Nigeria begins implementation of tourism summit report

Solomon Chung, Lagos

Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed

In a bid to diversify the nation’s economy away from oil, the Nigerian Government has begun the implementation of the 2016 National Tourism and Culture summit report.

This was disclosed by the country’s Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed   while answering questions at a Press Conference in Lagos, South West Nigeria, on the outcome of his recent official visit to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

Mohammed stated that one of the high points of the draft recommendation was the resuscitation of the Presidential Council on Tourism which had been inactive.

Also, the concept of empowering artisans, local communities involved in culture and tourism activities through the N500 billion social intervention fund in the 2016 budget was the creation of the committee.

Another is the creation of capacity building centers across the six Geo-political zones for the empowerment of women in tourism, which is a request that was taken to the UNWTO.

There will also be a change the name of the ministry to Federal Ministry of Information and Tourism and the restructuring of the various parastatals under the Ministry for effective performance among other recommendations.

The Minister also revealed that the Ministry has mapped out plans to visit all tourism locations across the country very soon, in a bid to identify first hand, things to be done to revamp such sites.

According to him, the Presidential Council on Tourism is very strategic and key to tourism development.

“Tourism is not a stand-alone ministry; there must be deliberate collaboration and synergy with other ministries and agencies of government.

For example, The Ministry of Works, Aviation, Health, Interior, Defense, Finance and many others are an integral part of tourism development and as such, the only platform to get them together to discuss and strategize on tourism is at the Presidential Council, headed by the President.”

He added that a memo on the resuscitation of the Master Plan has been dispatched to the office of Mr. President.

To coincide with the first meeting of the revived PCT, the UNWTO is planning an international conference on the role of tourism as a catalyst for development, peace and reconciliation, in Maiduguri – which is the hotbed of the insurgency.

UNWTO gains

Mohammed told the gathering the outcome of the meeting with the UNWTO.

“The icing on the cake for Nigeria is its request to host the 60th meeting of the global Agency’s Commission for Africa in 2018 in order to attract global attention to tourism in the country. Though there are still formalities to be undertaken to ensure that Nigeria gets the hosting rights, the truth is that the hosting is Nigeria’s to reject, going by the enthusiasm with which the request was received by the Secretary-General and members of his Executive Council.”

He emphasized that the agreed programmes with the UN agency were classified under five major clusters: Policy, Activities/Events , Governance Issues, Technical Assistance and Capacity Building as well as Bilateral Relations. Therefore, every programme that will be implemented under the Agreement will fall under the five clusters.

“The UNWTO will soon deploy a needs-assessment mission to Nigeria, to be followed by the deployment of experts to train tourism officials, both at the agencies responsible for tourism and the national statistics agency, the national bureau of statistics.

They will also organize a sensitization workshop during the training. In the area of capacity building, the focus will be on the empowerment of women in tourism through the centres being planned for the six geo-political zones.”

One thing the Minister was conscious of was that “overall, we know whatever assistance we get from international agencies, the task of developing tourism in Nigeria rests squarely on us.”

UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which is headquartered in Madrid, Spain is the UN agency charged with the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally-accessible tourism and Nigeria has been a member of this specialized UN agency since 1975.