Nigeria: World Tourism Day 2020 Excites Stakeholders
Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the World Tourism Day (WTD) on Sunday, a few days before the country’s 60th independence anniversary. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) set aside September 27 every year to celebrate tourism for its unique performance. JUSTINA OKPANKU writes on the thrill and glamour of this year’s event
The 2020 World Tourism Day (WTD) celebration was different. Clearly, it was a very special day not only because it falls on a Sunday, a work-free day, it came few days before the 60th anniversary of Nigeria, and tourism operators were excitedly waiting for the opportunity as to when there will be intervention for rural tourism and local communities.
They were proud to identify with the World Tourism Day 2020 with regard to its theme: “Tourism and Rural Development.” Tourists and adventurers hardly have access to most of the sites, which are in the rural areas as a result of bad roads, for example. Not enough is being done. As people wait for solutions and actions, the United Nations Special Agency apparently prompted member states like Nigeria to shine a new light on the rural areas and by extension the sites, both natural and man-made.
Notably, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed was able to rise to the need. Mohammed who supervises Nigeria tourism sector promised that the Federal Government would leverage tourism for rural development. Indeed, both the public and private sector tourism operators were apparently in celebration mode. The operators came together and decided to design events that matched the theme of World Tourism Day 2020.
Tourism stakeholders in the country had so much fun over zoom. Lagos, Ogun, NIHOTOUR, tourism institute, and the Nigerian Tourism Development (NTDC) and some others organised virtual conferences to mark the tourism day. There were video calls as operators discuss. NIHOTOUR partnered the private sector as a fallout of tourism day celebrations. Lagos Tourism hybrid conference is still the talk of- town as the tourism chiefs involved a royal father, Oba Omogbolahan Lawal, the Oniru of Iruland in Lagos.
There were visits to rural areas where some of the sites are located. There were visits to Epe Fish Market, the most popular fish market in Lagos State; visit Ikare Island, home to Dolphin and Sealions in the Lagoon/Atlantic Ocean axis as well as Badagry in Lagos where tourists dined on a floating restaurant. Supervisor for Environment and Tourism, Epe Local Council, Princess Sura Animashaun said about the Epe meeting, “Epe destination is peaceful and conducive for tourists to explore. It is known for as the fish market.” Operators also enjoyed outdoor activities such as boat regatta, boat cruise and other water-based leisure. Apart from Lagos, the WTD was marked in some states of the federation such as Enugu, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Plateau and Bayelsa. It is learnt that the Enugu State Government is leveraging the United Nations special day to rebrand its tourist sites to improve on its internally generated revenue.
Speaking on the event, the host of NaijaSevenWonders, a private sector initiative, Mr. Ikechi Uko said he was overjoyed reading about the WTD activities of NaijaSevenWonders members. Some of them shared their beautiful photos in the social media. “How I wish Nigerians know what this group is doing to uplift tourism in Nigeria. Everyone is busy organising one trip or another, one event or another. We are all learning from each other and building each other up,” he said, adding: “In all of these please obey the COVID-19 protocols. Nobody enjoyed the lockdown so let us be an example to others.”
Another leading tourism operator, Louis Nwadialo, used superlatives to describe his experience while talking about the masquerades floated in Ezeagu, Enugu to celebrate World Tourism Day. “We had the fun of our lives,” he said. Many agreed, totally.
Tourism Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said: “Plan is underway by the Federal Government to establish community museums as part of efforts to ensure that local communities benefit from tourism, thus ensuring that the sector contributes to rural development. ”Tourism plays an important role in preserving and promoting culture and heritage all around the world. This is why we are leveraging on the sector to take development to the grassroots by ensuring that local communities own and benefit from the cultural heritage and the tourist attractions in their domain.” The minister said the occasion of the 2020 World Tourism Day presents the opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on the impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic, which has hit the sector hard and also stepped down the national celebration of the day.
He said despite the negative impact of Covid-19 on the sector, it was a mark of its resilience that governments around the world still look to the sector to drive recovery as a leading employer and economic pillar in cities and the rural communities. ”It is globally recognised that tourism empowers rural communities and provides employment mostly for women and youth. It plays an important role in diversifying the rural economy and its growth, thereby contributing to the sustainability of the population and the economy of the areas. Tourism, therefore, helps rural communities make the transition from agrarian to diversified and sustainable economies.”
The Minister further explained that rural tourism perfectly suits the trend of most modern travellers seeking authentic and unique experiences, local lifestyles and the need to experience natural and unspoiled landscapes. According to him, ”Rurality is the central and unique selling point in the rural tourism package, and apart from being located in rural areas, small in scale, traditional in character and slowly growing and controlled by the local people; rural tourism is regarded as tourism in the countryside, which embraces the rural environment. Most importantly, rural tourism aims to include and benefit rural communities, while preserving their environmental and cultural assets.”
He said in line with the comment made by the Secretary-General of the UNWTO, that the current Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity for member States to rethink the tourism sector and its contribution to the people and planet. Nigeria, it will be recalled, set up a committee to look at the impact of Covid-19 on the Creative Industry and Tourism, with a view to finding ways to catalyse the growth of the tourism sector in particular and the creative industry in general. Mohammed expressed the hope that all the relevant sectors will fully integrate and promote all the recovery recommendations and deliverables developed to support the recovery.
On his part, Director General of NIHOTOUR, Alhaji Nura Sani Kangiwa used the event to call for close collaboration and synergy between government and the private sector within a sustainable framework to grow the industry.