Reiterating Commitment to Put Lagos on World Tourism Map

In celebration of World Tourism Day marked annually on September 27, the Commissioner of the Lagos Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf rolls out the achievements of the ministry with a renewed commitment to attracting more tourists and helping creatives in the state, writes Vanessa Obioha 

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic left a marked effect on all aspects of the global economy. While sectors like online streaming platforms and big online retail stores recorded high-profit margins, others like tourism and SMEs suffered great losses. 

Data released by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) revealed that the global tourism industry lost over $1.3 trillion due to a 74 per cent decline in global travel stemming from strict healthcare guidelines in 2020. 

Unfortunately, this had turned into a bane to the new set of political leaders who assumed power in 2019. One such person is the Commissioner of the Lagos Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf.

The halt to global travel meant that policies proposed by the ministry could not be actualised. However, interventions were made by the Lagos State Government through Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to ensure that the sector was bailed out months after restrictive measures were lessened.

“The governor of Lagos State gave an approval to release the large sum of N1 billion to assist the tourism sector to ensure that immediately after the pandemic, it will come back to life, and we never stopped at that. After the pandemic we came back to life immediately,” Yussuf revealed. 

Today, the tourism sector in Lagos state has recorded many successes that could be translated into the sheer amount of tourism-driven programmes it supports. In 2021 alone, it published the Tourism Arts and Culture Calendar, detailing over 80 programmes such as the Lagos Theatre Festival, and World Culture Day. 

These initiatives formulated to support the tourism and creative sector continued to date, all, in efforts to spur economic growth and diversify the revenue channels of the state. 

At a recent roundtable organised by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Akinbile-Yussuf reiterated the ministry’s commitment to continue in its vision of empowering creatives to boost tourism in the state. 

Citing the Lagos State Tourism Master Plan, the ministry aims to attract about 4.3 million tourists, which in turn will provide about 133,000 direct and indirect jobs contributing about 4.5 per cent to the national GDP in 2023. 

She further disclosed that through the Sanwo-Olu-led government, the ministry has acquired a large expanse of land along the Epe axis to establish the Lagos Film City. Currently undergoing perimeter fencing, she said it is a long-term project that would boost the quality, reach, and perception of local content in the coming years. 

Akinbile-Yussuf explained that the various ongoing human capacity development projects under the Lagos State Creative Industry Initiative (LACI) that is facilitated through creative hubs like Del-York Creative Academy, EbonyLife Creative Academy, Africa Film Academy, and Gidi Creative Centre, have empowered close to 3,000 creatives. 

“As of September 2022, we have trained close to 3000 youths in the creative industry and those trained in filmmaking had some of their films premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival and with our resolution to ensure we support all these youths in their different endeavours, we believe that they will contribute in immense quantity towards the GDP of Lagos economy as well as Nigerian economy.”

Additionally, the initiative commenced with the provision of non-interest loans to creatives. Within a short span, it has granted over 50 creatives with loan facilities up to N5 million. 

“We believe that if we build the capacity of the youths, then we can export our talents. We have started by creating an enabling environment for the younger generation,” Yussuf said. 

Just like it did last year under the T.H.E.M.E.S. agenda propagated by Lagos State, the Commissioner assured all that the ministry would throw its weight behind projects that promote tourism and entertainment this year. She believes tourism should be “community-based”. 

By and large, she was appreciative of the support from the government and stakeholders, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We came into the administration with the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been able to sustain the industry despite the impact of the pandemic on the economy, and the sector majorly affected by the pandemic is tourism and entertainment.

“But even during the peak of the pandemic, Lagos State was the only state in the federation that ensured that entertainment and tourism thrived,” Yussuf concluded. 

From bagging the World Guinness Record for laying the largest cupcakes mosaic in world history to the establishment of a special interest-free loan for filmmakers tagged ‘Lagos film fund,’ refurbishing and officially commissioning the Glover Hall theatre, and erecting the John Randle Centre for Yoruba culture and history, Akinbile-Yusuf said Governor Sanwo-Olu deserves all the accolades for further putting Lagos on the world map of tourism.

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