Globally, tourism has shown a steady increase over the last two or three decades, transforming the touristic activities into a real industry. The trend has also witnessed a continuous growth of interest in the way people spend their leisure time.
Tourism has become an important sector that has an impact on development of country economy. The main benefits of tourism are income creation and generation of jobs. For many regions and countries, it is the most important source of welfare. However, the ability of the national economy to benefit from tourism depends on the availability of investment to develop the necessary infrastructure and on its ability to supply the needs of tourists.
Nigeria in all its regions is endowed with unique natural and cultural resources of immense benefit to tourism development if regularly consumed by tourists. Though it posses the potentialities required for tourism development such as natural features and land formations, manmade creativities and artifacts and divergent heterogeneous culture, yet the industry has not grown significantly.
As the Nigerians senate continues with the screening of nominated ministers, following the submission of the list by President Muhammadu Buhari to the upper house for consideration, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigerian (FTAN) and Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET) have renewed calls for President Buhari to reinstate the defunct Ministry of Culture and Tourism, adding that such move will help reposition the sector for economic benefit.
The two bodies, in separate statements, disclosed that there is no other time but now for Nigeria to have a Ministry of Culture and Tourism at the federal level if the country and the present government ever hope to harness the potentials of the sector given the abundant opportunities that the creative industry and tourism present at this time.
In it’s statement, ANJET noted that it will be a disservice to tourism and culture and a far cry of the commitment of the federal government’s quest to diversifying the country’s economy if its continues to ignore the calls for the defunct culture and tourism ministry that was created in 1999 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and later merged with information in 2015 by President Buhari on assumption of officer to be brought back.
The body of travel and tourism writers stated that example of countries reaping from the windfall of tourism and culture has shown that the only way out is to have a dedicated ministry at all levels for the creative industry and tourism in order to bring about a coordinated national approach and focus to bear on the sector.
It further stated that the experiment with the information and culture ministry in the last four years did not achieved the desired goal, as culture and tourism were treated as second fiddle to information. As a result of this, opportunities to develop the sector and upgrade the creative industry were missed and sacrificed on the altar of politics.
The body also stated that there is no other better time than now when insecurity in the land has gotten to an alarming level that the country needs a separate ministry for culture and tourism, with the minister in charge focusing on the best mode of harnessing communication and marketing mix to drive the sector, infuse confidence in the source markets both domestic and international, through the appropriate messaging mode.
The body argued that having a Minister of Information and Culture, who most often sees himself as a government spokesperson, as it played out in the last four years, rather than a sales person and ambassador of tourism for the country and the creative industry, will not go down well for the country and the sector in particular
On its part, FTAN, through its President, Saleh Rabo, reiterated its earlier calls, adding, “The minister’s lack of understanding and concern for the tourism sector in preference for his information and political portfolio is the major reason why the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) and other tourism stakeholders as well as culture workers are clamouring for a restoration of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture ahead of the new cabinet to be constituted by President Buhari.
“We call on President Mohammadu Buhari, as a matter of urgency to create a Ministry of Culture and Tourism so that tourism will be given its rightful place and attention and not made to play a second fiddle to information as we have seen display here today by the minister and his team who totally disregard our event for other matters that they rate above us and tourism.’’
According to Rabo, the only practical way to drive tourism at the national level is to have a minister for culture and tourism, who will be fully focused on working with the various stakeholders and parastatals of the government in harnessing and developing the potentials of the sector through policies and programmes initiation and implementation.
The two bodies, however, indicated their readiness to work with the minister appointed for the ministry when created in order to cover lost grounds and fast track development of the sector. According to them, there is much to gain in creating a ministry for culture and tourism than there is to lost because it is the only way to ensure that the federal government takes advantage of the abundant resources of the sector to bring about the much talked about diversification of the country’s economy.