Solomon Chung

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Commission for Africa (CAF) two weeks ago awarded Nigeria the hosting rights for the 61st meeting of African Ministers in charge of Tourism, scheduled for 2018.

The award of the hosting rights did not come as a surprise but rather as an ice-breaker for Nigeria to understand her huge tourism potentials and take advantage of the prospects in  that sector.

The uniqueness of the event that led to the clinching of the hosting rights lies in the fact that, Nigeria won the hosting rights by acclamation following the presentation of a five-minute video documentary, entitled ”Simply Nigeria”, to delegates at the 59th edition of the UNWTO CAF Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

The video which was greeted with a prolonged applause highlighted Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage, beautiful landmarks, tourism destinations as well as her bountiful human resources.

The brief but compelling documentary opened Nigeria’s splendid tourism window to stakeholders who had converged on Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to discuss the sector globally.

In his submission, Chairman of the UNWTO Commission for Africa and Zimbabwean Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Dr Walter Nzembi, told the gathering that procedurally a member state offers its destination for the host of the next CAF, where such request put to a test, but in the case of Nigeria, the magnificent applause the country got after the documentary was played, needed no further scrutiny but a simple nod as the next destination for the annual gathering.

As exciting as winning the hosting right is, there is much more to gain than just the gathering of CAF members and other global tourism stakeholders in Abuja. The hosting presents an opportunity for the country to showcase her rich cultural heritage to the entire world and to promote the country as a leisure and business destination.

The 2018 UNWTO/CAF Meeting will be a practical demonstration of the Nigerian government’s commitment to developing the tourism and culture sector as an alternative source of revenue in the government’s efforts to diversify the economy and move it away from being oil dependent.

With the strategies being put in place by the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to move tourism to the next level, there is no doubt that Nigeria’s tourism credentials will witness a boom with the unlocking of the greatest opportunities available in the sector. In addition, the direct economic benefits this event will bring to the country will be unquantifiable.

Nigeria as the third largest movie producer in the world and the leader in the movie and the creative industry in Africa, will use the opportunity to show the world what the country is capable of doing in the sector. The story of tourism in Nigeria will never remain the same again after the hosting of the event.

It is worthy of note that the global tourism community is giving Nigeria the right to host the 61st edition of the CAF meeting. This is an indication that the world has faith in the policies and programmes of the Nigerian government in the development of the tourism sector in the country.

Hosting the 2018 CAF in Abuja will once again put Nigeria on a higher global pedestal of culture and tourism. The event will provide the platform for Nigeria to tell the world her story undiluted, and from the Nigerian perspective, thereby boosting the confidence of prospective investors in the country.