Stakeholders and operators of Nigerian tourism sector have charged government at all level to focus more on tourism in order to achieve accelerated development for the country.
The call was made on Tuesday in Lagos during a tourism seminar organised by the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET) with the theme:“Tourism and Jobs: Better future for all”.
The Ogun State royal father, The Olota of Otta, Ogun Oba Adeyemi Obalanlege, took the lead in making the call when he urged the government and Nigerians to explore tourism potential for job creation.
Obalanlege said that Nigerians must stop depending on the government for job creation but get creative to groom most of the enormous tourism potential the country was endowed with.
He said that festivals in each community could be developed by members of such communities to generate revenue while ensuring that the festivals were developed over the years to attract local and International tourists.
He identified the egungun masqurade festival as one of the tourism potential to latch upon, likewise the monumental buildings across communities which could be converted to tourism sites.
“With the huge tourism potential we are blessed with in the country, we should not be complaining about lack of jobs, individuals must be creative and tap into these tourism potential.
“The egungun festival is an opportunity to latch on by the unemployed, different communities has their masquerade which should be developed and showcased to the world.
“Nigerians need not look up to the government for job creation, government is only meant to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
“The second tallest story building in Nigeria is in Otta, it should be better developed to attract international tourists; a lot more monumental buildings across communities can also be converted to tourists sites,” he said.
Another tourism expert, the Managing Director Sabre Network West Africa, Dr Gbenga Olowo urged government to take the tourism industry seriously by sufficient budgetary allocation for the sector.
Olowo, who was represented by Mr Mayowa Badewa, Deputy Zonal Director, Western Zone, Sabre Travel Network, said that the tourism industry must be prioritised as huge employment opportunities could be derived from the sector.
He said other African countries like: Ethiopia, Kenya and The Gambia, were doing well in tourism because they had been able to work on improved connectivity, good infrastructures, visa relaxation policy and more.
He, however, urged the Nigerian government to collaborate with the private sector, intensify efforts in fighting insecurity and terrorism, create policy for the ease of doing business, good and safe roads for tourism businesses to thrive in Nigeria.
“We are known to be the giant of Africa and Nigeria is not recorded in the list of the top 10 visited countries in Africa because we are not doing things correctly.
“Government should try to allocate huge revenue for the tourism industry annually because the returns will be in multiples at the end of the day.
“There are only two hanging lakes in the world, the one at Colorado, United States of America and the Ado Awaye hanging lake in Oyo which is not well marketed for international recognition.
“The one in Colorado generates over a million visitors annually, we must let the world know what we have and encourage them to visit,” he said.
The President of La Campagne Trooicana Beach Resort in Lagos, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye declared that the power of tourism sector in transforming a community, people and the country, is such that it can’t be neglected and in doing so over the years has not augur well for Nigeria and the people.
He gave example of how, he, through La Campagne has succeeded in transforming the Ikegun community where his resort is based to one of the richest and fast developing locality in Nigeria, describing how he has economically empowered the people and transformed their lives and the community.
He recommended such a model to the Nigeria government and Nigerians, urging everyone to look inward and see where they have comparative advantage and latch on to it for the development of the people.
“In Nigeria it has not yet occurred to us that we need to rise and develop tourism so that we can grow our tourism industry, we have also not yet realised that tourism provided a viable solution to many of the economic challenges we face today,” he concluded.