NCAC and mission to rebrand Nigeria’s culture, tourism sector
He is huge and elegant. His sky blue babariga flows all out. He burrows his face into a handkerchief and slumps into an easy chair. He tries to blend into the background. It works — He actually manages not to draw attention to himself. But stands up. He sits again.He points to a middle aged woman down front, and she doesn’t hesitate, she instantly shifts into a prolonged speech mode, telling everybody how she hopes to one day “make Nigerians leisure tourists, not luxury visitors”, and all that, blah blah.
There are over three-dozen others in the hall, and one by one, they follow her lead, serving up their micro memoirs, their dream for Nigerian culture tourism. Each tossing the microphone to the next speaker… and the next… and the next.He watches them closely, listens carefully, as all sector heads around speak. The invisible baton of attention, wending its way around the room. And then it happens. Everybody is finished speaking and the hall is churchly quiet. And he’s up. He addresses them. He tells them about the new cultural product of NCAC.
“Everywhere you go in the world, the tourism sector is doing very well. What is wrong with us? Today, we must find a solution to the problem in Nigeria. Programs like this begin with a vision of one man. And every one of us has a role to play in achieving this vision,” he says.Slowly and slowly, the three-dozen participants listen with rapt attention to Otunba Segun Runsewe, Director General of National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC).
The footprints of Runsewe are indelible in the country’s cultural kaleidoscope. More often than not, the mention of his name in polite company triggers one of a spectrum of deeply conditioned responses. Mr. Tourism. Crafts master. Anyone. But definitely not guttural groan or exaggerated eye roll. He, however, inspires a scintilla of goodwill, which follows him around like a nuclear cloud.
And yet, if words have not been his friend, they’ve often been his accomplices. But no matter where you come out on him, he likes to use anecdotes to explain challenges. There’s one fact nobody can deny — The moment Runsewe became NCAC’s boss, he avoided settling into a sick rhythm, which has characterised the sector. For him, it is of utmost importance to reposition and re-brand the culture and tourism sector in Nigeria to ensure a shift from the total focus on oil as the major source of revenue to the government.
To kick-start what he calls rebranding mission, Runsewe ensured that the NCAC management took a familiarisation trip to Dubai to understudy the city’s tourism with a view to adapting lessons learnt.He explains, “the objective of the trip to Dubai is to expose the management team of NCAC to cultural tourism management using the Dubai model as focus, who, in return, are now well equipped to share and brainstorm with major players in the sector who have pledged their commitment towards actualising the NCAC vision and goals.”
According to him, “this trip is a great opportunity to reschedule our approach to culture and tourism in Nigeria. It is the beginning of this big secret in Africa to be starting from the sight seeing of Dubai Global Village, Dolphin, Miracle Garden and so many places we visited. It tells the story that this is the sector that will save the economy of so many African countries.”
In what he terms the second phase of the project, Runsewe explains the same gesture will be extended to all the 36 states commissioners of Culture and Tourism, top players and stakeholders in the culture and tourism with a view to helping them develop their states’ tourism potentials.
He says, “the next logical step in the commitment of NCAC towards the making of Destination Nigeria a reality through rebranding and reinvigorating our potentials, is through an expanded familiarisation trip for States Commissioners for Culture of the Federation (SCCF). Their buy in as critical agents of change is imperative for meaningful national dialogue on prospects, possibilities, sponsorships and investments that will bring governmental structure and executive will power to the implementation and realisation of this desire.”
He says, “for Project Destination Nigeria to succeed at all levels, different tiers of managers, policy makers and investors in Nigerian culture sector have to first be sensitised to the vision, then exposed to the cultural reality of other nations that have successfully embarked on cultural transformation and finally, become disciples and knowledgeable drivers through application and implementation.”
To Runsewe, “this is a call to a new beginning to Africa, and Nigeria must take the challenge first. We are a people that believe we can do things first and I believe, if they can do it here, we can do it even better. The time is now, as we cannot afford to wait any longer. The unborn Nigerians, the future generation of this country will not forgive us. Posterity will not forgive us if we do not make amend and effect the changes now.”
He believes that Nigeria has cultural products to sell: “Art is everywhere. Culture is everywhere, nothing is plastic or artificial,” he reveals. “Everything in the public domain has been created by someone for something. When we go out for entertainment, films, music, theatre, comedy, history, food — it’s all an art-form created by someone with a passion. Any public space has been carefully designed to be at once functional and beautiful. Museums and galleries share incredible artworks created by infamous artists. No matter where you look, there is art and culture in Nigeria that could be marketed. It’s a part of what makes us human – a form of expression.”
For the DG, life without the collective resources of arts and culture — libraries, museums, theatres and galleries, or without the personal expression of literature, music and art, would be static and sterile – no creative arguments about the past, no diverse and stimulating present and no dreams of the future.
In the UK, in 2011, the art and culture industries created £12.4 billion in aggregate turnover; in 2015 the arts contributed £27 billion to the economy. As of November 2017, the creative industries are worth £92 billion and account for 14.2% of Gross Value Added (GVA) in the UK. The arts contribute to our economy by attracting tourists and businesses, developing skills and talents and generating new employment opportunities. According to the Nation Brands Index, the UK is fourth out of 50 nations for having an enticing cultural experience; the arts attracted 42 per cent of all tourism related revenue generated in the UK in 2011. These are impressive figures, and, as it is popularly known, money makes the world go round.
Art can connect culture with commodities in a way that not many other things can; art generates money but also holds significant sentimental and cultural value within communities. When people attend a concert, they are paying for music, sure, maybe even hotel rooms, meals, and transport, but they also gain an incredible experience, a unique atmosphere and a memory that will go through the rest of their lives with them. People don’t just want ‘stuff’ anymore, they want to experience life – the arts are a perfect cross over between culture and commerce.
But what are the opportunities for cultural tourism in Nigeria? “Europe is a well-established market for cultural tourism. European holidaymakers are increasingly interested in discovering new destinations, especially if these offer authentic activities that teach them about local culture. This makes cultural tourism a promising sector for developing country destinations,” Runsewe says.
He breathes, “cultural tourism is international travel directed towards experiencing local arts, heritage, landscapes, traditions and lifestyles. It is a broad market with many sub or niche markets.”
Exploring cultural heritage is the most common form of cultural tourism among International cultural tourists. Examples of cultural tourism experiences include: architectural and archaeological treasures, culinary activities, festivals or events, historic or heritage sites, monuments and landmarks, museums and exhibitions, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and religious venues, temples and mosques.
Runsewe says the attractiveness of a cultural destination varies greatly from person to person. He, however, points out, safety is important to cultural tourists. “They often inquire about the safety of their destination. Especially safe driving can be a concern.”
John Likita Best, one of the participants at the stakeholders forum,, says, “tourism is a huge alternative for financing the country. Showing us Dubai is not enough unless we can make a Dubai in Nigeria.” However, Onifiok O. Ekong while arguing that “government is not making good use of our natural tourist attractions, such as Aso Rock, Zuma Rock and Gurara Falls, says, “tourism needs law and order to move forward. These are little things that matter because a visitor will not condone the disorderliness we condone in his country, especially in the transport sector.”
He continues, “political stability is also important. Safety is important to international tourists, especially because some developing countries are politically unstable. Most commercial tour operators don’t offer holidays to countries that their Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared unsafe.” Alhaji Rabo Saleh, President, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) says: “Tourism cannot flourish where there’s insecurity. Those challenges are there but we cannot look at those challenges for now. All we need to do is focus on driving our country forward and making tourism one of the things that can turn our country around.”
This has previously led to a drop in tourism arrivals in countries such as Mali, Egypt and Kenya.But Ekong advises: “International cultural tourists look for flexibility. They increasingly want to compose their own holidays by combining separate components. Tour operators can offer flexible holiday packages with standard and optional components that customers can use to create a unique holiday.”
However, Hajia Bilikisu Abdul, President of Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), asks: “How many of us have our country Nigeria at heart? When we tell good stories about our country, we promote our tourism.” She urges citizens to love their country so as to “make it right in tourism, people need to have their country at heart and stop travelling for pleasure but as tourists. You don’t necessarily have to be a tour operator or be in government (to make a difference). The D-G travelled to Dubai and saw something interesting and nice that he couldn’t hold to himself. Now he is trying to sell it to us. I think if every one of us emulates him, I believe the government would look into this matter.”
By 1984, there were almost 300 million international tourist arrivals worldwide and international tourism was the second largest item in world trade. It was predicted that by the year 2000, tourism would be the world’s largest industry and its largest employer.
In the early 1980, the World Tourism Organisation became interested in defining the concept of cultural tourism, based on the recognition that, unlike recreational tourism, cultural tourism is motivated by the need in travellers for increased knowledge and new and different experiences.
The UNWTO estimates that cultural tourism accounts for about 40 per cent of global tourism. While commending the new vision, Dr. Elizabeth Ben-Iheanacho (Director, Research & Development in NCAC, says, “it was a fantastic learning experience from which Nigeria can learn from the tourism strength particularly the history and evolution of the city of Dubai from the ancient desert landmark to a fascinating tourism destination. NCAC has been exposed to diverse means by which we can manage resources that are inherent in our country. One can only look forward that Nigeria will rise and take its place as a tourism destination in Africa.”
Dr. Gerald Adewole, Director, Special Duties, reveals, “we came on study tour on culture to understudy the culture of Dubai. From what I have seen so far, Dubai is an incredible, fantastic city. In fact, Dubai is out of this world. My hope is that we will go back home, brainstorm and replicate in Nigeria what we have seen here.”
According to Mallam Ado Yahuza, Director, Human Resources Management, “it is very important to have visited Dubai, especially in terms of development of culture in Nigeria. In the last 40 years, Dubai was like a village, but the leaders were able to transform it to a very enterprising tourism hub, where people from various parts of the world now visit with their families to enjoy themselves thereby helping their economy to grow rapidly. If we can replicate this in our country, it will help us diversify our economy.”
Based on the level of interest in culture, there are two types of cultural tourists: Motivated and incidental cultural tourist.
Most people, who are motivated culture tourists have: higher education background, medium to high income, considerable interest in culture and considerable interest in social and environmental issues. Experiencing and learning about local cultures is their main travel purpose.
Motivated cultural tourists like to be prepared before going on holiday. They study the destination thoroughly and like to see and learn as much of it as possible. This group is quite demanding. These customers tend to know a lot about the destination, as they have prepared their journey very well. It might have been on their ‘bucket list’ for years.
Runsewe advises, “international cultural tourists like to interact with locals. They are interested in locals’ ideas and opinions about everyday topics. Cultural tourists don’t want to just passively experience culture. This means rather than being shown, they prefer open communication about locals’ daily lives. They like aspects of culture that are supported by the local population.”
Cultural World Heritage Sites can give cultural tourism destinations a great competitive advantage. UNESCO now has a World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme to help countries protect their heritage while developing tourism.