Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said the country will leverage the forthcoming World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) global conference to showcase the country’s tourism and creative assets.
The Minister, who made the remarks in Calabar, Cross River State, on Tuesday in his keynote address at the 2022 World Tourism Day Celebration, said the global conference would also create a viable platform to identify, develop and promote new models of a stronger partnership between tourism, culture and the creative industries.
“The (World Tourism Day) celebration is particularly important this year because of the right granted to Nigeria by UNWTO to host the first-ever Global Conference on ‘Linking Tourism, Culture and the Creative Industries: Pathways to Recovery and Inclusive Development’,’ he said, in reference to the conference scheduled to hold from 14-16 November 2022 at the National Theater Complex, Iganmu, Lagos.
Alhaji Mohammed noted that tourism the world over is recognized as a key contributor to job creation, sustainable economic growth, environmental conservation and poverty alleviation, saying tourism also acts as a catalyst for social equality and inclusivity as it provides women, youth and rural communities the means to support themselves, in addition to effectively accelerating progress across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
He expressed delight that in spite of the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism sector, it is now making a steady recovery.
Quoting the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the Minister said international tourism got back to 60% of pre-pandemic levels between January and July 2022, with international tourist arrivals almost tripling in January to July 2022, compared to the same period of 2021.
“The pandemic highlighted the critical need to transform the tourism industry as the global travel and tourism sector slowly recover – as emphasized by the theme of this year’s celebration (Rethinking Tourism). I have no doubt that the time is right to begin this transformation and to rebuild the industry,” he said, adding: ”The good news is that given the resilience of the tourism industry and its ability to recovery quicker than other sectors, there is the need for more inclusive and sustainable recovery approaches to be adopted.”
While speaking on the theme of the 2022 World Tourism Day, “Rethinking Tourism”, he said it aims to inspire the debate around rethinking tourism for development, including through education and jobs, tourism’s impact on the planet, and opportunities to grow more
Alhaji Mohammed said the annual observance is also considered a powerful advocacy tool to mobilize political will and resources, address global problems, celebrate and reinforce achievements at all levels and educate the public on issues of concern.
He commended the Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, for hosting this year’s World Tourism Day and for his efforts at making the state and indeed Nigeria a preferred tourism destination in Africa.
“Tourism has significantly transformed the state into a choice destination where most fun-seekers and visitors long to visit. Your efforts in sustaining and improving the existing tourism assets in the state, particularly the annual Calabar Christmas Carnival, which is recognized globally, is a great milestone in the history of tourism in Nigeria,” the Minister said.
The highlight of the 2022 World Tourism Day was a world-class Command Performance by the Cross River Cultural Troupe and the unveiling of the theme for the 2022 Calabar Carnival by Governor Ayade.
The Minister was accompanied to the occasion by the Directors-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Mr. Folorunso Coker; National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Prof. Abba Tijjani; National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism, Mr. Nura Kangiwa and the General Manager and CEO of the National Theatre, Prof. Sunday Ododo.
Others are the Directors General, National Gallery of Art, Dr. Ebeten Ivara; National Broadcasting Commission, Mallam Balarabe Illelah and the Artistic Director, National Dance Troupe, Mr. Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed.