FG To Constitute Committee Of Experts To Drive Tourism Agenda

* Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed



As part of efforts to promote tourism in the country, the Federal Government is to set up a committee of experts on Culture and Tourism to integrate and drive its agenda.

This is just as the Federal Government said that it has the political will to promote and grow tourism, adding that as a result, a number of policy changes are being implemented to achieve positive results.

The Federal Government spoke through the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed while delivering a speech at the Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) today in Lagos.

He stated that Nigeria had been identified as a very rich tourism destination and that the present administration is laying the strong foundation to make it a viable destination not just a potentially –viable destination.

According to him, “Government will soon set up a commitment of experts on culture and tourism to integrate and drive its culture and tourism agenda. This committee will include private sector players with skill and knowledge to assist government”

He also hinted that government has also set up a committee to review the Tourism Master Plan for immediate implementation, adding that a Steering Committee for the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) has already met as a prelude to the resuscitation of the PCT, which according to him has not met for the past 10 years.

Lai Muhammed called on the private sector to partner with government to grow the industry and provide the necessary skills, competencies and ingredients for growth and progress, stressing that participation is required from all levels.

He also urged stakeholders to package and promote Nigerian destinations ,goods and services, as this will create direct and indirect employment through tourism ,grow the economy, increase the national Gross Domestic Product(GDP),position Nigeria as an all year round tourism destination and establish a worthwhile, acceptable and recognisable image of the country among tourists and travellers.

To further promote tourism, the Information and Culture Minister, “We are currently talking with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and Cable News Network (CNN)with a view to forging a very strong and effective partnership to use our comparative advantage in film production ,through Nollywood , to promote tourism in Nigeria . This is a path we have not trodden before, but which we are sure will go a long way in making it possible for us to push tourism from back burner to the mainstream of the economy.”

He informed the gathering that Nigeria has won the right to host the annual UNWTO CAF Meeting in Abuja in 2018, adding that the presentation that gave the country the right was so rich that many delegates told him that they would be eager to be in Nigeria.

He solicited the support of tourism stakeholders to ensure its success.

The Minister commended NATOP for bringing young tour operators together, assuring that government will work with the association to empower them.

Earlier, the President of NATOP. Onung Nkereuwem commended the Federal Government for attempting to delve into several issues that the association raised at its last Annual General Meeting (AGM), adding that it was necessary for closer collaboration between the private practitioner and the government.

He added that the association’s mandate to promote domestic tourism propels inbound tourism, adding that contrary to suggestion that the association should restrict itself to domestic tourism, NATOP have both inbound and outbound tour operators as members of the association, but that its emphasis is on domestic tourism which creates platforms for inbound tourism contrary to insinuations in some quarters.

Onung pointed out that it was time to get serious, citing a Jumia Travel Report which states that Nigeria generated 97 per cent of its tourism revenue from domestic travels in 2016 while foreign travels accounted for 3 per cent, calling on stakeholders to get serious and convert these figures to leisure and experience and that only then can domestic tourism be discussed.

He added that Jumia’s report stated that they were interested in collaborating to encourage more Nigerians to enjoy their holiday within Nigeria.

The NATOP President said that this year’s ,the association will focus on the future of tourism in Nigeria by creating the necessary platform and mainstreaming the youth ,who have passion for tourism, adding that the body will expect this conference to review the impact of technology on the country’s travel industry among others.

The NATOP boss called on the youth to bold in discussing the challenges of promoting tourism in Nigeria as it affects them.

He disclosed that NATOP had earlier tasked the Federal Government on the following issues which includes: stand alone Ministry of Tourism, Presidential Council on Tourism, national carrier for the country, Tourism Master Plan and involvement on with UNWTO.

Other issues which the association had put forward for government to address are tourism statistics, marketing destination Nigeria, harmonising festivals in the country and to introduce friendly vise regime among others.

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