Tourism Conference: Nigeria woos investors

Solomon Chung, Abuja

From left, Chairman Commission for Africa of the UNWTO, Mr. Najib Balala; Representative of Mr. President and Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, at the Opening Ceremony of the 61st Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, on Monday

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has offered juicy incentives to prospective tourism investors coming into the country.

Mr. Buhari also called on tourists and investors in the sector to consider Nigeria as their second home.

Represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Mr. Boss Mustapha, the President made this known at the occasion of the 61st meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Commission for Africa (CAF) 2018 with the theme: “Tourism Statistics – A Catalyst for Development”.

He sought the support of all the tourism stakeholders to host more international events as he affirmed that Nigeria has identified tourism as one of the alternatives to oil and gas.

Reeling out some of the incentives, the President said, ‘’This government has attractive investment incentives for investors in the tourism sector including but not limited to: – Pioneer status to all major tourism projects.- Minimum tariff on imported tourism equipment, amusement park equipment and materials for hotel construction and furnishing.

Dedicated transportation for tour operators and equipment for restaurants not manufactured in Nigeria. – Minimum duty on Casino equipment. – Work permit for foreign workers with specialized skills within the industry and, plus land at concessionary rate by state governments to tourism investors.”

President Buhari further stated that Tourism contributes to the wealth of nations and the well being of citizens, largely through foreign exchange earnings, generation of revenue, creation of employment as well as peaceful co-existence.

“In our efforts at diversifying the economy through Agriculture, solid minerals development and tourism, we are investing heavily in infrastructure. This administration has injected US$9 billion to
strengthen its investment in power, roads, and railway in the past two years alone.

 Also, this government is investing in human resource development by the introduction of the social investment programme that has benefitted 9 million people, still counting,” he added.

Creative Ideas

The President told the audience that Nigeria is a country with a population of over 180 million people and 250 ethnic groups, each with a unique story, and these stories are finding expression in movies, music and many other creative ideas.

“Our music and movies, in particular, have taken the world by storm and, for the creative young talents in our dear country, Nigeria; the best is yet to come. With its abundant natural resources, vibrant culture, interesting history, predominance of tourist products, large population and the hospitable disposition of her people.”

Speaking earlier, Nigeria’s Information and Culture Minister,  Mr.  Lai Mohammed put it on record that Nigeria was also providing enabling environment, strong public and private sector collaboration.

“Enabling laws for the preservation and protection of cultural heritage are being worked out and also deliberate Involvement of local communities leading to the overall economic development of the localities,” he said.

Mohammed submitted that Specific action plans including capacity building of the various stakeholders and development of tourism statistics and Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), among others.

He then charged the participants to use the meeting as an excellent opportunity to discuss ways and means to promote intra-Africa travels and tourism that is mutually beneficial.

“Tourism has become an important sector of the economy for many member states, especially as an important source of foreign exchange earnings, employment generation and income creation, in addition to encouraging infrastructural development and poverty reduction. For us in Nigeria, it is one of the sectors we have identified as very key to our economic diversification agenda. The sustained growth of the tourism industry illustrates how this all-important sector, with its added advantage of infinitude, can assist member states’ economies to reap the benefits of globalization.”

According to Mr. Mohammed “realizing that modern infrastructure was critical to tourism development, Nigeria is investing heavily in the development of infrastructure, also improving the security architecture, because without security, tourism cannot thrive”.

He said Nigeria was one of the potential tourism hub because the country is currently recognized as one of Africa’s leading economies and emerging market by World Bank.

“We have also dusted up and updated the Nigeria Tourism Development Master Plan, which is currently being implemented. This document aims at achieving, among others, the restructuring of the existing Tourism Development Institutions for them to effectively deliver the benefits of tourism.”

Mohammed noted that raising the awareness and understanding of the benefits of tourism in the society; as well as reviewing environmental degradation and protection of Nigeria’s physical and historical assets is another priority area.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed (fourth from right); Representative of Mr. President and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha (third on the right); Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism (UNWTO), Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili (second right), Chairman Commission for Africa of the UNWTO, Mr. Najib Balala (fifth left) and other delegates at the Opening Ceremony of the 61st Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa at the Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, on Monday

Tourism Master Plan

He added that government was also focusing on the implementation of the Tourism Master Plan focuses on institutional capacity-building, product development, tourism facilitation/promotion and marketing, with a view to making Nigeria a preferred destination.

“In the end, we have no doubt that our tourism sector will benefit massively from encouraging domestic tourism and intra-Africa travel. After all, a popular proverb says ‘Charity Begins At Home’.

The Secretary General of the United Nation World Tourism Organisation, Mr. Zurab Pololkashvili said political will of governments in different countries was needed to achieve the global tourism vision.

He thanked Nigerian President for supporting the sector and also touched on the need for robust public private partnership.

He emphasised the need to use tourism to create jobs and that he said was the focal point of the organisation.

“Tourism has become a vehicle for development in Africa. Being the most populous nation in Africa tourism has potential to make Nigeria a cultural destination at both regional and international level.

We want to focus on a strong African Tourism Brand that will help change the significant perception issues that many African countries face, unlocking growth through investment and building statistics,” he added.

According to Africa Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid,Tourism is an engine for inclusive growth in Africa. She said the sector is valued at $160bn and contributes to 8% of Gross Domestic Product on the continent.

She however said addressing, global media image, safety and security will help boost the sector.

She noted that the A.U vision is to optimize the role of tourism in Africa by activating the Agenda 2063 and also the 2004 NEPAD/A.U action plan on Tourism.

“The idea behind it is see huge contribution of tourism in the economy, promote intra Africa tourism, and take charge and build brand Africa, develop cultural tourism, mobilize investment and also build capacity in the sector.”

It would be recalled that Nigeria won the hosting right of the 61st meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April 2017.