The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has called for a ‘Marshall Plan’ to aid the recovery of the Travel and Tourism Sector in Africa, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected the growth and development of the sector.
In his intervention during the 63rd meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa (CAF), hosted virtually by Seychelles, the Minister said, “It’s imperative for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to support Africa with a ‘Marshall Plan’ of sorts, in terms of technical assistance, capacity building and grants.’’
He said the fastest way for the travel and tourism sector in Africa to recover from the effects of the pandemic is to focus on domestic and intra-Africa tourism.
Alhaji Mohammed said following the outbreak of the pandemic, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture had to act quickly, because the impact of the pandemic has been particularly devastating, due to its importance and relevance to the national economy.
‘’The travel and tourism sector and indeed the entire Nigeria Creative Industry is large, diverse, dynamic and critical for economic growth, development and diversification. It is the biggest creator of jobs after agriculture. Also, the Industry contributes between 2.5 and 3 per cent to the nation’s GDP,’’ he said.
The Minister told the meeting that a 22-member stakeholders committee has been established and tasked with working out the immediate, short and long-term economic stimulus and initiatives for the industry, in order to mitigate the effect of the pandemic.
‘’The committee, with membership drawn from the Tourism, Hospitality, Music, Film, Fashion, Photography and Broadcasting media, among others, is tasked with assessing the expected impact of the pandemic on the industry in general; advising the Government on how to mitigate job and revenue losses in the industry as well as to create succor for the industry small businesses; suggesting the type of taxation and financing that are best for the industry at this time to encourage growth, and advising the Government on any other measure or measures that can be undertaken to support the industry.
‘’We are rejigging the National Endowment for the Arts to align it with the current realities. We are also studying the new set of guidelines/recommendations by the UNWTO as well as the ‘Safe Travel Protocols’ designed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) for the purpose of domesticating them. I have no doubt that the measures we are putting in place will yield positive results in sustaining the Creative Industry in Nigeria,’’ he said.
He informed that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has also established a N50 billion stimulus package to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on households, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and the Creative Industry.
The minister further hinted that, as Nigeria gradually opens up, just like the rest of the world, new protocols are being put in place for the safety and security of all, listing such measures as training of personnel on security and safety measures, infection control, adherence to government protocols, enhanced hygiene measures, use of personal protective equipment and facility sanitation.
He commended the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), which has pledged US$500 million for the Creative Industry in Africa, saying the support will come in handy ‘’as our sector seeks to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
As well as addressing the immediate challenge posed by COVID-19, discussions also focused on the key areas of UNWTO’s Agenda for Africa, a roadmap designed to guide the sector in sustainable growth up to 2030.
These priorities include enhancing Africa’s tourism Infrastructure, boosting air connectivity, easing visa facilitation, ensuring the safety and security of tourists, investing in the development of human capital development, and improving the image of Africa to the rest of the world.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “Africa’s tourism potential is undeniable, as is the potential of tourism to drive inclusive development across the continent. The steady easing of travel restrictions, first within nations and then across international borders, will allow the many social and economic benefits of tourism to return. If tourism’s restart is managed in a responsible and coordinated manner, harnessing the power of innovation and entrepreneurship, then it can transform millions of lives and help protect and preserve Africa’s rich cultural and natural heritage.”