• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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One-year scorecard: Review of Lagos tourism under new commissioner

One-year scorecard: Review of Lagos tourism under new commissioner

In January 2019, Steve Ayorinde, the then Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Lagos State, announced that the state recorded N50 billion cash transactions across the tourism, hospitality, entertainment, and creative sectors in four weeks of the 2018 yuletide season.

He also noted that the record was slightly higher than December 2017, which also recorded a good run in travel, entertainment and leisure-related spending.

Though many doubted him, yet the state’s economy would have earned more revenue if the potential of the sectors were fully optimized.

Since then, the state has continued to surpass its revenue earnings from the tourism and creative sectors every year.

Of course, the continued high performance in the tourism sector and the creative economy is as a result of the deliberate interest and commitment of the state government to the development of infrastructure, ensuring security and creating enabling platforms for the incubation of creative ideas.

That trend has continued and is being furthered in the state’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, now led by Toke Benson-Awoyinka as the commissioner.

Presenting her ministry’s scorecard and achievements of the state within the first year of the present administration, the commissioner noted that the giant strides in tourism and the creative economy express the commitment of the state to further grow the sectors into sustainable revenue earning status.

Creative industry

Speaking during a ministerial press briefing in Lagos, the commissioner said that the state has empowered no fewer than 3,748 youths in the last one year in filmmaking, as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has also approved further training of over 5,000 youths to run in the next three years.

“As of today, 3,748 Lagos youths have benefitted from the training.

“The academies in partnership with the state government for this training programme are: Dell-York Film Academy, GiDi Creative Academy, Ebony Life Creative Academy and African Film Academy.

“This gesture by the government is informed by the need to bridge identified skill-gaps in the creative sector, and to position residents of the state who are in the creative field to compete globally with their contemporaries when it comes to film production,” she said.

Tourism

In tourism, the Commissioner noted that the ministry was currently working on beach regulation law to enable it to regulate and build a compendium of beach operators in the state.

The beach regulation law, according to her, is needed to build resilience around the safety of visitors and providing the necessary infrastructure around it.

But the big news for tourism is that the ministry, according to the commissioner, is recovering tourism land and assets such as; Topo Island in Badagry, Ilashe Beach Resort, Eko Tourist Beach Akodo and more.

Still in tourism, the state has encouraged more participation of the ministry in international tourism events for the needed exposures, networking and tourism promotion.

In line with that, the commissioner and her team attended the 2023 World Travel Market held at Excel, London.

The ministry has also been engaging tourism and stakeholders at the domestic end. Within the last one year, the ministry engaged, partnered and positively impacted the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), she noted.

Arts, culture

Under the period of review, the ministry collaborated, endorsed, sponsored and supported several arts, culture and entertainment events.

Some of the events include; Eebi Festival 2024; Ikorodu Oga; Felabration; Nigerian Travel Week and The King Must Dance Naked, a stage performance in collaboration with Lufodo Production.

Others are: Kurunmi, a stage play by University of Lagos students; Lagos Street Food Festival; Kayokayo, Lagos Cocktail Week; Badagry Heritage Festival; Badagry Descendants Arts and Culture Festival; Door of Return and more.

Beyond ensuring that Lagos theatres in Epe, Badagry and Igando are functioning, the burnt Lagos Theatre in Oregun had been awarded for reconstruction.

Equally, the refurbished Glover Memorial Hall Lagos has been living up to its expectation in playing host to different cultural and tourism events since its restoration by the governor and now managed by a private firm.

The ministry, according to the commissioner, is currently negotiating the inclusion of cinema facilities in all the theatres and also negotiating lands for the construction of a befitting facility in Ikorodu.

“I am filled with gratitude for the unwavering commitment and passion displayed by our team, partners and stakeholders in advancing the course of tourism, arts and culture.

“Let us carry forward the spirit of collaboration, innovation and inclusivity as we continue to transform challenges into opportunities and dreams into realities,” she said.

Meanwhile, the commissioner is not relenting; she has opened the second year of her work in the ministry with more activities.

On Thursday, she hosted a stakeholders’ engagement session with the hospitality sector on the emerging trends and challenges.

The one-day engagement session, which was held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, witnessed the gathering of stakeholders from both government and private sectors to network, unveil workable trends, and address industry challenges on a mutual basis.

In her address at the event, the commissioner disclosed that Lagos State government has commenced the process of data gathering and digitization of the registration of hospitality outfits and operators in the state.

The exercise, according to Benson-Awoyinka, will ensure seamless and secured operations by stakeholders in the sector, who also need to partner and cooperate with the ministry in achieving the task.

‘‘Emerging trends in this sector such as digital transformation, eco-tourism, and personalized customer experiences are reshaping the way we operate. It is imperative that we stay ahead of these trends to remain competitive and relevant.

‘‘You will agree with me that this gathering is long overdue considering happenings in the hospitality sector, emerging trends and the need for us to always share views on how to improve this sector and continue to operate in line with acceptable best practices,’’ she noted.

Explaining the rationale for the periodic reviews of sector law and regulations, she noted that, ‘‘In Lagos State, we are committed to creating an enabling environment for the hospitality sector to thrive. Our policy frameworks are being continually reviewed to ensure they support growth, innovation, and sustainability.

“We are also focused on improving infrastructure, enhancing security, and promoting Lagos as a prime tourist destination.”

The engagement session witnessed panel sessions where heads of different agencies offered stakeholders firsthand information on how the tourism sector can relate with their agencies for smoother operation.

From the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, Lagos Safety Commission, Lagos Environmental Protection Agency, Lagos Parks and Gardens Agency, Lagos Building Control Agency, among others, were all there to interact for better understanding of their operations and impact on the tourism businesses.

Ayodele Subair, executive chairman, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, used the opportunity to encourage tourism businesses to pay their taxes as the government needs the funds to sustain its infrastructure development drive. He discouraged them from defaulting because of the implication of doing so.

The Lagos Environmental Protection Agency unveiled why it always goes after defaulters as many hotels, including worship centres do not comply with sound proof regulation of the agency.

She decried that too much noise from such violators have impacted the health of many negatively, with increasing ear problems in recent times.

“The law requires hotels, bars, night clubs, event centres, churches and mosques to install sound proof in their building to ensure minimal noise, peaceful environment and respect the rights of other residents,” LASEPA said.

But the Lagos Building Control Agency warned hoteliers to desist from building structures different from what was approved from the agency to avert future collapse and compromising safety at the long run.

The stakeholders pointed out challenges of running business in the state; from paying multiple taxes to bottlenecks in obtaining licences, approvals, to multiple payment portals, to harassment by officials of the agencies, among others.

The heads of the agencies present offered them solutions, amid direct contacts, emails and websites to ensure seamless exchanges. They also discouraged them from patronizing touts, as many who seek shortcuts are still doing today.

At the end, the commissioner was excited that her ministry’s exchange with the tourism, arts and culture stakeholders was fruitful, as she promised regular engagements.