– The Sun News

The many failings of our tourism summits

How truly sincere and dedicated we are to the desire to see tourism boom and grow in Nigeria will need another summit to expose our failings. For two and half decades of reporting this beat, one finds it very embarrassing that our talks have never in any way matched the desired platforms needed to transform this sector neither were there any progressive templates for tourism destinations in Nigeria.

town plannersIndeed and notably, the various tourism summits ever held by federal or states government in Nigeria were mere gatherings of portfolio experts and conclave of strange tourism advocates with no implementable programs or policy actions. We have never seen any home grown tourism desire but borrowed visions and templates that are strange to our culture and history as a people.

There are no doubts that Nigerians are hospitable people, very adventurous, teachable and very industrious. On the scale of global measurement on livable environment and ranking, Nigeria is one place very hostile to tourism growth and development yet our people take pride in smiling through organized suffering.

Unfortunately, our leaders thrive in deception and open grand standing and defends such failings gallantly. That has become the bane of the tourism sector, and to cover our shame and nothingness, we are always clever to resort to vexatious tourism summits and then wash our hands Pontius Pilate.

Sometimes, we leave simple things such as service delivery, training and retraining, tax holidays and basic infrastructures that drive the business of tourism and embark on grandiose summits, festivals and drumming. Across Nigeria, there is no state with a visible and sustainable tourism soul, not Lagos, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Kano or Bauchi states. When those who truly knows the business or when foreigners are lured to visit, great frustrations and disappointments dots their assessment report lines.

Today, what we see on our tourism environment are mere half-measure efforts and deceptive apostolic tourism evangelism despite noticeable advantages and potentials which cuts across all segments and offerings.

Lagos governor, Akinwumi Ambode has shown a tourism vendor attitude that could benefit Nigeria with some huge lessons on our tourism for tomorrow. Always at street scenes and in organized communion with the people, Ambode brings a touch of a leader that possibly wants his people to prosper.

Since tourism is about people, the tracking of the business should first start with the people, their customs, tradition and comparative areas of socio economic development and well-being. The catch phrase here is that Lagos government may leave out its people in the pace to blossom into a destination.

We needed to offer alternate caution so as to have a truly Nigerian destination that may offer some hope to other states which may follow the Lagos template even though their most significant offerings are not aquatic but cultural. Lagos does not need a summit to know that doing business in the state is still not perfect and very hostile to investors, particularly to very undefined downstream segment of the business.

As much the state needs fund to meet developmental obligations, it is more desirable to partner with the private sector operators in the hospitability, recreation, logistics and transport and other downstream beneficiaries to drive the spirit of Lagos. This possibly is the first elementary policy action to open the tourism haven of the state and to also aggregately create and develop the Lagos tourism soul.

The push for a twenty year tourism master plan is a like a gambit and efforts of a prayer mantis. It would windy and un-implementable. To me, it would be desirable to have a thorough first-hand and people oriented, clustered tourism offerings master plan limited to the lifetime of Ambode’s reassured second term of four years.

A four year master plan will be tight, with clear vision, implementable and fundable options. There would be little waste of resources and it impact will be easily felt by the people and measurable. Such an agenda could clearly identify the soul of Lagos tourism and interpret same to the people and visitors.

Lagos with arguably Nigeria’s highest population with more still heading to the assumed honey pot of the nation, should know that the local and international dynamics of tourism have creative lifespan as what booms today could be obsolete tomorrow.

It is an alarm clock and we do not need to go to Dubai, Florida, Singapore or even Thailand to confront this truth. In this regard, it is tempting for me to advise Lagos government to dust up Lagos tourism edict done during the military regime in Lagos and pick up some enduring lessons therein.

The clustering impact in that document could help the state spread the dividend of tourism infrastructure and training across the four divisions of the state based on the offering strength and potentials. The Badagry economic summit two years ago could also help the contracted writers of the Lagos tourism master plan.

I have always believed and held the view that leaders like Ambode must have subordinates who can interpret and market the various developmental strides ongoing in Lagos in order to create a realistic, verifiable, friendly tourism economy. That is one message and content to which the various proponents of new Lagos tourism outlook at the just concluded summit failed to address. That connect with the people and the need for them to become the true face of Lagos tourism is the true wisdom to sustain and create an enduring Ambode tourism intervention in Lagos, nay Nigeria. The stories of tourism from other climes should wait for our content and true value, which is the challenge Lagos must overcome.

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