Nigeria has joined the new world order in tourism development by adopting a strategy to take tourism to the local communities and involve locals in planning, coordination and execution of tourism projects and activities in such communities.
The country’s Information and Culture Minister Mr. Lai Mohammed stated this during the Ministerial/High level panel of discussion at the 4th United Nations World Tourism Organisation/United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organisation Conference on Tourism and Culture in Kyoto,Japan.
The Nigerian Minister who was a panelist at the session moderated by BBC’s Rajan Datar said Nigeria has adopted a new strategy that now makes tourists to visit local communities where the real artifacts and other cultural and tourism products are, so as to connect with the locals and spin the local economy.
“By taking the activity to the palaces of the local monarchs, the local museums or villages, the activity is naturally connected to the people and the benefits thereof,” he said.
”In Nigeria, we observed that tourists stay in the big cities when they visit. They visit the museums in the cities where objects gotten from different parts, including the rural areas, are displayed but they hardly go to the rural areas. To encourage tourists to visit the rural areas where money spent is quickly reflected in the local economy, we are trying to establish community museums,”
The Ministerial Segment of the conference, which was dedicated to discussing and exchanging policies and government models impacting the future of cultural tourism, x-rayed how all stakeholders, can come on board to advance cultural tourism in a manner that will benefit locals.
Explaining the particular models the Nigerian tourism and culture sector has adopted he said the decentralisation activities across various communities has commenced.
”Parts of ancient residencies of traditional rulers and important chiefs are being turned to museums. Thus, we are not limiting museums to the big cities. Money spent by tourists while visiting these rustic places stay longer in these areas. Lamido Adamawa now has the Fombina Palace museum, just like the Emir of Potiskum has palace museum,” he said.
The Minister said the government, through high-level representation, training of festival managers and the provision of enabling environment, is supporting and promoting festivals and cultural tourism all over the country, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that local communities benefit from such events.
“Nigeria is a country of over 200 million population and over 200 hundred ethnic groups with festivals spread across every nook and cranny of the country. As a government we don’t directly interfere with what the locals want to have as their own festival, what we often do is to support them in various ways; in terms of training, infrastructure, the enabling environment among others.’’
He said that a national calendar of festivals will soon be unveiled to assist tourists who are coming to Nigeria in planning their visits.
Nigeria has continued to leverage on the areas in which it enjoys comparative advantage, citing music, movies and fashion as some of such areas, he submitted.
In his welcome address, the Director General of UNESCO Mr. Shing Shu charged stakeholders in the sector to take responsibility in the restoration, protection and preservation of cultural heritage sites across the globe because they are properties of humanity and must be protected.
However, UNWTO Executive Director, Mr. Manuel Butler said information and technology are changing the face of tourism he said as a body they will support any initiative that will bring sustainable development to the tourism and culture sector and on that note charged stakeholders to also bring policies that can stimulate sustainable development in the sector.
Ministers from different countries who were panellists shared their countries experiences on what they are doing to involve the locals as well as policies their governments have put in place to improve the sector on a sustainable base.
Most representatives and stakeholders agreed that there was the need to demonstrate how to assist local communities and by extension economies in the development of cultural tourism.