• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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It’s time to make tourism competitive, rival other sectors, Akinboboye tells Tinubu

It’s time to make tourism competitive, rival other sectors, Akinboboye tells Tinubu

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been charged to focus on making Nigerian tourism competitive as it has the potential to rival other sectors. This was disclosed by Wanle Akinboboye, founder and president of La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, in an open letter he penned to the president.

He commended the president for identifying tourism as a game changer for the development of the country’s economy by creating a stand-alone Tourism Ministry. This, he noted is despite the chequered history of tourism, with the previous administrations relegating it to the background, while also canvassing for its retention going forward.

He disclosed that, ‘‘As a tourism practitioner of over 40 years experience and having built from scratch La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, a world renowned African tourism facility, when you first assumed office, I was particularly excited when you correctly identified tourism as a possible game changer in terms of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and employment of youth.

‘‘I must admit that I was a little skeptical about your commitment to growing the Nigerian tourism industry based on the actions of your predecessors, all of whom, at various times, acknowledged the role of tourism in growing our economy but frankly did little or nothing to put in place a framework to actually develop a viable tourism industry for Nigeria,’’ Akinboboye said.

However, he told the president that he had a change of mind following the creation of a stand-alone Ministry of Tourism. ‘‘This was a drastic departure from your predecessor, who since 2015 had merged responsibility for tourism with responsibility for ‘culture’ and ‘national orientation,’’ he said.

Continuing, Akinboboye, who is the creator of Motherland Beckons and promoter of Continent Building Initiative, a vehicle through which he has invested heavily in building Africa into an attractive destination for the global audience, particularly the Diaspora, told the President that; ‘‘The sheer breadth of the resultant Ministry’s mandate, in my humble opinion, guaranteed that its Minister would be unable to successfully grapple with the challenge of turning Nigeria into a tourism destination of choice, which transition is required if we want to grow an economically beneficial tourism industry in Nigeria.

‘‘This lack of focus had therefore meant it was not possible to take ‘advantage of our advantages’ by growing an industry that leveraged off Nigeria’s natural features, vibrant history and the warmth and hospitality of its people.’’

Like the incurable optimist he is and pragmatic as well, which had seen him turn Ikegun Village, host of La Campagne, into a thriving economic and tourism enclave, noted that Nigeria is naturally endowed. Given these endowments, he told the president that it is time now to make tourism competitive and to rival other sectors.

‘‘As a country, we are blessed by amazing and varied geographical features, a rich history and a resilient population who are eager to welcome visitors. It should therefore be possible to build a tourism industry that is capable of rivaling other sectors in terms of its foreign exchange earning capacity and job creation.

‘‘However, to do this, Nigeria needs to create a framework that enables the country to offer world class tourism destinations and experiences to discerning international and domestic tourists.

‘‘A key step in this journey involves identifying the current status of existing tourism sites, many of which are government owned and putting in place plans for converting such sites into what I refer to as tourist destinations.

‘‘In this regard, it will also involve entering into partnerships with credible local investors to arrive at destinations that leverage off the uniqueness of our culture and heritage.’’

He further wrote, ‘‘In this regard, it is important to note that if one truly wants to attract tourists you cannot simply offer up a geographical feature (the tourism site); for example a waterfall. You have to surround it with items that encourage the tourists to stay and to spend, such as accommodation, restaurants, sporting activities, and local crafts.

‘‘It is at this point that the site can be incorporated into tourism packages that can be marketed to local and international tourists because they offer more experiences than simply viewing another waterfall, however, beautiful.’’

Akinboboye then advised that, ‘‘calling for foreign investors to develop the sector is unwise as such investors will merely seek to replicate what is available elsewhere. This will unwittingly reduce the uniqueness of the Nigerian experience and the interest of the tourist as he can easily experience such facilities elsewhere or even at home.’’

He also counseled the president not to take hasty decisions in either merging or scrapping the ministry as the task ahead is not something to be achieved under a year because it is quite enormous.

According to him, ‘‘Given the relative youth of the ministry and its leadership as well as the multiplicity of potential tourism sites in Nigeria, the ground work required for Nigeria to become a tourist destination of choice is not something that I believe can be achieved in less than a year”.

In the light of the above, Akinboboye noted, ‘‘consequently, any assessment of the Ministry of Tourism under its current leadership should take account of this fact. The government should also not be hasty in taking a decision to merge the ministry with any other ministry, as this will ensure the focus required to build a viable and economically profitable tourism industry in Nigeria will be lost.

‘‘At this stage I think it is necessary to mention that I am impressed by the fact that having taken the bold step to create a stand-alone Ministry of Tourism, you then took steps to appoint a youthful and business focused person to head the Ministry.’’

He expressed delight over the dedication that Lola Ade-John, Minister of Tourism, and her team has displayed in the discharge of their responsibility, saying, ‘‘I am particularly impressed by the fact that she and her team are currently visiting existing tourism sites and obtaining a first-hand impression of what needs to be done to transform them to tourist destinations.

‘‘From our discussions I can see she has the passion to push the Ministry in the direction it needs to go. I am hopeful she will realise that, although most of our tourist sites are owned by the government it will be cheaper and more cost effective for government to transform them into tourist destinations in partnership with the private sector.’’

However, he noted that he is not patronising the minister by his commendation of her but rather sharing his feedback as expected.

‘‘I would like to emphasize that my comments on the minister are simply being advanced in response to your request that Nigerians should give feedback on the individuals you appointed as Ministers.’’

He concluded by offering to help in whatever capacity to develop the sector, which has been his forte over the four decades.

‘‘As a patriotic Nigerian, who has spent his life building tourism in Nigeria and who does not confine his efforts to words alone, I am excited by and am prepared to contribute my quota towards driving an explosive and exponential growth in our tourism sector,” Akinboboye noted.