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Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili on Wednesday said that Lagos would play a pivotal role in the organisation’s quest to promote new tourism destinations across the world.
Pololikashvili, who made this known when he led a high-powered delegation, consisting eight Ministers of Tourism and representatives from 44 countries across Africa on a courtesy visit to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, said the Technical Visit to the State, as part of the activities for the just concluded 61st UNWTO/CAF Meeting in Abuja, was a pointer to the role Lagos would play in developing tourism in the continent.
Describing the visit to Lagos as the best part of the meeting, the UNWTO Scribe said, “We are here to promote new tourism destinations. You can count on us, thanks to you, to promote this fantastic place. Thanks for receiving us and rest assured that Lagos will be one of the most important parts of our strategy branding.”
Responding, State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode said the massive investment in infrastructural renewal by his administration was a well thought out strategy to position Lagos as a tourism hub.
He said his administration was not unmindful of the massive economic benefits yet untapped from the tourism sector, adding that conscious efforts are being made to maximise the potentials for the benefit of the people.
“We believe that with the kind of population and the market that Lagos has, we must start to create tourism infrastructure to be able to grow the economy, that’s why as you move across Lagos, you would observe that it is technically a construction site; from the airport and as you go on the bridges and also when you go to the Eko Atlantic City.
“But the ultimate goal is that these infrastructures will now drive people to come and spend their weekend here, just the way you have decided to spend your Wednesday here in Lagos and the government gets some form of revenue from taxes when people use our hotels.
“So there is a cycle of development that tourism tries to drive and that is why we have continuously supported whatever has to do with tourism and let me reiterate also that we would continue to support everything tourism because anything that can integrate and bound the continent together, that’s where we should go because we are the next story,” Governor Ambode said.
He said a UN report in 2016 showed that 86 people enter into Lagos every one hour, with only Mumbai coming close with 79, followed by New York and London with 7 and 9 respectively, adding that it was a viable opportunity to use tourism to drive human and capital development.
“Lagos has almost a population of 24 million right now. According to UN report, as at 2016, 86 people enter into Lagos every one hour and most likely not wanting to go back. Next is Mumbai, 79; New York 7; London, 9.
“So, why are people coming to Lagos and not wanting to go back? It means that at a point where we are not able to provide jobs for them, we need to start looking at the area of tourism to be able to create that next port of building the State’s GDP and tap into the creative mind of our people, which is something that we have not really been doing across Africa,” the Governor said.
Welcoming the delegation to the State, Governor Ambode said the technical visit by the delegation was auspicious, as it would provide an avenue for top players in the tourism sector from the across the continent to rub minds and forge a common course towards making Africa the choice destination for tourists across the world.
The Governor noted that Africa, despite being the least travelled tourism continent in the world, houses the best tourism destinations, adding that stakeholders must use the summit to create a synergy and collaborate going forward to change the narrative.
“In this whole tourism industry, we are just an integral part of the whole bonding story that we are trying to build across Africa. This is very significant for us because now that we are beginning to see that every destination is an important destination across the continent, it is important that we integrate ourselves and also share whatever possibilities and opportunities that we have together.
In his remarks, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed thanked Governor Ambode for his support towards the hosting of the 61st UNWTO/CAF Meeting in Nigeria, saying that it was largely responsible for the success of the event.
“Without the generous support and cooperation of Lagos State this 61st UNWTO/CAF Meeting would not have been possible. When I ran into difficulties it was my brother that I came to and he bailed me out. I remain eternally grateful to you and Nigeria is very grateful to you because your support has made the Meeting successful,” the Minister said.
He said the visit to Lagos was a major part of the conference and Lagos was chosen because of its foremost place in the country’s tourism architecture, adding that the massive investment in tourism infrastructure by Governor Ambode has gone a long way to show the State’s seriousness to emerge as a leading tourism hub in Nigeria and Africa.
He said the day-long Technical Visit will see the 101 delegations from UNWTO, including Ministers of Tourism from eight countries and representatives from 44 countries in Africa visit the Eko Atlantic City in Victoria Island, arguably the biggest of its kind in Africa with world class facilities that would further drive tourism in Nigeria.