By Renn Offor
The President Mohammadu Buhari led government of Nigeria has taken a step further, in what may be seen as a positive move, in its determined effort to present a workable tourism master plan for the tourism sector by inaugurating a technical committee that would bring into consideration the various peculiarities about the country as it would identify the flaws that were inherent in the 2006 Tourism Development Master Plan which contributed to it being abandoned half way into implementation.
Speaking at the inauguration in Abuja, the Minister said even though the Tourism Master Plan was designed in 2006, a plan of action to implement it was abandoned half way hence the need for members of the committee to review the Plan in consonance with contemporary challenges and realities and the peculiarities of Nigeria.
“This team is to review our own Tourism Master Plan and see which aspect of that Master Plan needs to be reviewed in consonance with what has happened both in terms of technology, politics and even in terms of climate change.
“We are talking about reasonable and sustainable tourism because what we are offering to the world in terms of cultural and natural resources are also dependent on Mother Nature, and you must make sure that we do not expend it or expose it in a manner that children unborn will not have anything to show for it,” he said.
It is worthy of note that the trigger which spurred the Nigerian government to rise up and pursue a workable tourism master plan, and one that is inclusive enough to bring into particular consideration the unique peculiarities of the country started Earlier at NATOP AGM in Calabar and at this year’s National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA) AGM and conference held at the Premier Hotel in Ibadan between 16th to 18th March.
Recall that the keynote speaker for the event and conference, Mr. Ikechi Uko, in his paper called for ‘The need for the federal government of Nigeria to re-engineer a tourism master-plan with complementary sustainable tourism policy’.
He also hinted the need for the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT): ‘The policy sought the establishment of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) which was chaired by the President; establishment of National Committee on Oral and Intangible Culture Heritage, chaired by the Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism, and the introduction of stakeholders’ forum on National Council on Culture and Tourism.
‘The creation of that Council resulted in the introduction and hosting of the Abuja Carnival which started in 2005, formulation of a National Policy on Tourism, production of the Tourism Development Master Plan, formulation of a National Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), a review of the 1988 Culture Policy for Nigeria, the enlistment of Sukur World Heritage site at Adamawa and Osun Osogbo Sacred Groove into the World Heritage List (WHL), and the sustained efforts of some states in using tourism for wealth creation.
‘Tourism became the flagship for development and poverty reduction in Cross River, Kebbi, Osun and Kano which led to increased revenue generation and employment opportunity in those States.
‘The National Tourism Development Master-plan has poverty alleviation as its primary focus. The main objective of the Abuja Carnival is centered on promoting and marketing the rich and robust cultural heritage of Nigeria and her artistic expressions. The carnival is held annually to serve as essential tourism product.
In April, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, during his maiden media parley with a combined team of culture, arts and travel journalists in Lagos, after travel journalists earnestly requested the revisiting of the Presidential Committee on Tourism (PCT) and revising the country’s tourism master plan to make it workable; while he lament the nation’s cumbersome visa regime, indicated his is interest to resuscitate the PCT before the end of the year.
After that initial meeting, the Minister went further to host tourism stakeholders at Abuja in the same month of April. After those meetings and the outcome of the setting up a committee on reviewing a tourism master plan for Nigeria, debates in various quarters and among travel professionals and experts have been that that the country needs a total overhauling of what it has as a tourism master plan or that the country has was flawed as it did not bring into consideration the peculiarities of the various socio-cultural and geopolitical aspects of the country.
Based on the above, the recent move therefore of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, resembles a worthy line of action as on Wednesday the Minster inaugurated the Technical Committee on the Review of Nigeria’s Tourism Master Plan, with a call on members to articulate realistic policies that will drive tourism from the periphery to the mainstream of the economy.
Alhaji Mohammed said part of the drive of this administration to make tourism one of the pillars of the nation’s economy is the resuscitation of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) and the review of the Master Plan.
He said the Steering Committee on the PCT had already commenced the drafting of the Council’s agenda, which will be handed over to the President.
The Minister also disclosed the readiness of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to assist Nigeria in the review of the Master Plan, having contributed immensely to the drafting of the initial plan.
He underscored the need to develop a synergy among all sectors of government, the private sector and the local community in order to have a multi-sectoral approach towards the development of tourism in Nigeria.
“The thing about tourism is that it’s probably the most inclusive of all endeavours in life,” Alhaji Mohammed said, noting that in tourism, the Ministries of Agriculture Health, Power, Works and Housing and even Trade and Investment are all important, ”and until we take this on board we will not be able to transit from being a country of huge tourism potential to a country’s who’s economy will be driven by tourism and this is the beginning”.
Members of the Review Committee include representatives from the Federal Ministries of Information and Culture, Interior, Budget and National Planning, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism, NATOP as well as the National Association of Nigeria’s Travel Agencies.