While the Nigerian government is yet to come out with a cogent roadmap on diversification from oil to other things like tourism, other countries of the world have continued to engage in discussions to further boost their tourism sector. African countries like The Gambia, South Africa, Kenya and others have continued to invest more in tourism.

Consequently, the Republic of China and The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have concluded plans to organize the First World Conference on Tourism for Development billed for Beijing on 18-21 May 2016.

The conference titled ‘Tourism for Peace and Development’ is geared towards kick starting a high level debate on the contribution of tourism to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to a statement issued by UNWTO, the high level segment of the conference on ‘Sustainable Development through Tourism’ will analyze how to advance the contribution of tourism to the 17 SDGs, including the sector’s ability to create jobs, promote local culture and be an agent of change towards more sustainable consumption and production (SCP) practices.

The programme, which will be moderated by CNN anchor and correspondent, Richard Quest, will also focus on how countries can align their national development strategies with the SDGs and the role of public and private partnerships in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Speaking on the conference, Secretary-General of UNWTO, Taleb Rifai said: “Tourism is one of the most dynamic economic sectors, with significant global reach, and as such, can make an important contribution to the achievement of the SDGs, particularly in the areas of job creation, sustainable consumption and production and the preservation of natural resources”.

Rifai noted that the conference would be complemented with two high level sessions focusing on “Tourism for Poverty Reduction” which will discuss how governments, the international community, the private sector, and academia can collaborate to enhance tourism’s contribution to poverty reduction and how to better integrate the marginalized and disadvantaged groups, particularly youth and women, into the global tourism value chain.

The positive impact of tourism is behind the decision of Chinese authorities to launch the 13th, Five-year plan period, a nationwide tourism development plan to lift 17 percent of the country’s impoverished population out of poverty by 2020.

According UNWTO, CNTA and the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of China expect that by 2020, three million rural tourism businesses will be receiving two billion annual visitors, lifting two million of China’s rural population out of poverty every year”.

When asked of what Nigerian government was doing to boost the tourism sector, the Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo said the government had too many issues to handle at this time when the country is faced with economic downturn.

She encouraged private sectors to invest in tourism as the benefit is huge

We can look at the following ways to help promote tourism:

Revamp the Tourism Value Chain: Nigeria’s tourism value chain is disconnected, honestly speaking. The parastatals that are supposed to function together are working individually and achieving nothing. NIHOTOUR is as good as dead, bringing nothing to the tourism value chain. Apart from NTDC, I am struggling to see what value these parastatals are bringing to the table.

Implementation of National Tourism Policy: A committee to draw up a tourism policy for Nigeria was set up on the 7th of February, 2005 by the Obasanjo-led administration. The final report was submitted on 12th December of that same year. In spite of the brilliant recommendations made by the committee, none of them have been adopted.

Revamp, operate and transfer: With a solid national tourism policy, the modus operandi to revamp or build, operate and transfer the sites will be simplified. A system where the private sector develops and operates a site for a few years until they get returns on their investments before transferring the facility to the government will yield benefit

Adopt a Tourist site: As part of their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR), blue chip companies should be encouraged to adopt a tourist destination within their locality, making them function as pseudo-owners of the site.

Supporting Infrastructure: Security, electricity, transportation, communication and other supporting infrastructure are key factors that attract tourists to a country. If they are in a comatose, visitors will search for alternative destinations. It is pertinent to provide these supporting infrastructures for leisure and business travel to Nigeria to grow.

Presentation and packaging of Festivals: For Nigeria’s tourism sector to attract the world, the presentation and packaging of festivals and tourism- related events should be top-notch. Shabbily organized events will turn away tourists. So, great efforts should be made to put together fantastic events.

In addition, aggressive media campaigns should be carried out. For example, buying spaces in international media platforms to sell these sites could do some magic. The aim is to highlight reasons why tourists should make Nigeria their preferred destination in Africa.