The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism hasn’t achieved much in the past and some stakeholders are of the opinion that the premier Nigerian Culture and Tourism Summit that took place in Abuja is just another of many white elephant programmes the industry is known for. Remember, the ‘Fascinating Nigeria’ project of the Edem Duke administration which was nothing but a jamboree. A lot is in the works according to the current Minister of Tourism, Lai Mohammed. Let’s hope he won’t go the way of his predecessors. Tourism offers an opportunity for a non-industrialised country like ours to diversify its economic base. The onus falls on the minister and his team to deliver on what was promised at the 3-day summit. Omolola Itayemi writes on tips from the stakeholders/experts and promises from the minister and his team
Culture and tourism experts at the 2016 National Summit on Culture and Tourism have recommended ways to reposition the sector to achieve the needed benefits.They made the recommendations during a plenary session in the summit on Thursday in Abuja.
Mr Bertram Azuwike, the Director of Macro-economy and Statistics Department of National Bureau of Statistic (NBS) said there was need to develop a data bank for the culture and tourism industry. He added that “culture and tourism data bank will help to show the significance of tourism’s economic contribution to national income. This will give the industry greater respect from both government officials and the public. It will enable policy makers to measure the impact of past policies and projects, thus helping them to know the extent to which the set objectives were attained. Culture and tourism will not go far without a data bank.’’
Similarly, Chief Tomi Akingbogun, the President of Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), said it was through the private sector that government could make money.
He noted that if the proper things were not put in place to make business excel, culture and tourism business would not attain its intended position and benefits. “Tourism has impact on employment and the economy; we have many tourism potential and if we cannot tap them, we will go nowhere. If 20 states in the country are doing well in tourism, it will have multiplier effects on the economy; the Calabar Carnival had effects on hotels, farmers and street cleaners. If the carnival is done three times in a month and in 20 states of the federation in a year; imagine the number of people it will empower.”
He said that the private sector was interested in driving the economy. However, he added that it was regrettable that it took a long time for tourism investors to get approval from government, stressing “that is why we keep talking yearly without progress.’’
Akingbogun recommended the establishment of Tourism Bank to facilitate access to funds by investors instead of waiting for budgeted monies from the ministry to carry out projects.’
He said that taxation on hospitality industry, including the recent tariff increase by power sector investors was killing the industry.
“Hotels are shutting down in Abuja. Transcorp Hilton recently complained that its electricity tariff increased by N25 million monthly. With such increment and other exorbitant levies, how do you expect them and other hotels to expand,’’ he queried.
Akingbogun said there was need to develop tourism clusters, reactivate the Presidential Committee on Tourism and implement the Nigerian Tourism Map.
He also recommended effective leadership at the tourism parastatals, tourism vouchers and the inclusion of domestic tourism in education curriculum of schools across the country.
Another expert, Prof. Sule Bello, said: “Culture is about what we learn and how we put it into practice.’’
Bello said museums in the country were being taken for granted, adding that “museums are the source of our history and ways of life.’’
He said that the Ministry of Information and Culture should extend hands of cooperation to countries like Ghana, Kenya, The Gambia and others.
“Nigerian arts and painting should be placed at strategic areas at the National Assembly, the presidential villa and entry points of the Federal Capital Territory. Government should have its museums in other countries of the world; this will go a long way to portray the country’s history to others.
“Cultural history of the country should be taught from primary school to university level across the country,’’ he said.
Speaking in same vein, another expert, Mr Wale Akinboboye, observed that “when the Europens came to Africa, they were fascinated by our rich cultural heritage and they referred to us as `Cultural People. Therefore, if we want to drive culture and tourism, we must do it through the way we live.’’
Malam Sherif Abdulhamid, another tourism expert, said that the function of tourism was to attract people and gain benefits.
He stressed the need for government to identify potential linkages in the tourism sector and to harness them toward earning for the development of the nation. To this end, the Minister of Information and Culture challenged the rural dwellers, who were blessed with rich c cultural heritages and tourist sites to live up to the responsibility of managing and protecting the sites for economic purposes.
President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr Okechuwku Enelama, declared the summit open, and described tourism as rejected stone that would be rejuvenated to address the dwindling economy of the country. The President said though Culture and Tourism sector is driven by private sector all over the world, it would provide conducive environment to encourage investment in the sector.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said: “As a result of the combination of various factors such as the sharp drop in the price of oil, combined breakdown of protectionist policies and changes in social relations, countries are compelled to look for alternative sources of revenue and employment. Consequently, the road for us as a nation to achieve our set objectives of diversifying our economic base will depend partly upon the quality of design and implementation of tourism policies; we must develop appropriate policies and the right attitudes towards achieving the desired goals.
“We are aware that the development of the tourism sector all over the world is largely Private-Sector-driven. However as evident in the 2016 Budget, this administration will continue to provide the required enabling environment for arts, culture and tourism to thrive and develop, through the massive upgrading of infrastructure and the provision of security.
“We will continue to encourage public and private sector participation and partnership in all the desired areas including Transportation, Beach and Resort development as well as Tour operations, Hotel and Hospitality development.
“As you are aware, culture generally represents the totality of the history and way of life of a people. Over the years, Nigeria is recognised to have a rich cultural heritage – not just in our arts and crafts but also in our ways of life. However, over time, as a result of so many experiences we seem to have lost the tenets of our cultural values; which are of integrity, honesty, sincerity and God-consciousness.”