Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has pledged to turn the enormous potentials that abound in the tourism industry into a thriving tourism economy.
Mohammed made the pledge in Abuja on Tuesday when he received the International Tourism Adviser of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, UNWTO, Jim Flannery, who is in Nigeria to assist in the review of the country’s Tourism Master Plan.
“Like I said, I want to leave a legacy as the Minister that came and transformed the Creative Industry to a Creative Economy,” the minister said.
“I want to come and leave as the Minister of Tourism that made Nigeria transit from just a country of tourism potentials to a country of tourism economy and this is why we are here today and I believe that we have all it takes to make it work.
”I am tired of Nigerians saying we have tourism potentials. I want us to start realizing those tourism potentials. I am tired of saying that tourism can create thousands of jobs in Nigeria; I want us to start creating those jobs,” he said.
Mohammed said the president Muhammadu Buhari administration has the political will to drive the process, especially by removing all the bottlenecks hindering the active participation of the private sector in the tourism industry and relaxing the rigid visa regime that discourages tourists from coming into the country.
“Our role really as government is more of regulatory and providing guidelines and protection, but the real jobs are within three groups of people: The states, the local community and the private sector,” he said.
The Minister said that the visit of the UNWTO International Tourism Adviser shows that Nigeria was taking the issue of tourism seriously.
“Today is the first concrete evidence that truly all that I said we were able to achieve at our July meeting with UNWTO is true and that’s why I am particularly glad that Mr. Flannery is here today and his presence here is the first step in actualizing one of the six promises and commitments that were made to us by the UNWTO,” he said.
Mohammed expressed optimism that tourism remains one of the avenues that will rejuvenate Nigeria’s economy and provide employment for the masses.
He said: “Tourism is so unique. It’s the only industry in the world that is pro the poor people. It’s the only industry in the world that is pro the rural area and it’s the only industry in the world where you do not need highly specialized skills or knowledge because nature in its mercy and bountifulness has created tourism sites where it wants not where we want.
“The Zuma Rock, the Owu Waterfall were put there by God. The Cross River Wild Park was not man-made. So it is one industry that if we harness properly, we can bring development right to the rural areas, create jobs and harmony.”
Responding, the UNWTO International Tourism Adviser, said there is currently a renewed interest in tourism due to its vitality and inexhaustible nature.
“Tourism worldwide is becoming recognized more and more as one of the great economic activities that is of major benefit to countries. Why is it of benefit? Because tourism unlike manufacturing industry can go into the regions and in fact it does go into communities and you don’t need major structured investment for tourism to be successful,” he said.