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Lagos State: Unleashing tourism potential at host communities

“The governor of Lagos State gave an approval to release the large sum of N1 billion to assist the tourism sector to ensure that immediately after the pandemic, it will come back to life, and we never stopped at that. After the pandemic we came back to life immediately… “We believe that if we build the capacity of the youths, then we can export our talents. We have started by creating an enabling environment for the younger gene ration” –– Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf (Commissioner of the Lagos Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture)

To state it as it, right from the outset, one of the outstanding features of the Lagos state government’s leadership paradigm, more so under the current Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration, is its futuristic approach to walking the talk on the much-touted THEMES Agenda. That acronym of course, stands on the six strong pillars of the state’s strategic development agenda, namely: “Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism, as well as Security and Governance”. Interestingly, one critical sector that encapsulates all the arms of the Agenda is Tourism.

The million-naira question really is what is it all about? It is the king of all public enterprises, with the potential to crystallize creativity; to become the central driver for the hi-tech businesses we run today and therefore, create sustainable wealth. Recognizing the huge potentials inherent in this yet- to- be tapped sub-sector of the national economy, the Lagos state Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, ably led by the resourceful and creative Commissioner, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile- Yussuf hosted the 2022 World Tourism Day Celebration in conjunction with the Destination Communications Ltd on Tuesday September, 27, 2022.

The highly engaging and thoughtprovoking, brain storming session, spiced with colourful display of exciting dance steps by the cultural troupe, held at the High Point Event Cntre Alausa, Ikeja,Lagos state, had the theme of: ‘Rethinking Tourism Through the Host Communities’. There were valid contributions made by Honourable Fatai Oluwa, Chairman, House Committee on Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Gbenga Sunmonu, immediate past Coordinator of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, FTAN. In fact, FTAN held a free boat cruise on that day to draw public attention to and promote what it called “aquatic tourism” in Lagos State. Also in attendance were Mr. Tunii Seymour, the Senior Special Assistant, Tourism, Arts and Culture, (who presented the Communiqué), current and former permanent secretaries, as well as Mr. Ayo Omotoso, the brilliant brain behind the wave-making ‘Tourism Parliament’. Notable of course, was that the key note address was delivered by the commissioner.

What a memorable and insightful occasion it turned out to be! She reiterated the state’s commitment to put Lagos on World Tourism Map after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic left a marked effect on all aspects of the global economy. Data released by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) revealed that the global tourism industry lost over $1.3 trillion due to a 74 per cent decline in global travel stemming from strict healthcare guidelines in 2020. The halt to global travel meant that policies proposed by the ministry could not be actualized.

However, interventions were made by the Lagos State Government through Governor Babajide Sanwo- Olu who gave an approval to release the large sum of N1 billion to assist the tourism sector to ensure that the sector was bailed out months after restrictive measures were lessened. According to Mrs. Akinbile-Yussuf the tourism sector in Lagos state has recorded many successes that could be translated into the sheer amount of tourism- driven programmes it supports.

In 2021 alone, it published the Tourism Arts and Culture Calendar, detailing over 80 programmes such as the Lagos Theatre Festival, and World Culture Day. These laudable initiatives have continued to spur economic growth and diversify the revenue channels of the state. Citing the Lagos State Tourism Master Plan, the ministry aims to attract about 4.3 million tourists, which in turn will provide about 133,000 direct and indirect jobs contributing about 4.5 per cent to the national GDP in 2023. She further disclosed that through the Sanwo-Olu-led government, the ministry has acquired a large expanse of land along the Epe axis to establish the Lagos Film City.

Currently undergoing perimeter fencing, it is a long-term project that would boost the quality, reach, and perception of local content in the coming years. She also explained that the various ongoing human capacity development projects under the Lagos State Creative Industry Initiative (LACI) that is facilitated through creative hubs like Del-York Creative Academy, EbonyLife Creative Academy, Africa Film Academy, and Gidi Creative Centre, have empowered close to 3,000 creatives. Additionally, the initiative commenced with the provision of non-interest loans to creatives.

Within a short span, it has granted over 50 creatives with loan facilities up to N5 million. With all these, she believes tourism should be “communitybased”. From bagging the World Guinness Record for laying the largest cupcakes mosaic in world history to the establishment of a special interest-free loan for filmmakers tagged ‘Lagos film fund,’ refurbishing and officially commissioning the Glover Hall theatre, and erecting the John Randle Centre for Yoruba culture and history, Akinbile-Yusuf said Governor Sanwo-Olu deserves all the accolades for further putting Lagos on the world map of tourism.

Indeed, he does! Viewed against these astounding achievements made in spite of enormous economic challenges, there is therefore, no better time to recognize the importance of rethinking the tourism potentials at the grassroots. Doing so will facilitate employment generation, increase the gross domestic product(GDP) to place Lagos on the same path with countries as destination of choice such as France, United States of America, Dubai, Egypt. As the speakers suggested, one after the other, there is the need for the political will to identify what the key components of the challenges facing the host communities are.

The twin factors of good infrastructural development-with good access roads, potable water supply, clean and conducive environment- as well as sustainable security to enhance accessibility to the tourist destinations. The government needs to look at the budget to improve on infrastructure. Also needed is clear job identification and capacity building for the officers of tourism and security tour guards.

The ministry has to identify their most pressing needs and provide for them while monitoring their performance on hospitality. Furthermore, to market their tourist sites to the world, the key players should be brand ambassadors. They need to work in line with the Joint Master Plan of the Lagos State government with the Local government councils. But in doing so, it is imperative to incorporate the locals; beginning with the traditional rulers.

The officers have to eschew their sentiments for foreign religious faiths. Therefore, the stakeholders should ensure that the available tourism potentials are not destroyed or desecrated by hoodlums on religious basis or for personal gains at the host communities. As Mrs. Adedoyin rightly stated during the question-and-answer session, tourism goes beyond mere ideas to being practical. For instance, tourists want to see and savour the local contents of the arts, artifacts, local cuisines, fashion, traditional music, dance steps and the environment in their natural texture and flavour.

These are the factors that make them unique and act as the compelling lure and attraction to the inquisitive tourists. All said, the answers to Honourable Akpata’s million-naira question on what we do differently will surely make the desired difference. At the end of the celebration of the 2022 World Tourism Day, there was an agreement that Nigeria needs a National Council on Tourism, as it operates for other sectors of the national economy. Kudos again to the Lagos state government!

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