FG ponders flexible visa to attract tourists

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AWARE of the diminishing value of tourist attractions in the country due to lack of patronage as a result of stringent international barriers, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has stressed the need for a new flexible visa policy that would attract tourists into Nigeria.

Speaking in Lagos recently, Mohammed emphasised that it has become imperative to overhaul the Nigerian visa policies and other challenges militating against the growth of tourism in the country. He said there is the need to train officials at the country’s border post to be more tourism friendly in order to promote tourism growth.

Mohammed said the process of getting Nigerian visa abroad is too cumbersome and too rigorous as it would not help in encouraging the growth of tourism.

The minister cited the example of Ghana that has concluded arrangements to introduce visa on arrival, which is a step towards boosting tourism. He also observed the need for accurate tourism statistics for reference and planning purposes.

Furthermore, he noted that the Calabar Carnival could compete favourably with other international carnivals abroad because if it was better organised in terms of decency, and quality, adding that the carnival is worthy of international promotion and marketing abroad to attract tourists to Nigeria.

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He therefore called for the collaboration of the different tourism stakeholders in different ministries like Interior, National Security, Aviation, Immigration and others to turn the country’s tourism fortunes around.

He said the country is going to witness improvement in tourism infrastructure so as to drive traffic, including the need to also get the stakeholders involved.

The Minister also observed that despite the challenges of poor infrastructure, location of some of the tourism attractions in remote areas and all that, “we know what to do grow tourism and what to put on ground to develop our creative industry.

Mohammed noted that this Administration is diversifying the economy away from oil, which, for many years, has been the mainstay of the country’s economy. According to him, “Among the sectors that have been identified as veritable sources of revenue for the nation are the Arts, Culture and Tourism Sectors. This is why we in the Ministry of Information and Culture are working hard to move these sectors from the margins to the mainstream and ensure that the rural poor in particular are factored into the Sector’s architecture.”