Africa: Rivers State Tourism Development Agency banking on innovation to grow smart tourism economy to profit society

koko rivers

The journey of the present administration of the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency to execute its mandate began in January 2020,inspiring nothing short of applause and great expectations from the people of Rivers state who looked forward to rediscovering the colors of creative arts and culture industry development that defined the glory days of Rivers State.

The Yibo Koko led Team came in swinging, mobilizing Fourth Industry Age tools to deploy a Digital Tourism Marketplace Strategy through the development of Smart Heritage Tourism Commodities across the 26 ethnic groups in Rivers state as a stop gap measure to grow a fiscally efficient Tourism Money Marketplace in the absence of viable bankable physical tourism infrastructure.

The Agency took responsibility of engaging Tourism Marketplace Experts to create the framework for the first Soft Tourism Mobile Marketplace app tagged the ‘TouRiverian’, way before the UNWTO declared Digital Tourism as the new frontier of the Global Tourism Economy as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The journey of the Agency and its strategic BIG-STEPS can be summarized under the P-7 Outlook that covers the People, Policy Activations, Products, Partnerships, Podium, Platform and Profit.

  1. People
    CHITTE | Culture and Heritage Integrations to Transform the Tourism Economy
    Stepping up to the task of driving a people-centric Rivers Tourism Economy to enable Inclusive Growth for Rural Development was a challenge that the Agency took in its stride.
    The Agency came into office with a Domestic Heritage Tourism Marketplace Development Program tagged CHITTE (Culture and Heritage Integrations to Transform the Tourism Economy).

The CHITTE plan is premised on the strategic engagement of over 2.6M people across the 26 ethnic groups in the 23 Local Government Areas of the state to create a common heritage of ‘Cultural Diversity Currency’ that resonates with the curation of 260 distinct Culture and Heritage Marketplace Festivals as the first step in the right direction to maximize the Creative And Culture Industry Opportunities in Rivers state

  1. Policy Activations
    SDG, UNWTO, AU Agenda 2063
    The Agency is driven by Policy Instruments that guide the Global Tourism Economy, hence the need for it to take strategic steps towards domesticating Global Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy Frameworks of Sustainable Development into scalable and investable Heritage Tourism Commodities that will in turn reposition Rivers state to access Global Heritage Diversity dollars, given her untapped ‘Culture Oil’ in 260 Heritage Festival Commodities across 26 ethnic groups in the state.

The Agency has gone on to create Strategic Heritage–Policy Product Partnerships to accelerate the SDGs while strengthening the Advocacy for African Union Agenda 2063 through smart Culture-Colla Festivals that deepen Domestic Tourism For Rural Development as espoused by the theme of the UNWTO World Tourism Day Celebrations 2021.

  1. Product
    CATCHEE | Creative Arts, Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Entertainment and E-nnovation.
    The River State Tourism Development Agency has been driven by a mono-product performance strategy for too long.
    The culture of focusing on the ‘December Carnival’ had stifled the Agency from exploring other Global Tourism Marketplace Opportunities in the past.

Today the Agency rides on an Impact Innovation Mandate to reposition the rich cultural diversity of the 26 ethnic groups in the Creative Arts, Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Entertainment and E-nnovation Marketplace while still leveraging on the enthusiasm for the ‘December Carnival.
This has reinforced a progressive perspective of inclusive growth for employment generation and wealth creation.
So far, The Agency has developed a framework for Heritage Tourism Products across the Culture and Creative Industry.

▪ Fab-Riverian Fashion Tourism Festival
▪ Food-Riverian Food Tourism Festival
▪ Reel-Riverian Heritage Tourism Festival
▪ Rhythm-Riverian Heritage Tourism Festival
▪ Art-Riverian Art Tourism Festival
▪ Dance-Riverian Dance Tourism Festival
▪ Tech-Riverian Digital Tourism Festival
▪ Craft-Riverian Craft Tourism Festival

The Agency has finalized plan to activate culture specific Tourism Marketplace Products for Rural Development in Rivers State.

  1. Partnership
    Activating Bankable Partnership for the Rivers Tourism Economy
    Securing progressive opportunities for Tourism Development requires bankable partnerships that strengthen Destination Tourism Brand Currency.

The mandate of the Agency to position Rivers state Tourism Marketplace for global competiveness was achieved in less than 100 days in office, in spite of the socio-economic and cultural disruption created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Agency set to work on leveraging the goodwill of the Private Sector and Multi-lateral Development Agencies to activate partnership frameworks that will drive the development of Creative Arts and Culture Assets across 26 Heritage Hubs in the 23 Local Government Areas of Rivers state. The Ongoing Rivers-Dubai Digital Arts Tourism Challenge 2020 is just one of such Sustainable Tourism Investment Partnerships that the Agency has secured.

Tourism Marketplace Partnerships
• Partnership for the UN International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development 2021
• Partnership for the Rivers Seki –Dubai Expo 2021
• Partnership for the African Union Year for Arts, Culture and Heritage 2021
• Partnership for the Pan-African Culture and E-nnovation Festival 2021

  1. Podium
    CHATT-Com | Culture, Heritage, Arts and Tourism to Transform Communities
    CHATT-Com is a Tourism Media Marketplace platform created by the Agency to connect Creative Arts, Heritage, Tourism and Entertainment Industry leaders to discuss and deliberate on emerging trends and investment opportunities in the Rivers Domestic Tourism Marketplace.

CHATT-Com was engineered as a construct of necessity to meet the challenges of the ‘New Normal’ created by the COVID-19 pandemic. CHATT-Com was anchored by the Director General of the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency over a 12 week media engagement campaign, effectively administering over 12 Domestic Tourism Investment panels across 12 Creative Arts and Culture Industry sectors activating over 120 celebrities and business leaders alike to chart strategic Tourism Impact Investments in the Rivers state.

  1. Platform
    Tourism Money Marketplace App: TouRiverian Mobile App.
    The future of Global Tourism is currently anchored on the development and deployment of smart Virtual Mobile Tourism Marketplace Programs and Festivals that create a ‘business unusual approach’ to the New Normal for a COVID-19 resilient tomorrow.

It is worthy of note that the Agency exercised foresight in executing a Strategic E-Tourism Insight to position the future of Rivers Tourism Economy through the development of an E-nnovation framework for the first Digital-Mobile Tourism Money Marketplace tagged the TouRiverian app, in not more than 60 days in Office. The Tourism Marketplace app is engineered to aggregate 260 Culture-Heritage commodities, connect over 2.6M Heritage Citizens and monetize Creative Arts and Culture products to create over 230,000 jobs while generating over N26Bn monthly when fully deployed.

  1. Profit
    Rivers Tourism Revenue Generating Strategy: Revenue Based Financing
    The Tourism Economy landscape of Rivers state lacks the necessary tourism infrastructure to compete effectively for mainstream physical Destination Heritage Marketplace Traffic but it has the potential to leverage the Cultural Diversity of 26 ethnic groups to create a vista of 260 Destination Heritage Festivals which can be merchandised to grow a Rivers Beyond Oil with the right ‘Economic-Impact Investment Model’.

The Agency set to work, engaging the consultancy services of several Innovative Finance Development experts to sift through globally competitive Revenue Models in the search for a sustainable, predictable fiscally efficient and bankable strategy to boost revenue development in a budding tourism economy such as Rivers state.

After series of deliberations, the Agency came to terms with the fiscal efficiency incentives of a ‘Revenue Based Finance Model strategy that incentivizes investors to grow Rivers state Tourism Assets and shared project specific Returns On Investment with Debt Equity Liabilities or Loan Instruments. The Agency developed the Revenue Based Finance strategy document as a post-pandemic fiscal efficiency and stimulus program and forwarded same to the relevant Government authorities to advise accordingly.

BY Director General/Chief Executive Officer, Rivers State Tourism Development Agency(RSTDA)
Yibo Koko

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