By Magnus Eze
Stakeholders in the tourism sector are desirous that Abuja, the nation’s capital, becomes a national tourist centre that could host world class events like the Simsonean Centre in Washington DC, Nottinghill Carnival and the famous Brazilian festival of Rio.
To this end, Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Folorunsho Coker recently said Abuja would be a major driver of his administration’s newly unveiled brand, tagged, ‘Tour Nigeria’, launched on July 7, at Jabi Lake Mall, Abuja.
The NTDC boss disclosed that the facilities and ambience of the lake will be upgraded to become the fulcrum of tourism in the Federal Capital Territory.
As a way of promoting domestic tourism, the corporation also entered into strategic partnership with Airline Operators of Nigeria to create affordable air fares within inclusive packages.
According to Coker, discounted weekend airline tickets to Abuja will propel the success of ‘#MyAbujaWeekend’, a project designed to further encourage the travel businesses and promote hospitality and tourism services in the capital city of Nigeria during the weekends.
With a projected growth of 4.9 per cent and accounting for nearly nine per cent of the continent’s GDP, Africa’s travel and tourism industry has incredible potential to help generate growth, create jobs and enable development.
Unfortunately, Nigeria is not one of the top 10 most tourism-ready economies going by the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2015.
Regardless, stakeholders rose from the fourth International Tourism Investment Forum in Abuja, recently, poised to change the trend as two critical initiatives were rolled out: showcasing of Bwari Tourist Village International for investment and unveiling of the masterplan for agri-tourism development in Nigeria.
The Public Private Partnership (PPP) of Bwari Tourist Village involving the NTDC, Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Bwari Area Council and others would on completion of the Phase 1 provide employment for at least 15,000 persons in Dutse, Bumpa, Bwari and the FCT in general.
International Tourist Choice Ltd, promoters of the tourist village described it as “highly commercial in structure and functions to the degree of world class global tourist destination. Bwari Tourist Village and Agritourism Development have all the tourism potential for indigenous and foreign experts to invest in.”
Managing Director of the firm, Trust Ogboi said Nigeria is blessed with unique cultures; a home of arts and crafts, food basket/heartbeat of Africa, undulating rock views and hills, hospitable and friendly people which attract high number of businessmen, corporate offices and international public servants.
He flaunted the diplomatic section as one unique selling proposition of the Bwari Tourist Village; as any of the diplomatic missions could develop an assigned area where it would display and market its country’s cultural heritage.
Ogboi noted that the two projects are in tandem with the economic diversification agenda of the present administration; the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as call and determination of the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) to develop and market sites as tourism centre destinations.
The event seemingly got the endorsement of the World Bank and the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment as the Growth and Employment (GEM) Project, assured that the outcomes of the conference would form a greater part of the type of cluster intervention it will roll out within the weeks for the nation’s tourism industry.
GEM Project Coordinator, Ugo Ikemba, who was represented by Obijiofor Fidelis, said the sector is vital to the growth of Nigerian economy, particularly because it exacts direct influence on the socio-cultural, educational and economic life of the people.
“It also has great bearing on the country’s international relations. It is important to Nigerians in many precepts including its binding effects to tribal and religious diversities by bringing together tribes and ethnics and creating the much understanding for effective communication,” he stated.
Experts say agritourism as one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry is basically where agriculture and tourism intersect. It includes visits to working farms; ranches, wineries and agricultural industries.
Agri-destinations, they said, offer a huge variety of entertainment, education, relaxation, outdoor adventures, shopping and dining experiences.