• Monday, July 22, 2024
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Minister outlines vision for tourism development at UN Tourism council meeting

Minister outlines vision for tourism development at UN Tourism council meeting

…hints on Nigeria returning to international travel fairs

As part of efforts to create awareness for Nigeria’s untapped tourism potential as well as to develop them, Lola Ade-John, Minister of Tourism, has outlined her vision for a tech-driven, culturally-rich and community-focused tourism industry.

The minister outlined her focus points at the Executive Council Meeting of the UN Tourism, which was held recently in Barcelona, Spain.

Further sharing her vision for transforming Nigeria’s tourism landscape, the Tourism Minister is riding on her IT background to bring a fresh perspective to the industry, infusing technological innovation into the sector while leveraging Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage.

At the Barcelona meeting, which was her first as a minister, Ade-John highlighted her primary focus on integrating technology to enhance Nigeria’s tourism offerings.

“As a technology expert, I wanted to ensure that I use my expertise to develop some parts of the tourism sector in Nigeria from a technology perspective,” she said.

She looks forward to using virtual reality for immersive tours and artificial intelligence for efficient searches and personalized experiences. She highlighted that the development of tourism satellite accounts is also crucial, as accurate data is essential for effective planning and growth.

“We are also working with the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy to showcase all that we have to the world. Most importantly, for our diasporas, we want to ensure that we use virtual reality for tours. We want to start using AI for searches and tours and develop our assets. “We have some beautiful tourist assets in the country, from the north to the south, east to west. It is slow, but we have started,” she explained.

Ade-John also emphasized promoting community-based and business tourism. While Nigeria’s tourism sector is predominantly driven by business tourism, there is a strong push towards community-based tourism, she pointed out in the interview.

“We feel strongly about community-based tourism, so we are going back to the locals for the local industry to thrive,” the Tourism minister said.

She also revealed that significant infrastructure projects are underway to bolster Nigeria’s tourism appeal.

“As you are aware, Nigeria is building a coastal road from Lagos to Calabar, which goes to Cameroon and from the Lagos end to Benin and it also ends up in Senegal. That whole area is a coastal area and we want to open it up and build resorts,” she enthused.

Furthermore, she highlighted that showcasing Nigeria’s cultural and creative sector is also a key strategy for driving tourism.

“Our creative sector is massive. We have music, Nollywood, fashion, and gastronomy. We are going for a couple of gastronomy events around the world. We are also showcasing our culture in terms of our artifacts, liaising with our music to encourage them to be our influencers, and Nollywood itself.

“The Minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy has been traversing the world for all the films and shows. We want to use that to pull people to come to Nigeria and start hosting events. These cultural assets are not only a source of national pride, but also powerful tools to attract tourists. International events and collaborations aim to showcase Nigeria’s unique cultural offerings to the world,” she explained.

Speaking on the return of Emirates to Nigeria, the Minister of Tourism expressed mixed emotions about the development, acknowledging both the opportunities and challenges it presents.

“Well, I have mixed feelings about it. For now, flights are expensive, so we need to work on our visa policies to make sure they are friendlier. This way, people can come from all parts of the world into Nigeria without hassle. We are happy about it, but at the same time, it also means people can go out. It is a two-way thing. We prefer people to come into Nigeria and enjoy what we have. So, yes, I am excited but also a bit skeptical.”

She is also determined to place Nigeria on the global tourism map. She mentioned that participating in international travel markets and showcasing Nigeria’s tourism potential are key strategies.

“We intend to go to the World Travel Market and at least showcase what we have. We want to showcase some of those assets and use that to encourage people to come to Nigeria. Hopefully, one day, we will also be able to host an African tourism market,” she stated.

According to her, encouraging Nigerians to explore their own country is a significant part of the strategy. With diverse tourist assets from the north to the south, east to west, the goal is to promote domestic leisure tourism.

“Nigerians do not tour locally a lot. They go abroad, but we want to encourage them to enjoy leisure tourism in Nigeria,” Minister Ade-John concluded.