Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), has paid a glowing tribute to Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s outgoing Minister of Information and Culture.
The minister, who participated in UNWTO’s activities at the recently held International Tourism Fair (FITUR), in Madrid, Spain, used the opportunity to express appreciation to the UN Tourism Chief and the organisation for the unparalleled support he enjoyed as the minister of the African giant.
The secretary-general applauded the efforts and leadership of the minister, who he said was instrumental in the affairs of the organisation. Pololikashvili cited the 61st CAF Meeting in Abuja (2018) and last year’s UNWTO maiden conference on linking tourism and the creative industries as two major events that defined the exiting minister’s commitment to the organisation.
The Secretary-General further highlighted the role of the minister and his wise counsel, which he offered the organisation.
“Your determination and leadership in ensuring that Africa maximized its full potential in the areas of creative arts and education stand out,” the secretary-general said.
He noted further that Mohammed’s support for the works and programmes of the world tourism organisation stands tall and will leave an indelible mark and a legacy for the organisation and the African caucus will forever be grateful.
On his part, Mohammed expressed immense gratitude to the world tourism body and its leader for their continued support in growing Nigeria’s support.
“We as a Ministry have also received a lot of support from the UNWTO in the last seven and half years. It is therefore pertinent for me to use this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to you, the secretary-general, and your entire staff, for the support given to me throughout my tenure as the Minister in charge of tourism.
“I also commend your commitment to the growth of the tourism sector in Nigeria, which has been demonstrated in so many ways,” he said.
The minister commended Pololikashvili for bringing “a lot of innovations to the organisation and you have succeeded in carving a niche for yourself.”
By dint of his unrelenting efforts, he ensured tourism was given a voice at the highest political level and rallied the needed will to deliver a new and refurbished national theatre. This is among the many policies and wins that his good self and his office have fronted to bring transformation into the sector and enable private sector participation and foster job creation.
In 2018, he single-handedly ensured that Nigeria hosted the Commission for Africa (CAF) Ministers Meeting in Abuja, assembling a record number of tourism ministers as well as giving the world a taste of Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage.
His support for UNWTO’s work was admired by many who tapped into the wise counsel of the minister.
Lai Mohammed also led the mission of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) as an Affiliate Member of UNWTO with the country’s National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism also working on affiliate membership.
The minister has also submitted the West African country’s bid for the candidature of the UNWTO’s Executive Council for the period 2023-2027.
This year, the minister has consolidated his achievements since assuming office with the announcement of a partnership with UNWTO and the private sector to establish a tourism academy in Nigeria.
The minister, who disclosed the academy project in his speech at the maiden graduation ceremony of the first cohort of Terra Academy for the Arts (TAFTA), in Lagos, recently, explained further that the academy will be located in Lagos and that it is one of the fruits of the UNWTO global conference, which held last November in Lagos..
The Lagos tourism academy, which is one of the academies approved by the UNWTO in Africa, is expected to provide accessible, vocational managerial, and transformative training for the tourism and hospitality sector.
It would be recalled that at his opening speech at the UNWTO Global Conference, which was held at the remodeled National Theatre Lagos, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General, of UNWTO, announced the plan to establish tourism academies in Africa, with an assurance that one will be located in Nigeria.
Pololikashvili noted that part of his mandate in the office is to make education a priority for UNWTO.
“Our expanded online academy and partnerships with key universities are giving people the skills and knowledge that tourism needs.
“We will be citing tourism universities in Africa and one of them will be located here in Nigeria,” he said at the global conference in Lagos.
Speaking on the reason for bringing the academies to Africa and Nigeria in particular, Pololikashvili noted that global tourism start-up competitions had been held over 10 times and from each, UNWTO had generated great interests and wonderful ideas from across Africa, including from Nigeria.
As the outgoing Nigerian minister prepares to leave office on May 29th, when a new government would be sworn in, the UNWTO family, especially the secretary general prays for a successor that will drive Nigerian tourism at home and globally with passion like Lai Momammed.