The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Tuesday said that the Federal Government was irrevocably committed to the development of the tourism sector, while speaking at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) in Lagos.
The conference : “Positioning Tourism Within Nigerian Economic space”, as its theme.
He said the government was mustering the right political will and taking some result-oriented steps to develop and re-position the sector.
Mohammed described tourism as “the oil that never dries”, saying that the government would harness the potential of the sector to boost the revenue profit of the country.
“This government is committed to the development of the tourism sector and we are mustering the political will to re-position the sector,we recognize the potential of tourism to propel the growth of the economy and we will do everything possible to develop this sector and make it a major revenue earner for the country,” He said.
The minister stressed that the government was focusing on the development of domestic tourism while putting in place the right infrastructure to attract foreign tourism. He said domestic tourism was not fully explored in view of its enormous potential to the economy of the country.
Mohammed said that the government was giving those areas like entertainment, fashion in which the country had comparative advantage over some other countries, priority attentions in its tourism development agenda.
The minister, while highlighting some of the steps being taken by government to develop the sector, said that the Presidential Council on Tourism was being revived and resuscitation of the committee would engender the rapid development of the sector through policy directions . Also,the issuance of tourist visas was being simplified and issuance time reduced to 48 hours to attract foreign tourists.
The minister added that a committee to implement the tourism road-map had been set up and that a task force on creative economy had been put in place and assured that a festival calendar has been designed to stimulate internal
tourism and attract foreign tourists ,because government could not develop tourism alone and appealed for the partnership of private sector and other stakeholders to develop the sector.
A former governor of Cross River State,Dr Liyel Imoke, in his speech at the conference said the state’s success story was a proof that tourism could be a big mover of the economy. He said with the right policy; vision, infrastructure and attitude, the country could make tourism as its major revenue earner.
Imoke , however, said that the greatest problem hindering the development of the sector was the misrepresentation of Nigeria by its citizens to the outside world while advising Nigerians to stop the practice if tourism must grow.
“The greatest problem facing the development of tourism in the country is what I call, ‘Naija Bashing’ which means Nigerians running Nigeria down, especially, some of our people abroad and is not good for our tourism as foreigners will have wrong perceptions about us. We need to believe in the country for our tourism to grow.
“We need to speak well of the country everywhere we go. It is when we stop writing those negative headlines that the perception will change and people will visit our country,” Imoke said.
He urged the country to focus more on domestic tourism as a strategy to develop external tourism.
Imoke canvassed harmonization of festivals in the country to stimulate patronage and reduce confusion associated with simultaneous holding of festivals.
Also speaking, the Director-General Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation, Mr Folarin Coker, said the agency was working hard to retain every dollar spent abroad on tourism in Nigeria.
He said the agency was partnering with stakeholders to promote domestic tourism; while developing the right template for the attraction of foreign tourists.