Benin: Otis Diogo, hotelier

Otis Diogo, hotelier in Benin

Otis Diogo has worked in tourism in the south of Benin for almost twenty years. As the owner of a hotel and a travel agency, he advocates sustainable tourism, believing that this will best preserve the natural environment while benefiting the region’s inhabitants. Mandated by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ is helping to develop a sustainable tourism concept. More than 400 people have undergone training and are working together to achieve this goal.

Why should a tourist visit your region?

My country Benin has a rich cultural and historical heritage. The traditions here are still very lively: dance, music, arts and crafts. On top of this, visitors are drawn to the fascinating scenery and untouched nature here.

What does your work mean for you and for others?

I am passionate about tourism. I enjoy enthralling visitors with artefacts and concepts that are completely new to them. The fact that I can earn a living doing something I love is just wonderful. For me it’s important that everyone in this region benefits from tourism. That’s why I volunteer at the tourist information office in Abomey, give lectures, advise my colleagues and hone holistic concepts for the region. And I am committed at a personal level too. For example, I always have an apprentice at the hotel. We choose young people who would not have much of a chance otherwise. The training is free and I help them find a job afterwards.

What has the tourist information office changed in Abomey?

The work the tourist information office does has significantly improved the quality of tourism products on offer. Before, anyone involved in the tourist trade got by as best they could on their own – today we are networked and can exchange experiences and ideas. Useful information and training courses are helping to market the region’s tourist potential.

What is particularly important for you?

I am a particularly staunch advocate of our unspoiled natural environment. Environmental degradation often comes about because people are forced to deplete resources, because this is the only way to put food on the table. With sustainable tourism we are creating a source of income. Locals work as tourist guides and boat hands, they handcraft souvenirs or work in the hotel. And nature can continue to exist undisturbed.


        
    
Following decentralisation reform in 2003, a tourist information office was set up in Abomey. Otis Diogo works here as a volunteer.
Following decentralisation reform in 2003, a tourist information office was set up in Abomey. Otis Diogo works here as a volunteer.

        
    
Diogo chairs tourism meetings. At the ‘Friday meeting’ he informs participants about the latest developments in the international tourism industry.
Diogo chairs tourism meetings. At the ‘Friday meeting’ he informs participants about the latest developments in the international tourism industry.

        
    
Diogo knows full well how attractive his region is. It’s marketing it that is the challenge. This is a good topic – also for the representatives at the Oba (King’s) Palace.
Diogo knows full well how attractive his region is. It’s marketing it that is the challenge. This is a good topic – also for the representatives at the Oba (King’s) Palace.

        
    
In addition to his small travel agency, Diogo also runs the Résidence Hotel in Abomey with his wife Marie-Josée. Diogo is proud to have created jobs in this way.
In addition to his small travel agency, Diogo also runs the Résidence Hotel in Abomey with his wife Marie-Josée. Diogo is proud to have created jobs in this way.

        
    
What smells so nice? Diogo’s wife is in the hotel kitchen preparing some West African culinary delights. Photos: Ollivier Girard
What smells so nice? Diogo’s wife is in the hotel kitchen preparing some West African culinary delights. Photos: Ollivier Girard

        
    
In spite of his many commitments, Diogo helps out at the hotel, too. He knows what international guests want and is happy to pass on his knowledge.
In spite of his many commitments, Diogo helps out at the hotel, too. He knows what international guests want and is happy to pass on his knowledge.

        
    
Diogo’s region means a lot to him. He likes welcoming guests, showing them Abomey and explaining things to them.
Diogo’s region means a lot to him. He likes welcoming guests, showing them Abomey and explaining things to them.

        
    
Culture is very close to Diogo’s heart: at the local museum guests can view artefacts and cult objects used as part of local traditions.
Culture is very close to Diogo’s heart: at the local museum guests can view artefacts and cult objects used as part of local traditions.

        
    
Things are running smoothly at the tourist information office. Diogo examines the freshly printed brochures that help market the region’s tourist potential.
Things are running smoothly at the tourist information office. Diogo examines the freshly printed brochures that help market the region’s tourist potential.

        
    
Unspoiled nature: sometimes Diogo accompanies a group of tourists on a boat trip on the River Hlan.
Unspoiled nature: sometimes Diogo accompanies a group of tourists on a boat trip on the River Hlan.

        
    
Diogo is actively committed to protecting the natural environment so that tourists will be able to enjoy this unspoiled scenery for a long time to come.
Diogo is actively committed to protecting the natural environment so that tourists will be able to enjoy this unspoiled scenery for a long time to come.