DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mr. Folorunsho Coker, said domestic tourism as inevitable for sustainable economy diversification.
Coker, who said this in a chat with journalists in Abuja prior the 2017 World Tourism Day, described domestic tourism as the only form of sustainable tourism that is shock-resistant to terrorists’ attack and foreign exchange depreciation, and the foundation on which the international tourism can land safely in terms of values for money, quality for service, maturity of both tourist destinations and institutions.
This year edition of the World Tourism Day would be celebrated in Doha, Qatar, tomorrow, Wednesday, September 27, 2017 with the theme: “Sustainable Tourism – a Tool for Development.”
World Tourism Day 2017, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), presents a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the contribution of sustainable tourism to development among public and private sector decision-makers and the international community, while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change.
Revealing his plans to ensure rapid growth of domestic tourism in Nigeria, Coker said, his administration created a sub-brand, ‘TourNigeria’, a 5-point plan that aims to promote domestic tourism and encourage ease of doing business in Nigeria.
The plan, which is acronymic ‘CHIEF’, according to him, seeks to introduce global best practices for the tourism industry, encourage human capital and infrastructural development, and aims to promote and protect Nigeria’s cultural heritage, while also pushing for capital projects in the tourism sector.
The NTDC boss, who also enjoined Nigerians to learn to celebrate what the country is blessed with stressed the need for a restructuring of the laws governing the practice of tourism in Nigerian.
Coker said the change in the NTDC bill is to ensure international best practices in the nation’s tourism industry, adding that the 2017 bill, as against the Extant Act, would open up avenues of collaboration with different stakeholders, hoping to enter into partnership in order to promote the industry.
The NTDC boss said: “We don’t have the ideal model to have a functional framework compare with some of the countries around the world, but what we have is good. If we compare Nigeria, especially with regards to cultural destination heritage tourism that we traditionally known as tourism, to other countries, it is obvious that we are very wealthy when it comes to that.
“And when you talk of security, it is an indisputable fact that there is no country that does not have a security issue. If you are at war, you have a problem. Every country has an element of crime, and they are dealing with it. Crime today has drastically come down in the country. France, Israel and London, among others, have suffered serious terrorist attack, but people still go there. So why are we so quick to say the negative about our wonderful country and her assets? We should also be quick to celebrate what we have.
“However, our destinations and our cultural tourism assets have not been in the focus of our investment drives, both from the private and the public sector, hence, those things have suffered. But now, we are drawing attention to them, encouraging people to invest in these huge tourism assets.”
While describing Nigeria as a labyrinth of enviable tourism assets and potentials, the NTDC boss disclosed that over the years, Nigeria has been fortunate to develop new forms of cultural exchange, “like our music, which is huge around the world; our Noolywood is number two in the world; our fashion is simply superb, with our fashion designers competing at international level; our food, our religion enjoy good attention globally. These show how rich we are in tourism assets. It is now for us to decide what we want and the ingredients need, then put them together to prepare a sumptuous tourism meal to be enjoyed by our nation.”
On the election of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as the Vice President of UNWTO, the DG stated that NTDC would be the greatest beneficiary of the election.
“Alhaji Lai Muhammed, is a tenacious hardworking-driven person, and I am sure it is the recognition of his outstanding personal qualities, commitment to the growth of the industry and drive that earned him the position.
“Again, the fact that the 2018 UNWTO General Assembly would be held in Nigeria is a great privilege for us. The experience of Nigeria by such a high level delegates would make the tourism ministers across the globe our cultural ambassadors. Bringing them to Nigeria would serve a great purpose: it would give us a fair hearing and reverse all the unfair constant negative conversations about Nigeria,” Coker said.
Coker described the relationship between tourism and the media is a special one, saying, “Tourism cannot be sold by keeping quiet. If I don’t enlighten the people on what they need to know about the importance tourism, the industry would always be on the back burner. I would not stop making noise about the need to embrace domestic tourism until the country begins to make good revenue through the industry.”