From UN tourism agency, lifeline comes for Nigeria’s tourism sector

A cross section of the Nigerian delegation led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed

A cross section of the Nigerian delegation led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed

The Nigerian tourism sector is on the verge of receiving a major boost, as the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has rolled out a number of measures, including technical assistance, capacity building and the revision of the country’s Tourism Master Plan, as part of efforts to ensure the development of tourism in the country.

The UN Agency announced the measures, which also include the organisation of international conferences in Nigeria and the certification of tourism courses, at the end of a two-day meeting between the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the global tourism agency in Madrid, Spain, on Wednesday.

At the meeting, which held at the headquarters of the UNWTO, Nigeria also expressed interest in hosting the 60th meeting of the global Agency’s Commission for Africa in 2018 in order to attract global attention to tourism in the country.

The global agency is also widening access to its e-library for Nigerian tourism officials and offering support for relevant tourism institutions and agencies in Nigeria. Under the UNWTO’s technical assistance programme, Nigeria will be assisted in the area of data collection for the elaboration of tourism statistics, rural tourism development, hotel classification and in designing programmes to create awareness for tourism.

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 and the training of festival managers, among others.

Speaking at the meeting, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, who led the agency’s strong delegation, informed that the implementation of the programmes would start immediately and continue for the next two years.

He commended the Minister for his ‘’great intelligence and big vision’’ for tourism in Nigeria, adding that the ‘’good chemistry’’ between him and the Minister must be used for the good of Nigeria.

On his part, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who led the Nigerian delegation to the meeting, described it as most useful and beneficial to the country.“I want to express the appreciation of the Government and people of Nigeria to the UNWTO for their support. You have been passionate in your collaboration and you have helped us in more ways than we could imagine,’’ the minister said.

The meeting, which marked the return of Nigeria to the centre stage of the organisation it joined in 1975, was held at the instance of the UNWTO Secretary-General, who invited the Minister to the Agency’s headquarters after the two met at the 58th UNWTO CAF Meeting in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, last April.

A corss section of the UNWTO at the event in Spain.

A corss section of the UNWTO at the event in Spain.

It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, at the 2016 National Summit on Culture and Tourism in Abuja, assured that Tourism and Culture, which had been neglected in the past, would soon be the bedrock of Nigeria’s economy, while the Minister of Information and Culture, challenged rural dwellers, who were blessed with rich country’s cultural heritages and tourist sites, to live up to the responsibility of managing and protecting the sites for economic purposes.

Buhari, while declaring the summit open, described Tourism as rejected stone that would be rejuvenated to address the dwindling economy of the country. Represented by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr Okechuwku Enelama, the President said though Culture and Tourism sector is driven by private sector all over the world, the government would provide conducive environment to encourage investment in the sector.

“As a result of the combination of various factors such as the sharp drop in the price of oil, combined breakdown of protectionist policies and changes in social relations, countries are compelled to look for alternative sources of revenue and employment.

“Tourism therefore, is a resource of development and means of providing an additional opportunity for a non-industrialised country like ours, to diversify its economic base for the betterment of all. Consequently, the road for us as a nation to achieve our set objectives of diversifying our economic base will depend partly upon the quality of design and implementation of tourism policies; we must develop appropriate policies and the right attitudes towards achieving the desired goals,” he said.

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