Monday, May 9, 2016

Economic diversification: Culture and Tourism summit hold in Abuja

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Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory will, in the last week of April, 2016, play host to key stake holders and think tanks in the country’s Culture and Tourism sector courtesy of the dogged pursuit and passionate commitment of the Hon Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to reposition the enormous resources that abound in the country’s Culture and Tourism industry.
This is coming on the heel of efforts by the present administration to diversify the economy as happenings in recent times revealed the huge inadequacies of oil in meeting the revenue needs of government to finance its programmes and projects. The Hon Minister, having realised the fact that his ministry has the potentials of the goose that is capable of laying the golden egg, and owing to the obvious reason too that no country of the world, whether developed or developing can afford to neglect the enormous significance of tourism to its economic, social, political and cultural development, swung into action to realise this lofty goal for the good of the country. Today, Nigeria like most countries of the world is faced with a plethora of economic quack mire due to global economic meltdown that is slowing down if not grounding to halt activities in all spheres and sectors of economic activities. The task of overcoming these economic doldrums is daunting, giving governments of most nations that are sensitive and sympathetic to the plight of the people sleepless nights to get out of the woods. The planned National Summit with the theme: ‘Repositioning Culture and Tourism in a Diversified Economy’ is to mainstream Culture and Tourism as an important and integral part of the economic development strategies of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to salvage the economic woes of Nigeria. Globally, tourism is acknowledged to be the world’s largest industry in terms of wealth creation and offer of job opportunities to a large number of skilled, semi skilled and unskilled labour force of any given country to the extent that most countries today, rely on tourism as their major foreign exchange earner as well as the main source of national income. For this reason, more countries of the world are working more than ever before to develop their tourism industry. As a result, observers of the industry are of the view that tourism could be said to be the single largest industry on earth. Indeed, tourism is a very important vehicle for the transfer of capital worldwide. In human history, tourism is the only industry that accounts for the largest migration of people all year round. Unlike other industries, tourism industry brings the customer to the product, rather than delivering the product to the customer. While most countries of the world that have less tourism resources are intensifying efforts to develop the potentials of their tourism industry, it behoves on Nigeria that is generously endowed with enormous and abundant tourism resources in all corners and crannies of the country to exhibit more vigour and display high commitment with passion in the development of its tourism potentials in visible and achievable terms for the good of the country. It will interest the reader to know that Nigeria formed the first ever tourism association called Nigeria Tourism Association (NTA) in 1962. It was the first public sector tourism association in the whole of Africa with the objective of sensitising the government on the import of tourism and spreading its gospel among Nigerians. The association was turned into a veritable organ of calling the world’s attention to Nigerian tourism. It made waves globally and Nigeria was recognised as early as 1963 as a country with immense tourism potentialities waiting for crystallisation. It was a Nigerian, the late Atigbi, as chairman, Nigeria Tourism Association who stood up at a UNTWO conference and called the attention to the economic potency of tourism and proposed that such a sector should be accorded recognition worldwide by consecrating a day in the world calendar of events to remind the people of its importance. Thus, the world organisation selected September 27 as the World Tourism Day. The Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) once observed that Nigeria has the size, the population, the diverse beauty and attractions to be the power house of African tourism. The real challenge however is the ability to convert the enormous potentials into dynamic reality. If Nigeria started this well way back in time, why 53 years after, the country is yet to find its footings in the scheme of global tourism? The answer has always been because the country found succour and saviour in oil. Well, it is often said that oil is exhaustible while tourism is for life. In Nigeria, we have not reached the level of exhausting our oil. But the exigencies of global economy and all time low oil market prices have caused us dwindling economic fortunes that the country operates on budgetary deficits! Added to this is the fact that Nigerians are not helping the matter in capital flight with their habits of travelling abroad for nearly everything of their needs; medical treatment, education, shopping, leisure and a host of others. Considering Nigeria is a developing economy, any money going out of the country hampers its Current Account Balance; it is natural for any economy to protect the money flowing out of its country. Let me be quick to state here that the long held desire and dream of Nigeria becoming a preferred destination in the world was difficult to achieve in the past because of several pitfalls in the way and manner the harnessing of the country’s vast tourism potentials was handled. Hence Nigeria, despite her vast and enormous tourism endowments, still lags behind smaller African countries that have long shot into the limelight of global tourism industry as major key players, raking in billions of Dollars as foreign generated revenue into their coffers. Therefore, as a departure from that ugly trend and to avoid committing similar unfruitful and unyielding adventurous phenomenon, the Hon Minister, in his quintessential administrative wisdom, decided that for the first time in the history of the tourism industry in Nigeria, chose to toe the path of a holistic approach in repositioning the industry for better performance and realisable goals; inviting and involving all the diverse sectorial interests in the industry for an all inclusive participation and to fully drive the repositioning initiative for better result. All parastatals and agencies under the Ministry were brought together for the purpose of organising the Summit instead of the previous style of segmented Summits, Workshops or Conferences where the Agencies operate solo; with the tourism agencies going North, Culture going South, States Culture and Tourism operating East and Local Authorities stranded in the middle with nowhere to go! Synergy between government (public sector) on the one hand, and the investors (private sector) on the other was virtually non-existent, and where they do, always at par in all intent and purpose. On the basis of the foregoing, it is highly essential that the country evolves a broad global, regional and national policy frameworks within which Nigeria’s tourism development can be restored and enhanced. The problems of national development in Nigeria have not been due to the lack of or absence of policy but more from poor implementation and inconsistency. There is an urgent need for fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of tourism business process in Nigeria to bring about dramatic improvement in her performance. An economically viable and vibrant tourism industry that Nigeria urgently desires to contribute to national development cannot be left to chance. There has to be deliberate and pragmatic initiatives and actions influenced by the positive contributions of stakeholders, both from the public and private sectors as well as by multinational conglomerates with interest in tourism and sufficient funds to invest in the sector. It is about time that all hands are on deck in the efforts by the government to salvage the economy of this country through its diversification initiatives. In the same vein, let Culture and Tourism be the driving force and engine hub to achieving the desired success. The mere fact that in organising the Summit, all line agencies of the ministry are greatly involved and being carried along meant that government, as the provider of the enabling environment for tourism development, is alert to the need for the various arms and machineries to operate with the mind set of facilitating activities and programmes that promotes the growth of tourism industry. The need for a supportive collaboration and cooperation of all stakeholders in the industry, whether in the public or private sector cannot be overstressed in order to achieve the desired objective of the forthcoming Summit if tourism is to take its rightful place as the sector driver of Nigeria’s economy in years to come. This is the most appropriate time and the opportunity, as is being offered by the Hon Minister should not be allowed to slip. While Nigerians earnestly look forward with keen interest for like minds in the culture and tourism industry to come together, brainstorm and chat a formidable course for repositioning the industry that will economically, socially and politically change the economic fortunes of the country for good, this wishing all Guests and Participants in the three-day event a big welcome to Abuja and a wish for happy and fruitful deliberations!

Ahmed Mohammed Sule
Deputy Director,

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