Stories By Jimoh Babatunde & Laide Akinboade
As Nigeria joined the rest of the world Monday to celebrate the World to celebrate World Tourism Day, the Minister of Tourism , Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Sadiq re-iterated the importance of a developed tourism sector to the country’s economy.
According to the Minister, “For Nigeria the 2010 World Tourism Day is very strategic because the nation is celebrating its 50th Independence. It is imperative for the Federal Government to have a sustainable environment in tourism industry.”
He urged stakeholders to invest in the development of tourism in the country and support the effort of President Goodluck Jonathan in taking tourism to the next level in the country.
Speaking on this year’s theme dedicated to tourism and biodiversity, the minister while reading the speech of the Secretary General, United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation, Taleb Rifa said tourism and biodiversity are closely intertwined.
In a speech broadcasted live on NTDC’s tourism radio on 102.9 FM, the Minister quoting Taleb Rifa said “ Tourism revenues resulting from the enjoyment of this biological diversity, often located in the world’s less developed regions, are a significant source of income and employment for local communities.
It is this relationship between tourism and biodiversity and the resulting positive impacts on local livelihoods, development and poverty alleviation that must set the tone for sustainable tourism development.
“Millions of people travel each year to experience nature’s splendour. The income generated by sustainable tourism can provide important support for nature conservation, as well as for economic development.
Furthermore, sustainable tourism can help to raise awareness among tourists and local communities of the importance of biodiversity to our everyday lives.”
Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Sadiq said based on the need to allow the local communities know about the impact of the environment to tourism made the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) to host this year’s edition at the popular Area 1 in Abuja.
“Today, we are all here in Area1 to have everybody participate in tourism as we in government want all Nigerians to be involved in tourism. The choice of this venue is strategic as this venue is a convergent between the high and low in Abuja.”
He added “ The tourism sector is about inclusiveness and today’s celebration is about the environment and the organiser (NTDC) has taken this into consideration.
The Minister of Tourism commended the efforts of NTDC for the organisation of the event despite the short time after the Lagos State government declined to host at the last minute.
“The inability of the Lagos state to host this event made approach NTDC at the last minute and I am glad that today what we have seen here might not been put together in Lagos.”
The Chairman House of Representative committee on Tourism, Kanayo Oguakwa, while commending NTDC for bringing the event to the door step of the people, said he was amazed at the turn out of Nigerians at the event which will make them know the benefit of tourism in their activities.
He said the activities of the Ministry of Tourism and that of the NTDC have the backing of the parliament adding “ I am more pleased with the synergy the NTDC’s Director General has formed here today with the heads of other parastatals in the ministry present.”
The Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe in his brief speech at the event that witnessed an exhibition stand of international standard, live musical performance by a renowned musician Yinka Ayefele; and a full Medical Tourism Team who offered free diabetics tests, blood hypertensive and eye tests to people, said what they have done with the event was a continuation of their practical tourism gospel.
Otunba Olusegun Runsewe said “We have to depart completely from the usual way of celebrating the annual event whose motion for its celebration was moved by a Nigerian, late Ignatius Atigbi in the 70’s.
This year , we decided to go a mile further to introduce new dimensions to the event like engaging a full Medical Tourism Team for the event, adding that a complete diabetic test, free blood hypertensive, and eye test was carried out for guests.