Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has pledged at the end of his
tenure, he would have left a legacy of turning Nigeria’s rich tourism potentials to a tourism economy.
Mohammed made the pledge in Abuja when he received the International Tourism Adviser of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Mr. Jim Flannery, who is in Nigeria to assist in the review of the country’s Tourism Master Plan.
The minister said, “Like I said, I want to leave a legacy as the minister that came and transformed the creative industry into a creative economy. “I want to leave as the Minister of Tourism that made Nigeria transit from just a country of tourism potentials to a country of tourism economy, and this is why we are here today and I believe that we have all it takes to make it work.
‘’I am tired of hearing that we have tourism potentials. I want us to start realising those
potentials. I am tired of hearing that tourism can create thousands of jobs in Nigeria; I want us to start creating those jobs.” He said that the present administration has the political will to drive the process, particularly by removing all the bottlenecks hindering active participation of the private sector in the tourism industry, and relaxing the rigid visa regime that discourages tourists from coming into the country.
“Our role really as government is more of regulatory and providing guidelines and protection, but the real jobs are within three groups of people: the states, the local community and the private sector,” he said. While expressing delight at the visit of the UNWTO International Tourism Adviser, which he said has kick-started the process of actualising the six-point agreement reached between Nigeria and UNWTO during his visit to its headquarters in Madrid, Spain, in July, Mohammed said, “Today is the first concrete evidence that truly all that I said we were able to achieve at our July meeting with UNWTO is true and that’s why I am particularly glad that Mr. Flannery is here today and his presence here is the first step in actualising one of the six promises and commitments that were made to us by the UNWTO.”
Acknowledging Flannery’s contribution to the drafting of the Tourism Master Plan, 10 years ago, Mohammed said that he was in Nigeria to assist the Technical Committee to review the document and identify areas that can be implemented within the shortest time possible.
Expressing optimism that tourism remains the low hanging fruit that will rejuvenate Nigeria’s economy and empower the country’s poor, he added, “Tourism is so unique. It’s the only industry in the world that is pro-poor people. “It’s the only industry in the world that is pro-the rural area and it’s the only industry in the world where you do not need highly specialised skills or knowledge, because nature, in its mercy and bountifulness, has created tourism sites where it wants and not where we want.
“The Zuma Rock and the Owu Waterfalls were put there by God. The Cross River Wild Park was not man-made. So it is one industry that if we harness properly, we can bring development right to the rural areas, create jobs and harmony.”
The minister also stressed the importance of having more World Heritage Sites in the country to attract tourists, saying the only two sites currently in the country are not enough. Flannery, in his response, said there is currently a renewed interest in tourism, even among the big economies like the United States of America, because it’s assuming prominence in the global economy due to its vitality and inexhaustible nature.
He said, “Tourism worldwide is becoming recognised more and more as one of the great economic activities that is of major benefit to countries. “Why is it of benefit? Because tourism, unlike the manufacturing industry, can go into the regions and in fact it does go into communities and you don’t need major structured investment for tourism to be successful.”
The UNWTO International Tourism Adviser observed that Nigeria’s Tourism Master Plan could not be implemented 10 years ago because of the sheer volume of activities that previous governments wanted to undertake at once, lauding the new approach, where salient areas can be identified for immediate implementation.