UNWTO: Lagos Pivotal to World Tourism Promotion

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Ambode explains decision to invest in strategic infrastructure

Gboyega Akinsanmi

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Wednesday disclosed that Lagos, a megacity of over 24 million people, will play a pivotal role in its quest to promote new tourism destinations across the world.

The Secretary General of UNWTO, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, made the disclosure at a meeting with the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, at the State House, Alausa Wednesday.

Pololikashvili was accompanied to the State House, Alausa by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and a high delegation comprising eight tourism ministers and representatives from 44 African states.

After the meeting at the State House, the delegation paid a visit to the Eko Atlantic City, one of the world’s cutting-edge new cities built on 750 square kilometres adjacent to Victoria Island.

Speaking at the State House, Alausa as part of the activities to mark the 61st UNWTO/CAF meeting in Abuja, Pololikashvili said the visit to Lagos State was a pointer “to the role Lagos will play in developing tourism in Africa”.

He described the visit “to Lagos as the best part of the meeting. We are here to promote new tourism destinations. You can count on us., thanks to you, to promote this fantastic place. Thanks for receiving us and rest assured that Lagos will be one of the most important parts of our strategy branding”.

Also at the meeting, Ambode said the massive investment in infrastructure renewal by his administration was a well thought out strategy to position Lagos as a tourism hub.

He said his administration was not unmindful of the massive economic benefits yet untapped from the tourism sector, adding that conscious efforts are being made to maximise the potentials for the benefit of the people.

He said: “We believe with the kind of population and the market that Lagos has, we must start to create tourism infrastructure to be able to grow our economy.

“That is why as you move across Lagos, you would observe that it is technically a construction site. From Murtala Mohammed International Airport to the Eko Atlantic City, we are developing strategic projects that promote tourism.

“The projects will drive people to come and spend their weekend here, just the way you have decided to spend Wednesday here in Lagos and the government gets some form of revenue from taxes when people use our hotels.

“So, there is a cycle of development that tourism tries to drive and that is why we have continuously supported whatever has to do with tourism and let me reiterate also that we would continue to support everything tourism because anything that can integrate and bound the continent together. That is where we should go because we are the next story.”

He said a UN report in 2016 showed that 86 people enter Lagos every hour, with only Mumbai coming close with 79, followed by New York and London with 7 and 9 respectively, adding that it was a viable opportunity to use tourism to drive human and capital development.

“Lagos has almost a population of 24 million right now. According to UN report, as at 2016, 86 people enter Lagos every one hour and most likely not wanting to go back. Next is Mumbai, 79; New York 7; London, 9.

“So, why are people coming to Lagos and not wanting to go back? It means that at a point where we are not able to provide jobs for them, we need to start looking at the area of tourism to be able to create that next port of building the state’s GDP and tap into the creative mind of our people, which is something that we have not really been doing across Africa,” he said.

In his remarks, Mohammed said the support of Lagos State was largely responsible for the hosting of the 61stUNWTO/CAF Meeting in Nigeria.

Without the generous support and cooperation of Lagos State, the information minister noted that the 61st UNWTO/CAF meeting would not have been possible.

He said: “When I ran into difficulties it was my brother that I came to and he bailed me out. I remain eternally grateful to you and Nigeria is very grateful to you because your support has made the meeting successful.”

He said the visit to Lagos was a major part of the conference and Lagos was chosen because of its foremost place in the country’s tourism architecture, adding that the massive investment in tourism infrastructure by Ambode has gone a long way to show the state’s seriousness to emerge as a leading tourism hub in Nigeria and Africa.