The world celebrated World Tourism Day, Wednesday, September 27 2017 with the theme: “Sustainable Tourism – A Tool For Development. The spirit of 2017 World Tourism Day celebration, according to the United National World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, is to “raise awareness on contribution of sustainable tourism to development among public and private sectors decision makers and the international community”.
At the same time, it would mobilize stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change. World Tourism Organization became status and in force in 1980. In the past 37 years, world tourism day had some unique theme such as Peace and Dialogue, Energy, Accessibility, World Heritage and Water and Tourism. In 2017, the theme “Sustainable Tourism – A Tool For Development” was endearing.
September 27, 2017 world tourism celebration in Nigeria, creating “awareness” toward sustainable tourism was negligible, almost absent. Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Wednesday, September 27, issued a statement in London to mark the world tourism day in Nigeria.
Lai Mohammed’s statement did not depart from the usual annual ritual – talk show, without depth of what government was doing or planning to develop tourism in the country. He said: “Government uses a number of mechanisms to encourage greater private-sector engagement, capturing its expertise in ways that will be beneficial to the companies themselves as well as population”.
And added: “The private sector on the other hand has an opportunity to work collaboratively with government to yield unprecedented returns in both economic and human capital”. Lai Mohammed also said sustainable tourism required informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, and strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building.
It was uncertain from the full texts of Lai Mohammed’s message on 2017 World Tourism Day what government was doing in creating awareness and engaging private sector and stakeholders in ensuring “Sustainable Tourism – A Tool For Development” in the country.
It was different in Edo State, where Governor Godwin Obaseki in his 2017 World Tourism message stated that of 200,000 jobs he promised during his election campaign, he was revamping the tourism sector where some of the jobs would be created.
Governor Obaseki’s message said: “We have water bodies that we intend to develop into world class beaches, the popular Benin Moat needs to be developed for tourism earnings, we have the Okpekpe Mountain Race that is fast growing in popularity and rating among sports enthusiasts; currently, work is ongoing on the development of 58 tourist sites and destinations in the state to boost our local and foreign tourist receipts and enhance the quality of life in the state”.
Obaseki said government was sanitizing intra-city transportation system to pave way for what he described as “robust tourism sector” in the state. He said government was designing Edo State Tourism Sector Blue Print that would clearly spell out rolls of supervisory agencies and ministries and investors as required by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Unwto, to enable Edo State earn from over $1 trillion annual revenue from tourism world wide.
The governor said hotels, restaurants and other recreation and leisure places would be ranked, jobs would be formalized and captured in employment data bank as required by the industry. Apart from Edo State government, few state governments are consciously developing structures for tourism in their respective states and are deep into it.
Yet other state governments merely demonstrate desires for developing tourism industry in their states through press conferences, cultural, entertainment and leisure events. At these events, invited ministers of government, governors, representatives or aids of governments, eulogize Nigeria’s endowed natural resources for tourism. They commend organizers of the events, make promises and it would be over, till similar opportunity presents itself to continue the rigmarole.
Between 1976 when the first national tourism agency was established and 2017 – 41 years now, Nigeria’s leaders, tourism policy makers, managers and stakeholders have been on talk-shows, both within and outside the country on development of tourism industry in the country.
This perhaps, is in defiance of global strategy in developing tourism. It is time Nigeria wakes up and acts along global trend in tourism development.