nigeria tourism host communities buy into, and actively participate in domestic and inbound tourism value chain, there will be little or no economic multipliers-effect of tourism in the lives of Nigerians. I am also working on making NIHOTOUR visible. Not much is known about NIHOTOUR despite the fact that it had existed for over 26 years. This, perhaps, is why we do not have enough enrolment in our various courses. By the time I finish my tenure, NIHOTOUR would have become a household name.
NIHOTOUR is promoting Nigerian food and beverages. How do you assess the service industry? Does our food have a comparative advantage as Chinese cuisine, for example?
Food sampling is a special interest segment of tourism called gastronomy tourism. It has its own appeal and pulls tourists accordingly like the French and Chinese gastronomy. Nevertheless, Nigerian foods are intrinsic part of our cultural tourism assets. Mind you, Nigeria’s tourism comparative advantage is our uniquely diverse culture, derived from the over 300 ethnic groups that currently make up this geographic space called Nigeria. So, yes, under my leadership, NIHOTOUR as the frontline training institute in Nigeria will continue to invest in hospitality craftsmanship and specialisations geared towards establishing Nigeria as a leading gastronomic tourism destination in Africa.
What is the importance of training to workers?
Training can never be over emphasised especially in the hospitality and tourism industry as it is the bedrock of sustainable tourism development and economic transformation. Indeed, one of the pre-requisites for tourism to develop and play the desired role in the socio-economic life of a nation is the availability of well-trained personnel. Like I said earlier, knowledge is power! One cannot give what he or she doesn’t have, and that only comes from continuous quality training, especially in globally competitive sectors like travel, hospitality and tourism.
Do you hope to get along with hotels in the country?
Absolutely. NIHOTOUR cannot fulfil its mandate without getting along with hotels and other tourist service operators. Truth is NIHOTOUR is meant for the industry and not the other way round. NIHOTOUR is now the coordinator of the hospitality and tourism sector skills council. The council is meant, among other functions, to aggregate the skills-gap and needs of operators in the tourism industry and accordingly, provide training for workers in the organisations.
How would one leverage Internet applications for business growth and sustainability? How do we leverage technology, develop and grow our business?
Technology, in today’s world, is mankind’s solutions to life challenges. Internet technology is especially so, even before the Covid-19 pandemic which has largely changed the way most businesses and human endeavours will be run. For the hospitality and tourism sectors, Internet technology has long been largely deployed for marketing, service bookings and customer relationship management. Now, going forward in a post-Covid-19 world, the use of Internet technology will be expanded into disease prevention in tourist facilities, security systems, vendor services, and so on. The trends are still emerging with respect to the application of Internet technology in the tourism industry.
Who is Nura Sani Kangiwa?
Nura Sani Kangiwa is simply a professional tourism administrator and a consummate tourism management technocrat.
You seem to demonstrate discipline, simplicity and elegance, where did you get that from? What is your philosophy? Who are your role models? What gives you joy?
Life has taught me in all these years to be grateful to Allah. Wherever I find myself, my desire is to make things better irrespective of the challenges life pushed at me. There cannot be champions without challenges.
Are you a fashionista, a style conscious-executive?
Fashionista or style conscious-executive? No. However, I want to look good on every occasion; from the way I combine the colours to the way I appear.
What are your favourite colours?
White colour appeals to me a lot. For me, it stands for freshness and simplicity.
What things must you carry with you at any time
My smartphone. And perhaps my reading glasses.
One thing you cannot live without
My daily prayers. I am a devout Muslim.
How do you relax?
I am an avid Polo player. I play both to recreate and to relax.