From ODIMMEGWA JOHNPETER, Abuja
THE Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Dr. Mrs. Sally Uwechue-Mbanefo has reiterated that tourism is an alternative to oil
Mrs. Mbanefo emphasized that tourism is a sector that can give the Nigerian economy the paradigm shift from the absolute dependence on a dwindling oil sector to a vibrant and sustainable multi sector driven by tourism. She emphasized that what the country needs now is to increase its production capacity by investing in sectors that are labour intensive like tourism, agriculture and manufacturing.
She highlighted the role of government through her corporation to market Nigeria as a foremost destination for business, sports, religious, leisure and cultural tourism. Citing that the current administration’s change agenda has provided the right platform to attract the much needed investment into tourism ventures; She also said the contributions of tourism activities which range from transportation (car hire, buses, trains and airplanes) to accommodation facilities (hotels, motels, guest inns) and food (bukkas, restaurants) have not been properly captured in the statistical data of Nigeria as defined by UNWTO criteria, saying that “if this is done, the huge earnings of tourism sector will be seen and government, donor agencies, Nigerian and internal business owners will be convinced to fund and invest in the sector”.
She explained that the tourism value chain that cuts across all sectors of the economy has the potential to create the most employment opportunities, grow small and medium scale enterprises, reduce poverty and foster encourage social integration
Promoting and preserving our tourist and historical sites and assets she said will empower local communities, states where they are located which would reduce rate of urban migration She made this assertion known during the 7th Annual National Conference of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies, Nigeria (AES) recently held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos with the theme” Nigeria Beyond Oil”.
The NTDC Boss, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo defined tourism from a United Nations World Tourism organisation (UNWTO) and said the tourismvalue chain means we must apply a holistic approach to what tourism is, the prospects and the challenges. She further said that Tourism is the greatest employer of labour in the world, as one in every eleven jobs is a hospitality employee, so we must not under estimate the power of tourism to generate revenue and boost the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of any economy.
The event had various speakers from both the government and private sector, who presented papers focused on the need for economic diversification from oil dependence as captured by the conference theme.
Speaking earlier, the Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Remi Ogunmefum opined that “the future is bright for Nigeria, with Landmass population of 9237km abound in human and natural resources. He further emphasized on the relevance of manufacturing to the economic growth of the Nigerian economy, stating that interest rates on credit facilities must be reviewed to make facilities accessible and profitable for Nigerian entrepreneurs.
Lagos State Governor His Excellency Akinwumi Ambode, represented by the Honourable Commissioner for Wealth Creation and Employment, Mr. Babatunde Durosimi said, “My administration’s commitment to wealth creation and youth empowerment initiatives is a top priority of our programmes’, He also pledged to support the goals and aspirations of AES to enhance good governance and economic development in Nigeria.
Dr. (Mrs) Nike Akande, former Minister of Industries and Chairman AES Excellence Club in her speech said that the forum is timely despite the setback Nigeria is witnessing due to over dependence on oil over the years. She further clarified that the AES is a non- political group rather it comprises of Nigeria of impeccable Character, high integrity, technocrats and proactive professionals who are passionate about Nigeria.
Speaking earlier the registrar of AES Mr. Paul Umukoro emphasised on the need to shift attention from oil. He noted that part of the problems bedeviling the country has been lack of transparency and saving culture. “A country with a large deposit of gold and the oldest forest in the world has no business with poverty if we properly explore and harness our endowments to unravel the economic challenges that befalls us, he said”
Another speaker, entertainment practitioner and renowned comedian, Mr. Julius Agu applauded the Director General of (NTDC), Mrs. Mbanefo in her dogged efforts in promoting and marketing domestic tourism and said the creative art industry is the key to youth and economic empowerment as such government should support and promote it.
Other speakers at the forum included representatives of the Ministers of Agriculture, Minister of State for Petroleum, Minister State for Trade and Investment, Executive Secretary Technical education Board who all echoed the need to diversify into other sub sectors such as farming, gas and hydro carbon and education