The Ekiti State Government has disclosed plans to establish a bureau of tourism development whose focus would be on harnessing and developing the abundant tourism potential to woo global traffic to the state.
Biodun Oyebanji, governor of Ekiti State, announced the plan in his office in Ado-Ekiti, while receiving members of the Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) led by Ime Udo, its president, in his office recently.
Governor Oyebanji told the NATOP team that their visit was timely as his administration is seeking partnerships with tourism development operators like NATOP to help in developing its local tourism sites in an effort to drive its shared prosperity agenda for the people.
He noted that tourism development remains a key component of his administration’s six- pillar development agenda and hence would be separated from the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism as currently structured in order to become a standalone Bureau of Tourism.
The standalone Tourism Ministry, according to the governor, would help in positioning the sector for thorough supervision and the right attention.
He noted that the development of new tourism destinations in the state would help reduce the rate at which Nigerians travel abroad for adventure purposes, adding that his government is working assiduously to transform the state into a tourism hub by exploring and promoting the potential that abounds in Ekiti.
While noting that the state has thriving and viable tourism platforms to attract visitors and also create jobs and business opportunities, Governor Oyebanji stressed that tourism has a very huge potential to drive prosperity, employment, and development of the state.
Governor Oyebanji promised to scale up security in the state, especially in all the tourist destinations to allay fears of national and international tourists on security challenges.
He stated further that his government had designated Ikogosi, Ipole-Iloro and Efon-Alaaye as tourism corridors of the state, adding that the state is also planning to build a zoological garden in the same axis as other interesting tourist sites would also be developed.
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“Tourism development is one of the six pillars we are working with and it is not accidental because I know the importance of tourism development as a government, we are going to remove it from the Ministry of Art, Culture and Tourism, it is going to standalone because I want the head to report to me directly, I don’t want it to be encumbered with the civil service protocol. We are going to have a bureau for tourism with a director-general.
“We are deliberate in Ekiti State to ensure that we develop our economy and tourism is a sector that has been neglected for a very long time because it belongs to the soft side of development. People actually don’t realize that tourism has very huge potential to drive prosperity, employment, and development.
“The experiment in Ikogosi has worked when the state partners with the private sectors, we are excited with what is going on in Ikogosi and we are providing infrastructure for them to ensure that they are able to make profit because they are still investing,” the governor said.
Responding to the governor, Ime Udo, president, NATOP, said the team was in Ekiti State to seek partnership with the government on hosting of its tourism conference in the state and ways to develop its tourism destinations.
Udo also stated that the idea of hosting tourism conferences in states was to promote the tourism potentials of such states and sell it as a tourism destination nationally and internationally as well as open up the state for investors for them to see the inherent potential in such states.
“We recognize the enormous tourism potentials in Ekiti state yet untapped, and for us as an association, it is time for us to ensure that investors see what Ekiti State has to offer, see the goldmine in Ekiti State. It is also time for us to see how we can drive arrivals into Ekiti State so that sites like the Ikogosi resort can become bubbling ones. It is unique, it is a story we must tell the world,” Udo said.
Some of the dignitaries at the event included; Tayo Adeola, special adviser to the governor on investment, trade and industry, and Ayo Aribidara, director-general, Ekiti State Development, and Investment Promotion Agency.