By Jimoh Babatunde
As one of the fastest growing industries in the world, tourism has long been recognized as a community and economic development strategy to bring in revenues. Many states are seeking ways to tap into this vast and productive industry to capture local community and economic development benefits.
Delta state is one of the states in Nigeria that have put in place, structures to harness the benefit of tourism to its people with the planned ambitious Delta leisure resorts in Oleri and Ogwashi Uku.
The leisure resorts, which are expected to cover over 300 hectares, are estimated to cost 49 billion Naira will, be handled by SarnerPFM (Sarner African working with its International Arm (Sarner UK).
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan accompanied by the Minister of Tourism, Edem Duke and other delighted Nigerians were on hand weekend in Oleri, Udu Local Government, for the ground breaking and construction master plan presentation.
When completed the resorts will be one of the most spectacular theme parks and prestigious leisure destinations in the world.
The Managing Director, Sarner PFM, Princess Abiodun Oyefusi, said the project is one of the biggest projects in tourism and that it holds large prospect for the community in terms of employment and integration.
“The Delta Leisure resort will be a unique attraction for Nigeria, helping to draw visitors to the area from across Nigeria, the surrounding countries and beyond.”
She added “the increase in tourism will create new job opportunities and help with the development of the country’s infrastructure.
“This project can turn this community (Oleri) into a city. We have done a lot of work in terms of Environmental Impact Assessment. On completion this project will employ over 6,000 youths”
While presenting the construction master plan to the audience, Princess Abiodun Oyefusi, disclosed that the main park to be located in Oleri village will reflect the culture of the area, while providing a place for escapism, enjoyment and fun.
She said the Oleri Park will include a water park, five and three star hotels, luxurious chalets, casino, golf course, historical attractions, family entertainment centre and children’s area as well as sport facilities.
Oyefusi disclosed that the prospect of what the project can do in turning the community around is shown with the development that has come up in Oleri in the last few months with government providing basic infrastructure like access roads and bridge.
“It is a private initiative. The fund to build the park is coming from some few people. What the Delta state government gave us is the land. When we got here, there was no access. Now, it was only when they built this bridge to open up the place for us and the different communities out there. It is the contributing aspect of the government. The government owns 10 per cent of the park because of the land that they gave us.”
She added that the company has mobilized capital for the project, “there is investment for the project, that is why we said watch our action. Let our action speak for itself. If you come back here before the year runs out you will see how far we have gone.”
A happy Governor Uduaghan confirmed the assertion of Oyefusi when he said “this project is a private investment as there is an understanding that the government will provide infrastructure.”
The state government, Uduaghan explained has honoured its part by providing the land, the bridge, the roads and the street lights, promising that there will be an independent power supply for the resort soon.
Uduaghan told the elated Oleri community that the project is part of the plans of the state to diversify from being an oil dependant state.
The Minister of Tourism, Edem Duke, commended the governor for not waiting for oil to dry up before looking for alternative means of revenue for the state, noting that the project will change the landscape of Delta state and create jobs for the youths. “It is therefore important for the youth to see this as their transformation project.”
One of the youths of Oleri, Emanuel Kadiri promised that the youth will support the project as they have seen what the project can do in transforming their environment since the sand filling of the large hectare of land commenced.
He said called for the involvement of the community, saying that “the significance of community involvement is to provide a voice for those involved in or impacted by tourism, to make sound decisions making use of local knowledge, and to reduce possible conflicts between tourists and members of the host community.”
Anthony Avwayerure added as a youth that he has hope that the project will fly and that it will empower them in the community to be gainfully employed.