Creative Industry Projected as Part of Tourism Economy

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Mid July, the creative industry in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture met in what can be termed a strategic meeting to take the industry into a golden era with smooth financing, world class management and local and international distribution. Interestingly, destinations across the world are beginning to replace or supplement culture-led development strategies with creative development. So, Nigeria is not alone in this strategy. Omolola Itayemi examines the impact and effectiveness of creative strategies in tourism development. 

Earlier in the month, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed announced a tripartite partnership with the CNN and the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to boost the Creative Industry in Nigeria, using the film industry as a pivot.

Speaking at the Creative Industry Roundtable in Lagos, Alhaji Mohammed said under the partnership, the film industry would be used “as a lens through which we will project various aspects of the Nigerian Culture, Tourism and similar areas.

“We are kick-starting the project with a 13-episode production showcasing the various stages in a movie production. These include the choice of location, which will allow us to showcase the various beautiful sceneries available in Nigeria; the choice of wardrobe that will show the rich options in the country’s fashion industry; the choice of sound track that will highlight our rich music genres, the casting that will showcase our abundant talents and the technical part that will provide the platform to show that there is no camera and other gadgets that we don’t have here.”

He said the tripartite partnership, as well as the MoUs with the Tony Elumelu Foundation, the Bank of Industry and the British Council, was part of the efforts by the Federal Government to transform the Creative Industry to a Creative Economy.

“This administration has no doubt that the plan to transform the Creative Industry to a Creative Economy must be driven by the private sector. After all, it is self-evident that the modest growth that has been achieved in the Creative Industry so far, whether in films, music or fashion, has been achieved in spite of the government. It therefore stands to reason that with the government providing the necessary enabling environment and the private sector in the driver’s seat, the transformation can be realised within a short time,” he said.

Reeling statistics from the UK and the US to buttress his point, Alhaji Mohammed emphasised that the Creative Industry was Nigeria’s new oil.

Alhaji Lai’s pronouncement, however, has triggered a debate in the tourism industry to the effect that such a plan requires tourism private sector inputs. One may not necessarily go into the details of these complaints except to recognise the validity of such and hope that there will be consideration of the issues raised in the near future. But the development throws up the need to understand fully what is involved.

In his own contribution, Director–General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, Mr. Folorunsho Folarin Coker described the creative industry as a strategic nexus for unlocking the tourism economy in Nigeria.

He said, “One integral part of the tourism sub economy which has not received copious attention and adequate recognition in our efforts at mainstreaming the tourism economy is the creative industry. This industry is a strategic nexus for stoking tourism as a development economy with relevance to the nation and the citizens.”

He goes further to say, “The creative industry is unique in that it relies on an unlimited local and global resource, depends on  human creativity, strengthening growth strategies in the creative economy and primarily focuses on harnessing the development potential of an unlimited resource without relying on optimising limited resources as in traditional manufacturing industries.

“Nigeria is abundantly blessed in the area of unique traditional-architecture,  art, crafts, design, heritage, museums, galleries, libraries, fashion, film, music, performing arts, advertising and marketing,  publishing, TV and radio. But we have not devolved efforts at maximising the inherent economic blessing in this via tourism.”

He stated, “For the full exploration and mobilisation of the tourism economy in serving the essentials of job creation, revenue generation, wealth stimulation, community development and social integration, the creative industry must not only be harnessed but must be synchronised within the template of tourism development and promotion.”

By emphasising that the creative industry is the strategic nexus of the tourism economy, the NTDC boss has brought home the issue. It suggests that the creative industry now forms part of the larger tourism economy as a hub. It lends to the larger game-plan which Mr. Folarin-Coker had been speaking about – a game-plan which promotes creative tourism. But what does this mean?

Creative tourism is concerned with the development of the individual, and is closely related to inner-directed lifestyle. UNESCO defines creative tourism as travel directed towards an engaged and authentic experience, with participative learning in the arts, heritage, or special character of a place, and that creates a connection to the residents and their culture. According to Ivana Voli, a Cultural Management professor, creative tourism is a new concept – a framework for different forms of tourism, which includes existential authenticity, creativity and individual creation of experience.

The Tour Nigeria campaign, according to the DG, and NTDC, is not a ‘one-off’ event but part of a more holistic promotional approach to develop community clusters and to help identify events and festivals, which when put together provide visitors and citizens with authentic and memorable experiences.

Tourism provides a host of opportunities for the creative industry, and the creative industry can indeed be an effective conduit for tourism. But exploiting these opportunities would not always be easy. For instance, tourism through the creative industry could sometimes fall into the same trap that cultural tourism development often did in the past, such as the tendency to assume that having culture, or being creative, in this case, by themselves may not be sufficient to attract tourists.

Although creative actors can often be found operating in tourism, but the creative industry itself may be difficult for tourists to penetrate. This is because creative work often takes place in the closed spaces of the workshop, the atelier or the office. Although the performing arts provide an important ‘front stage’ for creativity, other areas such as design, architecture and advertising remain relatively difficult to access. Even the performing arts are only usually accessible through performances, which limits the time available for tourists to access the creative process. This problem is clear in creative clusters, where access to creativity is often limited to consuming the ‘buzz’ of informal creative meeting spaces such as cafes and restaurants rather than the creative production process itself.

The idea of driving the tourism economy, albeit, through the creative industry is a noble one. Just as the fortunes have shown in other climes of the world, it can show likewise for the Nigerian tourism economy.

Besides, it makes sense to operate where one has comparative advantage. Nigeria is world renowned for its creative industry as against picturesque beaches, heritage parks, and historical sites.  Developing the creative industry could also lead to further development in other areas of the nation’s economy such as human capital development and real estate.

It is necessary to emphasise that the relative importance of the cultural and creative sector becomes more apparent when one compares its value added to a destination such as Europe where its 2003 contribution to GDP was higher compared with that of other industries. For instance, real estate activities (including the development, buying, selling and letting of real estate), one of the driving sectors of the European economy in the previous years, accounted for 2.1% of Europe’s GDP – a figure that was inferior to the cultural and creative sector’s contribution. The economic contribution of the cultural and creative sector was also measured as higher than that of the sector of food, beverages and tobacco manufacturing (1.9%), the textile industry (0.5%) and the chemicals, rubber and plastic products industry (2.3%).

The new development seems not to be a wishful thought. The Minister of Information and Culture on Monday announced the establishment of a $1million Venture Capital to boost the Creative Industry.

The Minister made the announcement at the opening of a two-day Creative Industry Financing Conference holding in Lagos, saying 20 people, each investing $50,000, are expected to help make up the required amount.

He said so far, five people had volunteered to invest $50,000 each, and expressed the optimism that more investors would come forward.

Alhaji Mohammed said the $1-million Venture Capital would provide seed money for young and talented Nigerians to set up businesses in the Creative Industry.