By Angel Odukomaiya

To Celebrate World Tourism Day (WTD) this year, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) planned a cruise to Tarkwa Bay on the 27th of September.

The convoy of over 20 boats departed from Tarzan Jetty in Victoria Island and set sail for the festivities at the beach. Once in motion, the calming effects of the water spread across all the guests as the breeze melted all our worries away. My boat was at the back of the convoy, so I got to see a full view of the guests enjoying themselves and reveling in the fresh air.

As we arrived at Tarkwa Bay, the residents of the island greeted us with music and cultural dancers. The National President of FTAN, Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, begun his opening remarks shortly after the guests had settled down. He introduced the 2022 WTD theme of ‘Rethinking Tourism’ while celebrating the “resilience and survival of the industry and its stakeholders from the deadly Covid-19 Pandemic.”

He went on to point out that the global tourism industry suffered greatly after the height of the pandemic, but Nigeria’s tourism sector has suffered even pre-pandemic. He declared that “tourism in Nigeria has suffered pre-pandemic, during the pandemic and is still suffering post-pandemic. Rethinking one of the world’s major economic sectors will not be easy.”

Mr. Onung’s passionate speech went on as he shared his grievances on the plight of tourism in Nigeria. He called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to “rethink the level of investment and funding for tourism in Nigeria through increased budget allocation and rethink merging tourism parastatals, rather should empower them to meet their mandates. Better still give tourism a stand-alone ministry.”

The FTAN President stated that, “It is time for Nigeria to have a tourism master plan and rejig her tourism policies if they exist.” He chose Lagos as the host of this year’s celebration to draw attention to Lagos’ waterways. He said, “For us in FTAN, the boat cruise from Tarzan jetty in Victoria Island to Tarkwa bay beach is our way of domesticating this year’s theme to focus on Lagos waterways and showcase the beauty of exploring the stretch of abundant Lagos coastlines for tourism purposes. In rethinking Tourism let us look in the way of the water economy in Lagos state, Nigeria.”

Living in a fast city like Lagos, daily stressors make us forget to take advantage of our coastal city. Tourism allows people to experience the world’s natural riches through bringing communities together. For Lagosians, ‘Rethinking Tourism’ means recentering leisure time; it focuses on both the social and economic development the Tourism Industry is possible of making.

Several studies have shown that people who work for more than 55 hours a week are almost 13% more likely to have a heart attack and 33% more at risk of suffering from a stroke. Investing more in leisure and tourism can improve our society’s wellbeing while encouraging economic development due to the creation of employment.

After Mr. Onung’s moving speech, the program went on by introducing esteemed guests and stakeholders in Nigeria’s tourism industry. Refreshments such as fresh coconut water and grilled fresh fish were passed around as the guests were encouraged once again to utilize Lagos’ waterways for their own personal enjoyment moving forward.

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