Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Ameachi
Destination branding is fast becoming a major indice by state governments in Nigeria to attract investors and boost their states’ profiles. Raheem Akingbolu writes on the import of such initiative recently embarked upon by the River State Government
Many state governments have become consciously aware of the individual and institutional foreign investors’ search for economies to invest in. This phenomenon has prompted the government, both on the state and federal level, to make frantic efforts to create an alluring state to visitors and investors.
Cross Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Rivers states have been on the front burner of destination marketing campaigns, having full knowledge of its capacity to not only boost local trade but also attract foreign investors for sustained development within the state.
Toward the end of last year, the Rivers State Government reinforced its destination marketing strategy with the showcasing of its rich culture and tourism potentials to market the city in a carnival that attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to the state. Last year’s edition of the PorHarcourt Carnival, also known as CARNIRIV, which held between 9th December and 15th December in Port Harcourt, was organised by the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA), an institution established by the state government to harness the economic potentials in the state’s tourism sector.
The Director-General, RSTDA, Dr. Sam Dede, described the carnival as a platform to showcase the environment and facilities of the state and also demonstrate that there are peace, security and business opportunity in the state. Dede said the state government had decided to leverage on the enormous tourism and economic development potentials of the carnival to refocus the attention of investors on the state, attract more investments and promote the rich culture and heritage of the Rivers people and Nigeria at large.
It is therefore viewed that such carnival is important to allay the fears of any investor and promote peace and opportunity in contrast to the belief of some foreign investors that the Niger Delta is a high risk zone.
The RSTDA director, in an interview, said the cultural festival, apart from providing opportunities for relaxation and showcasing the diverse cultures of the people, also boosts micro economy as local businesses such as hotels, transport companies and retail stores are fully engaged by visitors who come into Port Harcourt to witness the festival.
“The main objective of CARNIRIV is to place River State boldly on the investment map of the world. We want to attract not just tourists and culture lovers to the state, but also create a platform to promote economic activities and commercial exchange not just during the festival period but much after,” he said.
He said the agency has a five-year plan to develop the carnival brand and the 2012 edition was the first of the five editions that would lead CARNIRIV to international limelight. He assured that the agency as well as the state government is determined to see the carnival develop into a world-class event.
One of the key growth trends in the global tourism industry is the diversification of the tourism product away from high-impact mass tourism, toward specialty or niche markets like cultural tourism. Festival tourism is a sub-component of cultural tourism and has experienced significant growth in the last decade as tourist planners have come to recognize the demand-pull of the arts, popular music, entertainment and themed events.