Lai Muhammed reveals Buhari’s tourism agenda at press parley

•Resuscitation of Presidential Council on Tourism •Tour of tourism sites in 36 states for assessment
•Adoption of Vision Domestic tourism •Political solution to Hotel Registration and classification
•UNWTO offers support in four key areas •Review of Tourism Master Plan •New Visa Policy soon
•To review National Tourism Policy

The end seems to have come to the systemic lip service being paid to the development of tourism as an economic sector by Federal Government if the revelations of  the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed is anything to go by.

Alhaji Mohammed revealed that President Buhari was not only concerned about the nation’s failure to make tourism a desirable alternate revenue earning sector but unhappy with the physical state of sites.

“I am  assuring you that  President  Buhari  is not only passionate about the development of tourism potentialities of this country but has more than a passing interest in making it another revenue generation sector.”

He pointed out that the president has charged the ministry to ensure the enhancement, enrichment and reactivation of the sector in alignment with the vision of his government.

The minister said that in line with the vision of the president, the ministry has gone back into its strategic closet, held a stakeholders summit in Abuja, embarked on investigation and research, consulted widely and sought for international networking and “it is necessary to feed you back and seek your cooperation, support and understanding in this effort of getting the best out of tourism”.

He reminded tourism media practitioners of their inestimable contributions to tourism development in Nigeria: ‘I beseech you today my colleagues in the tourism pen profession not to be complacent and disillusioned. You have done great in the past; you have to do greater now. Our purpose should be development journalism and reporting. We should not be a megaphone for international interest which is bent on highlighting the negatives of the nation while down playing and blurting out the positive.”

Alhaji Mohammed revealed that, with the desire of the President at injecting vibrancy and advancement in the tourism sector, President Buhari has decided to reactivate and reignite the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) which was inaugurated by ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“I am happy to inform you that President Buhari has given a nod for the resuscitation of the Presidential Council on Tourism. You all know what that means. It is a council which will be presided over by the president himself with other tourism minded state governors, strategic tourism related ministers, Ministers of Finance, Works, Aviation and others. It is a Presidential Council solely for the advancement of tourism and cultural matters. Matters affecting tourism development will be exhaustively discussed, analysed and solutions proffered and implementation set in process.”

Alhaji Mohammed  pointed out that: “The resuscitation of PCT  is the affirmation  that President Buhari is absolutely concerned, willing and ready to salvage the tourism industry”.

He further disclosed that: “The enhancement of Domestic Tourism is the thrust of our tourism agenda. We have more than enough to showcase. From Lagos to Ondo to Lokoja to Maiduguri and from  Port Harcourt to  Enugu Cross River, Benue to Kano and Kaura Namoda, there are countless domestic tourism ingredients and sites in culture, art, monuments, heritage,  geographical  and history which we have determined to celebrate as fun, entertainment but also  package and showcase as economic assets not only for the people but for  the government at all levels.”

According to him, revealed that “in our stride at ensuring a success of the above, we are going to embark on a nationwide tour of tourism sites in every state. This will be done in alliance with the state governments and local governments. The states will list out its prime and pristine tourism sites and assets. This is necessary for on – the – spot state of infrastructure assessment for rehabilitation and enhancement.”

He pointed out that tourism development in Nigeria, according to the National Tourism Policy of Nigeria 2005, is a tripartite concern of the federal, state and local governments which will be strictly adhered to.

“Tourism development is not the sole responsibility of the Federal Government. The states and local governments are pivotal partners in this vision and, according to the National Tourism Policy, they are supposed to not only be involved but carry out their portions of the assignment well”.

Alhaji Mohammed lamented the Supreme Court judgement which has deprived the NTDC the right to embark on hotel registration, grading and classification, saying  “it is unfortunate that we don’t have a single organisation handling this matter. But I am assuring you that we are going to get a political solution for it. The benchmark of standards in hotels must be uniform. We understand the essence and implication of this in tourism development “

He listed the main challenges facing the tourism sector, which are adequate budgeting, lack of infrastructure, security and awareness.

“But I can assure you that, some of these need an inter – ministerial solution which is the essence of and void which the Presidential Council on Tourism will fill,

The minister, however appealed to media practitioners in Nigeria to be more patriotic in their reporting, saying that “Yes, we have security challenges which is not more than what is happening in other countries of the world. You think of the violent attacks in the US, Kenya, Egypt, Cote Dívoire, Germany, South Africa, France and even Britain. We are not worse off in the world.”

He disclosed that in agreement with his view above, the UN World Tourism Organisation, (UNWTO), has not only commended the Federal Government’s drive on security but had agreed to support President Buhari in his tourism development vision and agenda.

He revealed that “UNWTO has announced its readiness to assist Nigeria in four vital areas: organisation of international conference in Nigeria, organisation of certificated of tourism courses;   collection, collation and elaboration of tourism data and statistics which will engender proper planning and implementation of policy and establishment of capacity building centres in the six geopolitical regions in Nigeria essentially for women”

The UN organisation, according to the minister, has also agreed to institute a regime of training of tourism journalists in Nigeria to further deepen their understanding of the sector and widen their journalistic horizon.

He said: “The Federal Government is also planning to review our visa policy. You will definitely agree that efforts at improving, enhancing and showcasing tourism sites without foreigners having easy access to Nigerian visa is unwholesome .we are going to make Nigerian visa accessible to genuine tourists and travellers to Nigeria”

He remarked that the Tourism Master Plan would be reviewed and revised in order to reflect contemporary tourism   issues.

Alhaji Mohammed commended Lagos State government for its determination to turn Badagry into a tourism hub and praised the effort of Olokun Festival foundation for hosting Olokun Festival in Badagry.

He urged Nigerian’s to “be positive and have confidence in the stride of President Buhari not only at making sure that the tourism sector is vibrant, buoyant and relevant to the economic survival of the nation and the people but for striving hard to make Nigeria the best place to live on Earth. And honestly, we shall get there”.