Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Calabarian incomprehension

I am writing a guide book to Nigeria for a well-known travel series. I am keen to give a good account of all the pleasurable experiences to be had in Nigeria and help promote tourism in the country, so of course I call up the Cross River State Tourism people. I got in touch with a young Nigerian lady who asked me for a proposal etc. I duly sent her a short document suggesting an itinerary and some modest support (basically to cover my hotel bills). She then forwarded the proposal to her Philippino boss.

After two weeks I had heard nothing, so I called up the Nigerian lady again. She gave me the number of her boss. Her oga told me there is no possible support, and that Cross River State is writing its own guide book. I pointed out that the guide book I am writing is for one of the best known travel guide series in the world and will be much more widely read than any guide book the State might produce. I then suggested a few dates for my visit to her - she told me they would be too busy on those days. By this time, she had started to get impatient. She informed me that they had hired a KPMG consultant to help them with their tourism master plan and that everything was taken care of. I had to bite my lip not to make a facetious comment at this point (some people have way too much trust for global consultancy companies - especially in their Nigerian incarnation). The dialogue continued, but I quickly tired of speaking to someone at only one remove from a robot. What a shame that Cross River State has hired an utter nincompoop (someone who does not appear to have heard of the major tourism guide book brands) to drive tourism in the State. The whole thing leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Given that Obudu is supposed to be a bit crap (accommodation-wise), should I really give a toss about promoting the State anyway?


Aaron Rowe 12:54 pm  

It'll be good to get some of those guides updated. I hope you can share some thoughts with wikitravel too, if your contract allows it.

Cyber Caravan 1:43 pm  

Crap! Excuse my French...I typed loads of lines only for the window to crash at the end. Oh well here it goes again!

Great Initiative Jeremy. The lady you contacted, is her name Lisa? I e-mailed her 2 weeks ago, asking her about the CRSTB's website which was inexplicably pulled last year. I got her e-mail from the US Forestry Service's CRS sustainable ecotourism PDF report. She's yet to reply!

Here are some recommendations:
1- Send them a sample copy of your guide book? Convince them with numbers and figures about the circulation of these books and potential exposure etc.
2- Call Donald Duke directly? He's handing over to Imoke as we speak so surely he'll have more time on his hand to promote his home state (hypothetically speaking).
3- Request the guide book company to cover at least 1/2 of ur costs?
I agree about Protea and Calabar's "crap" hotels - and the unjustifiable hotel rates.

Overall, sounds like a lovely project. would be glad to help if I can. I've never been to CRS but I plan on visiting Nigeria either in October or early 2008, and CRS will definitely be on my list, along with the Nigerian Field Society. I'm not Nigerian but a Nigeria aficionado (weird huh?).


PS. IMO CRS doesn't need more fancy projects like Tinapa, etc. but an a strong awareness at a grassroots level, especially concerning the environment, wildlife, etc.

Lolita 2:43 pm  

Come oh, Jeremy, take your time oh!

You too like enjoyment! ah, ah!

Okay, just because they made you mad, you are now playing a tit for tat game, they upset me ~ Obudu is crap.

Oh, grow up!

It is Nigeria, a call, in some other places that can be handled in just one ring, may take a few more.

Patience is a virtue, dig a little more, find out who her boss' boss is, speak their language, explain the benefit; I'm sure when she asked you to send a proposal she was expecting more than an itinerary and a request for some modest support.

Show them how much more exposure the guide book will bring, telling is not enough, show the statistics, I bet that's what the KPMG dude will do that will razzle dazzle them.

You are not so keen, shucks!

Fred 2:47 pm  

There's a systemic indolence that will stop any forward advance, every time. If you're asking the "why bother" question, you're probably right.

Akin 3:07 pm  

They are definitely clueless about the fundamentals of tourism.

I thought it was about getting the word out such that people would be interested enough to visit, it should not be about monopolising the information to prevent others getting some pecuniary advantage.

I was not aware that KPMG had a tourism department, besides, I'll rather read people's experiences than some glossy window dressing, considering I do travel a lot.

That little narrow-mindedness has probably lost them some clientele, a Philipino in charge does speak volumes, I suppose we would have hired Mongo Park and the Lander Brothers to show us all of River Niger again.

The Flying Monkeys 3:27 pm  

They may rather it would go to some organisation that can inflate the projects cost by some $millions.

I think they may see you as an outsider wanting to remove garri from their mouth. I don't think they will give it to someone of your calibre. You may come across as too honest and too intelligent.

Hence, I do not feel you should get involved in this unless you will be entirely honest to include the fact that Tinnapa and obudu etc were not well thought out. Honest enough to talk about how crap the lodgings are etc.

Unless you are introduced by a member of Bibi’s family. But I doubt that Bibi’s family will want to associate with these thieves.

Welcome to Nigeria and its mediocre traditions. You are dealing with some deeply silly people similar to those who think the solution to the transportation woes in Lagos was to run away from it and move the capital to Abuja?.

There is more to all these than meets the eye.

LM,  4:26 pm  

I agree to some extent with Lolita. You need to give it another shot. Another good idea is to write to Donald Duke, forwarding him a more thorough proposal. etc. Since they are not likely to give you a lot of consideration until they recognise your company (the more international, the better so I wasn't surprised KMPG was mentioned), you will need to educate them about your client.

With my experience with trying to gather information from government agencies, authorities, state governments for projects, delegations etc. I find out that the following works:

1) A telephone call to the office of the highest official (in this case, the Governor, stating firstly where you are calling from (Emb. of XXX, etc,) and what you want. Ask to send a letter/proposal etc. You have covered this part.

2) Send a detailed official letter or proposal address to the boss -in this case, Donald Duke and send via courier. You need to speak the correct tourism language and state how that will translate into figures, increased revenue for state, future investment and job creation etc. (use all your consultancy experience). If you do not state how the state will benefit from your piece is a world-renowned travel series, you are not likely to be given much thought.

3) Call again and keep calling Donald Duke's office for feedback, after you have sent the proposal. What would have happened is that official letters will definitely be passed from Governor's office to a repsonsible official and in spite of all the "Nigerian factor", you WILL get official response and some useful information. (If you are lucky, 90% of your questions would be answered).

As suggested by cyber caravan, you may need to list your costs and get your client to foot 1/2 of the bill.

However, I have never requested for any funds, so can't comment on how feasible that would be.

Cee 6:46 pm  

I am all for Jeremy trying again but i have a one or two questions:

1). What does speak their language mean?

Jeremy, do you speak any of the native dialects?

I just hope that speaking their language does not mean what I think it means sha ... it would be very very sad to encourage that

Mutanda 10:24 pm  

What was the point in telling us the boss was Filipino? Would you do the same if he was white or Brit. I doubt it you would mention it and cast the irrelevant fact of their race is such a negative post. Perhaps if they were civilizing us, like with Nitel/BT, you'd mention that they are big oyibos.

Anyway, it's amusing reading the comments of all the tourism experts on this blog. even those that have never even visited CRS/calabar. How Obudu is crap and neither tinapa or obudu were properly thought out. If folks were informed they'd at least know that Obudu existed several decades ago and was a ranch set up by scottish rangers in 1949 and had nothing to do with tourism. But who cares about these facts when one chooses to operate from emotions. The verdict is out on whether tinapa will be a failure or not. Those damning the project, what do you base your opinions on? The thing is hardly up and running but you guys are here tearing it damn.

Yes hotels in calabar are too expensive, but they are expensive all over nigeria for reasons the hoteliers in calabar can't control, such as electricity. nevertheless, unless you've stay in the bulk of hotels there, you can't make a fair assessment. many of the hotels outside of the main streets are very good, lightly advertised and reasonably priced, like Jacoronda. My brother stayed there a few weeks ago. It's a small 15 room place with great rooms and a good pool. service could be better, but it certainly isn't crap. And if you consider it crap, you are invited to build better ones. You will be welcome with open arms

Ultimately since the information you are seeking for your guide public info? just do it on your own and stop being upset CRS isn't holding your hand. No one ever said it would be easy.

culturalmiscellany 3:10 pm  

He he he - did you not see my post on my run in with the Cross River Tourism bureau in Calabar. I think I was more knowledgeable than the lady I met and I was a foreign tourist!! Please let us know who publishes your book, I'd love to buy a copy. I'm sending my updates to Bradt and will happily pass on any info I have to you if its helpful.

Lola 2:34 pm  

Oh please. What's all the fuss about? You expect that you'd call, being an oyinbo everyone would rush to your tune, and quick, quick, your proposal will be answered favorably and you'd be on your way. I don't know.....

I do feel the lady was wrong in not at least being open to whatever publication you're writing for, but hey, it's her right and the calabar tourism board's right to put their information wherever they feel will bring them the most exposure of the sort they're looking for.

I have been to Obudu and i must say the accomodations were ABSOLUTELY LOVELY. And i am VERY picky about these things. I understand though that where i stayed were just completed so maybe you need to go there in recent times. I also went into the hut style chalets they were building and it was LOVELY. There's no way anyone will stay in those wooden chalets and say they're crap! with 3 lovely bedrooms, kitchenette, living room, and jacuzzi on the top floor. Please....

What DID suck about Protea though was the dining room and the dining room staff. HORRIBLE. the minute i lifted my last morsel of food off my fork, some attendant was clearing the table and telling us (very rudely) we had to leave NOW. all these while the oyinbo people behind me had been chilling at their seats since before I got to the hall. I gave them a piece of my mind though.....

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