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Remembering Ignatius Atigbi; the tourism czar

Remembering Ignatius Atigbi; the tourism czar

If not for the toxic waste that was dumped in Koko some years ago, the international concern it raised and the health hazards it posed to the riverine community in Delta State, perhaps only a few from the area will know about the town.

The sleeping town is the birthplace of late Ignatius Amaduwa Atigbi, the only black person who was part of the team that drew what has today become a global tourism master plan. His commitment and efforts at implementing the well-thought out plan to the last letter at a global level earned him high respect in the global tourism circle.

The late strategist is better known as Mr. World Tourism Day. He proposed the observance of September 27 of every year as World Tourism Day. At executive committee meeting of the International Union of Official Travel Organization (IUOTO) held at Istanbul, Turkey in 1971, Atigbi as head of the Nigerian and African delegation to the meeting and then secretary general, Nigeria Tourist Association (NTA) and chairman of African Travel Commission, respectively stood to move a historic motion that the house should endorse the commemoration September 27 of every year as World Tourism Day. The motion was carried with unanimous votes and thus emerged the celebration of the annual World Tourism Day ceremony that has since been adopted by the then World Tourism Organisation (WTO), which replaced IUOTO, and now, the United Nations World Tourism organisation (UNWTO). Moving this motion was one of the sacred landmark contributions of Atigbi to international tourism.

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On a visit to the UNWTO’s headquarters in Madrid, Spain, his efforts speak for him and crown his journey into tourism with a legacy that this generation’s tourism aficionados, especially from his country Nigeria, are proud of.

The truth is that his prowess in global tourism has not been matched by any other on the African continent. Atigbi’s many other caps in the tourism industry includes his role in Ankara, Turkey in 1975 as member of the crucial special Harmonization Committee convened to resolve thorny issues in the draft status of the emergent World Tourism organization (WTO), now United nations World Tourism organization (UNWTO). He was listed in two editions of “Who is who” in the world and was director of tourism in the Caribbean Islands of Barbados, St.Kitts and St. Vincent under the Commonwealth Technical Corp.

Though he died on December 22, 1998 and was buried in his home town, he still received accolades at death. Few years back, the UNWTO intentionally moved the global celebration of World Tourism Day to Ghana, on African soil, to honour the late tourism czar even in death.

Then, Francesco Frangialli and Taleb Rifai, both former, secretary general, UNWTO, respectively, commended the much energy and contributions of the late Nigerian, noting that he more than deserve the post-modem honour received by the Federal Government on behalf of his family at the WTD celebration in Accra, Ghana.

“As we celebrate today, we should as well recognise the man who initiated the celebration worldwide of the phenomenon that is tourism”, Rifia said then.

However, Atigbi’s recognition is a wakeup call for everyone who has anything to contribute to local or international tourism development.

This year’s World Tourism Day is celebrated on the theme: ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth’, while Kebbi State is hosting the Nigerian event for WTD.