Imoke tasks government on incentives for operators to grow tourism
Former Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke, has urged the government at all levels to make incentives a key factor to stimulate operators in the tourism sector.
While delivering a keynote address at the 25th Annual General Meeting and Tourism Conference of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) in Abuja, Imoke said this is the only way to not only practically grow the sector, but also contribute meaningfully to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Speaking on the theme, Nigeria Tourism: The Way Forward, Imoke outlined a number of challenges and prospects of the sector, stating that though tourism is private sector driven, in Nigeria, the government end up being the mover. He decried this development, which he said has greatly hampered the growth of the sector in the country.
To ensure its growth, the former governor called on the government to look critically into its role and focus more on providing different forms of incentives for the investors and operators who charge to grow the sector.
“Tourism has to be private sector driven with the government as the enabler, but sometimes, the government becomes the mover. This is why it is imperative for the government to create incentives as one of the mandatory roles otherwise we would not grow the industry.”
He observed that Nigeria has all it takes to have a vibrant tourism industry, but the disagreement between the government and the private sector should not define the industry.
“The industry is bigger than all of us and it will continue to grow,” he noted.
Highlighting data and statistics as key factors in setting the pace for practical tourism, Imoke lamented the challenges posed by the lack of data to plan and determine the contribution of tourism to the economy, adding that Nigeria is an unattractive tourist destination due to a lack of tourism culture among citizens.
“The greatest challenge I find is insecurity and access to tourism, which the government has to provide and when the government fails, then the investors and operators fail. These are critical issues that we must address. Why is the tourism budget shrinking when we have a sector that we want to grow? How and when do we create capital for the industry? Is tourism a luxury good or is it a necessity? All of these are part of the challenges that we face,’’ he said.