What is the vision of the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Kwara state?
Our vision is to standardize the hotels and tourism spots in the state and to liaise with the government on the issue of tax and security to ensure the smooth collection of taxes and maintain the security of lives and properties within and around tourism spots and our hotels. We also educate our members to understand the importance of hotels and tourism in the socio-economic life of a country.
Hotel business and tourism generally are capital intensive, is there anything you are doing to assist your members in securing funding for their business?
Yes, you are very correct, our business is capital-intensive and a long-term investment venture. This is one of the reasons why we have the cooperative arm of our association so that our members can have access to loans to help boost their businesses.
Also, we intend to seek grants from the government for our members to assist in putting in place some amenities that will help grow their businesses. We are also working towards acquiring some products for our members so that they will be paying in instalments.
What efforts have you made or are you making to ensure that government and relevant stakeholders buy into your vision?
Actually, we are just coming up but I can assure you that we are making efforts to see the governor personally and we are optimistic that he will grant us an audience before this coming election. We are wowed by his commitment and passion for the hospitality and tourism sector in the state and we strongly believe that he will want to see us and interact as partners in progress.
We have also written to the Commissioner for Communications and the security agencies on our readiness to work together for a greater Kwara.
Our desire is to ensure security in Kwara, particularly in our hotels and tourism, so we are working in harmony with relevant stakeholders in ensuring a crime-free society.
As an association focused on tourism, what efforts have you made or are you making towards showcasing the many tourist attractions sites in the state to the world?
That’s a very good question. You know I told you earlier that we are making efforts to see and interact with the Governor, this is one of the areas we have earmarked; we have been to the Esie Museum and did our own little media exposure of the potential of the place but we are also planning to liaise with the state government on the Owu Waterfall which happens to be our star attraction in the state.
As an association, we are working on plans to turn around the place for good and make it a revenue-generating avenue for the government.
We believe that Esie Museum, the Owu Waterfall, Imoleboja and other sites that God has blessed us with in Kwara State can generate enough money to run this State if properly harnessed.
But to put these sites in the best form for them to perform maximally will need billions of naira which, as you know is a lot of money.
This is why the government cannot be left alone to finance the tourism sector, there is always a need for a private-public partnership and that’s what we are working towards. We won’t even mind if we will rent the Owu Waterfall and be paying rent to the government because we strongly believe that that place can be a revenue-generating avenue.
Many dignitaries have visited the Owu Water Fall, promising one thing or the other. Specifically, what plans do you have to turn that place around?
Well, as I said we are just coming up but we have a big plan for that place, but it must be a public-private partnership for it to be effective.
However, the road to that place must be tared and the issue of security around that axis must be looked into. Once these are done it would be easy to put in place things that will attract fun seekers and tourists.
I will like to use this opportunity to commend the executive governor of the state on the transformation he is doing at the Flower Garden, it is a commendable feat the way he has turned around the place and I have no doubt in my mind that once it is opened it will be a spot everyone will be proud of.
Also, we acknowledge some efforts being done at the Amusement Park, the governor’s efforts at bringing back fun spots in the state is highly commendable and if rightly utilized we strongly believe that it will not only generate funds into the pocket of the government but it will ensure employment and sell the state too.
2023 is here, what are your plans for your members this year?
Like everyone we are trusting God for a good year and we are working on how to make funds available for them to be able to do one or two things that will boost their business.
We also believe that government will look into the issue of double taxation that we have been hammering on for a long time now. We are ready to collect these taxes on behalf of the government but we will be happy if these taxes are reviewed for the benefit of all concerned.
Advice to your members?
This year will be a good one for all of us, let us not be weary in doing our best in our different corners. I urge all our members to be committed to best practices and be focused on projecting the state to the world in our own little ways.
Once these tourists sites are well known in the state and tourists start trooping into the state, we shall all be better for it as these tourists will patronize us throughout their stay. And we are happy we have a governor who is committed to the tourism sector so we must not relent in our vision and mission.
Thank you for your time.
You are most welcome.