Okon Bassey in Uyo
Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel has tasked the Nigerian Tour Operators Association (NATOP) with developing new strategies that would make the country’s tourism industry attractive and economically beneficial. Emmanuel called the association’s fifth annual general meeting in Uyo yesterday.
The governor lamented the dwindling wealth of the tourism sector despite the country’s enormous tourism potential.
The theme of the conference was “Restarting Tourism in Nigeria: A New Template”.
However, Emmanuel praised the new level of commitment and zeal shown recently by tour operators and other stakeholders in promoting tourism, saying that if it is sustainable it will be tremendous for both practitioners and the government Can generate revenue. He admired the hospitality of the people and said the recent developments in the transport, social and tourism infrastructure in the state were a deliberate strategy to open the state to the world despite falling revenues.
According to him, the Akwa Ibom state is blessed with many cuisines and natural attractions including the residence of Mary Slessor, the Blue River, Nigeria’s longest coast, while the annual Christmas story and Christmas village mark major events in the calendars of. have become lovers of tourism.
He promised NATOP the support and partnership of the state government, but urged them to take measures that would project their services and show goodwill to the country.
In a keynote address, an oil magnet, Mr. Akanimo Udofia, said with improved engagement and institutional awareness, tourism could generate more than crude oil and gas for the country. Udofia added that many countries that are not gifted with natural resources have thrived and prospered from tourism.
He said, “You will be delighted to hear that a developing country like Thailand is ranked the fourth highest earner in tourism in the world, earning a whopping $ 60 billion a year from tourism.
“Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is the 19th most visited country in the world with up to 15 million visitors a year. Most of the tourism in Saudi Arabia is mostly religious pilgrimages and generates $ 12 billion annually. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is considered the second largest proven oil reserves in the world and the source of most of its revenue, but pays close attention to other sectors, including tourism, which accounts for less than two percent.
“I believe that regardless of that small piece of the pie in their total sales, we can all agree that $ 12 billion in tourism revenue on an annual basis is still a significant amount of money.”
Former Ghana’s Minister of Tourism, Ms. Catherine Afeku, also urged the Akwa Ibom government to take the opportunity of the Bridge of No Return to take back the descendants of Nigeria who were lost in the Atlantic slave trade and who made use of their experiences in Ghana.
Afeku urged government and practitioners to focus on domestic tourism, advocate tourism incentives, adopt a policy of residency for relatives in the diaspora, repackage tourism pages, and promote Made in Nigeria products and services.
Akwa Ibom State Tourism Commissioner Orman Esin applauded NATOP for choosing Akwa Ibom and expressed hope that the conference would usher in a new partnership between the state and tour operators.
Esin noted that the state pioneered several aspects of tourism in Nigeria since it was the home of the first missionaries. He said with Nigeria’s longest coastline, fertile land with high tourism, an international airport and one of the best golf resorts in West Africa, the state is well positioned to take tourism in Nigeria to the next level.
Emmanuel said, “Akwa Ibom, the real deal, we have options for all types of tourism in Nigeria. We have the largest hotel property in West Africa with steady growth over the years. We knew that the Naija7Wonders group in our state in December would bring us the attention we needed for the Christmas Village.
“We are your partners and together we will let tourism grow. The governor has the vision of a modern state and consciously designed the development of industries and improved the existing infrastructure.
“The kitchen, infrastructure, landscape, people and buildings are Akwa Ibom’s trademarks. We are not a very safe place by chance, but because of the determination, focus and will of the state government.
“The governor is an industrialist and the state will benefit from motivating tourism actors to enjoy the synergy of our facilities. Akwa Ibom is your best choice for tourism in Nigeria. “
The National President of NATOP Hajia Bilkisu Abdul paid tribute to the former President of NATOP, Ms. Fatima Garbati. However, Abdul regretted the loss of revenue in the tourism sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she said the travel business was gradually returning, with Akwa Ibom being one of the top targets for tour operators.
According to her, “domestic tourism came back to life late last year. I am delighted that Akwa Ibom has become one of the star travel destinations for tour operators. They came to the December Christmas Village events and found it was a huge success; they found your state rich in attractions.
“As we started to breathe new life into tourism, uncertainty and high ticket prices became a big problem.
“These two evils of tourism are one of the reasons we have chosen Akwa Ibom as our preferred travel destination for our 2021 Annual General Meeting. Akwa Ibom State is safe and has the infrastructure we need to be successful. It has one of the best resorts in Nigeria, an airline and an airport.
“Our arrival in Akwa Ibom State is no accident. NATOP uses its annual general meeting to promote domestic travel destinations, and all of our previous travel destinations have become viable locations for tourism. “
Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, represented by the Secretary of State, Ms. Ifeoma Anyanwutaku. Mohammed urged NATOP to work to restore the country’s damaged reputation in the tourism sector and urged them to strengthen international partnerships while adopting international networking best practices.
The minister called for greater private sector involvement and called on stakeholders to work towards pooling the country’s investment and tourism potential by repositioning the country’s image.
The minister assured the willingness and commitment of the ministry in implementing the necessary policies that would grow and strengthen the sector.
The chairman of the NATOP board of trustees and acting president of FTAN, Nkeruwem Onung, applied for a separate ministry to exploit and develop the country’s entire tourism potential.
Onung praised the state government for its continued interest in tourism and hoped that tourism in the state would get a boost by the end of the conference.
Other goodwill messages were received from the Lagos State government, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), and the National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC).