By Emmanuel Elebeke & Owon Princess
The Federal Government says its objective of developing Nigerian tourism sector is to contribute to the establishment of a new international economic order that will help eliminate the widening economic gap between developed and developing countries.Minister of Information and Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed stated this in his keynote address delivered at the 4th Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition, NTIFE holding in Abuja. He noted that the tourism sector has the potential to redistribute wealth to destinations across the world if well harnessed adding the administration has taken certain steps to transform the sector into an alternative revenue earner for the country.
”A number of reasons point to potentials of tourism as a means of achieving economic growth and these include tourism as a growth industry; as distributor of wealth; tourism without trade barriers and the fact that tourism utilizes free natural infrastructure among others.Our experience in the recent past also clearly demonstrates that oil and mineral resources are non-renewable and have very limited potential for addressing the development challenges that face the country today and over the medium and long-term period.Tourism has become a key sector in the world economy and is a crucial source of economic growth and development in many countries.”
Alh. Mohammed insisted that the sector has the potential if properly harnessed to be a major revenue earner for the country stressing ”It’s important for us as Nigerians to take advantage of the industry’s commendable resources and transform them into huge money spinners”.
The minister stated that the sector as a growth industry has demonstrated consistent and remarkable growth almost every year.According to him, international tourist arrivals increased from 528 million in 2015 to 1.6 trillion in 2017. Also tourism receipts earned by destinations worldwide surged from $495 billion in 2000 to $1.33 trillion in 2017.”International tourism has grown not only in absolute volume, but also in terms of spread. Predicated on the above and the need to ensure that tourism becomes one of the verifiable sources of revenue for the country, the ministry is determined to fully exploit its potential.In that regard, the ministry is finalizing plans to inaugurate the Team/a National Consultative Forum that will work on the recommendations of the UNWTO post technical mission project document”, he added.
To ensure full development of the sector, Mohammed emphasized the role of the private sector saying that tourism cannot flourish without the full commitment and participation of the private sector. In his remarks, Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Commission, NTDC, Folorunso Coker, said we have lots of attractions that are yet to be exploited in Nigeria and called on Nigerians to appreciate and develop what we have in order to develop the tourism sector.”We must do what GSM did to 090 in tourism using technology or else we don’t stand a chance. We have lots of attractctions yet to be exploited in Nigeria. We must create awareness about our tourist attractions.It’s when people know about positive Nigeria that they will come to Nigeria and we are not talking about photographs and bridges. In Nigeria, it’s a different type of holiday, people come to Nigeria for the soul of the people of Nigeria. Our food, music, fashion, politics and religion attract people here and those are the things we are trying to use to promote the traditional destinations, waterfalls, hills, etc, so it blends but digital cannot be ignored”