Recently, the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari was in Madrid, Spain at the headquarters of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, (UNWTO) under Secretary General, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, where President Buhari was accompanied by Hon. Lai Muhammed, Minister of Information and Culture, Nigeria and other top government functionaries.
Forrming part of the agenda of the visit was to finalize plans on the hosting rights given to Nigeria for the First World Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industries, slated to come up in November this year in Lagos.
But there is a big concern from the umbrella association of the private tourism stakeholders in Nigeria, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, (FTAN) under its President, Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, who recently addressed the media on the need for the President of Nigeria not to proceed with the event, citing different reasons in his open letter.
The full Letter:
OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI:
HOSTING OF UNITED NATIONS WORLD TOURISM ORGANISATION’S FIRST WORLD CONFERENCE ON CULTURAL TOURISM AND CREATIVE INDUSTRIES: A WILD GOOSE CHASE OF NO BENEFIT TO NIGERIA AND NIGERIAN CULTURAL TOURISM AND CREATIVE INDUSTRIES.
(1)Your Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, we the organised tourism associations under the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), the umbrella body for private operators in tourism, travel and hospitality, bring you good tidings.
(2). We wish to commend your efforts over the last seven years in enthroning good governance and improving the economy of the nation. We are also grateful to you for deeming it fit and necessary to place TOURISM among the priority sectors for this government.
(3). However, we wish to place on record that from our observations, priority has not been translated into physical reality and transformation of our sector, which is globally acknowledged as a multi-layered sector and the largest employer of labour with every ‘One’ employment out of 10 from TOURISM sector.
(4). The supervising ministry for TOURISM; the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, and the Minister in charge, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is, to say the least, have neglected TOURISM, with no basic policy direction, programmes and activities wholly initiated and/or in partnership with the private sector to drive TOURISM in other to improve its contribution to the country’s GDP.
(5). The Ministry and Minister appear to have an avowed disdain for DOMESTIC TOURISM and working with the private sector as the fulcrum to change the narrative and disruptive innovations in the sector as has been done in other climes.
(6). Not even in the difficult era of COVID-19 when most of the MDAs worked closely with the private sector to devise palliative for survival strategies did the Minister and Ministry think it wise to court the private sector.
(7). The only reaction from the Minister was to set up a ‘controversial’ creative industry committee to work out palliatives for the sector. Unfortunately, the recommendations of the committee and the review committee are today gathering dust and cobwebs in the ‘golden’ cabinet of the Minister; neither disclosed nor recommendations implemented.
(8). Moving to recent happenings, the common dominator of the pre-COVID -19 era all over the world, is TOURISM RECOVERY STRATEGIES championed by the UNWTO.
Sadly, the Minister has not felt the need to work in this direction especially given our peculiar situation; with our economy bleeding and our tourist destinations gripped by insecurity that does not repose confidence in tourists and investors in revamping our neglected TOURISM.
(9). Rather, what we have seen over the last seven years is that the Minister and the Ministry have been more focused on merely attending international events and meetings of the UNWTO and thus becoming ‘biding specialists’ by lobbying to get hosting rights to any UNWTO related events without putting in perspective the attendant economic cost and benefits to the country.
(10). The latest in the quest by the Minister and Ministry to turn Nigeria into ‘Father Christmas’ and ‘host country specialist’ for anything labelled UNWTO, is the forthcoming FIRST WORLD CONFERENCE ON CULTURAL TOURISM AND CREATIVE INDUSTRY scheduled to hold between NOVEMBER 14 AND 17, 2022 at the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos now undergoing renovation courtesy of the Nigeria Bankers’ Committee, which the Minister said is now to be renamed – Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre.
(11). Mr President Sir, we the private sector, strongly believe that this world conference is of no benefit to Nigeria and our TOURISM INDUSTRY. It is rather self–serving and more of personal aggrandisement and these can be deciphered from a critical analysis of the present state of our TOURISM and CULTURE.