Lagos in search of a sustainable tourism-driven economy
It was a gathering of who-is-who in the country’s tourism industry, as well as those from the entertainment, arts and culture sectors, as Lagos State Government recently hosted a one-day tourism summit.
The session, which is in line with the its commitment to cause a major shift in marketing the tourism and creative potential inherent across the State, was held at the Eko Hotel & Suite, Victoria Island, Lagos, with former president of Ghana John Mahama as keynote speaker.
The summit, which was held under the theme, Destination Lagos: Towards A Sustainable Tourism-Driven Economy, created a platform for experts and stakeholders in the sector to make input into the proposed Lagos State Tourism Master Plan, which is being prepared to drive tourism development in the state, as well as set the tone for repositioning Lagos as a major destination.
Aside the main theme for discourse, the summit, which featured paper presentations by renowned stakeholders in the tourism business, panel discussions involving heads of tourism agencies and big players in the sector, also tackled other topics such as Exploring the Lagos Tourism Eco-system for Economic and Social Benefits; Financing tourism: the path and possibilities for Lagos State, and M.I.C.E, Creative Content as Tourism Industry panacea.
Particularly, Prof. Ibukunoluwa Ayodele of the University of Ibadan delivered the lead paper, while the Minister for Information, Tourism and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed spoke on Tourism as the new oil.
In his opening remarks, Lagos State governor Akinwunmi Ambode said the summit further demonstrates the government’s commitment to finding alternative platforms that can enrich Lagos and propel its prosperity continuously.
“Just a week ago, we held a security summit at this venue. Today, this tourism summit furthers demonstrates our commitment to find alternative platforms that can enrich our state. We are very proud of our culture and heritage; there’s nobody that is going to tell the story of the black people if Lagos doesn’t stand up to tell that story,” he said.
According to the Governor, the Lagos State Tourism Master Plan is one of the legacies his administration is determined to bequeath to Lagosians and coming generations.
“We’ve put tourism at the core of our growth strategy at this point in the development of this state, laying a solid foundation for a continued prosperity of Lagos and Lagosians.
The plan is focused on key sectors of culture and heritage, film, art and entertainment, business tourism, nature and adventure, medical and wellness, beach and leisure.
The tourism sector contributed about N800 billion to the Lagos GDP in 2017, and with the infrastructure and resources we are deploying in this sector, we expect this figure to double in the next five years,” he assured.
While adding that time and input from the summit can never be adequate, Ambode noted that the outcome of the session is just a bye product of another legacy his administration is trying to build.
“We seek the cooperation of every interested persons and groups to build brand Lagos that we will all be proud of,” he said.
In his keynote address, former president of Ghana John Mahama commended Lagos for taking up the initiative of developing tourism in the state, but informed that tourism cannot be developed to the level that it can become a key driver of our economy, without development and solid infrastructure.
“Thankfully, Lagos in preparation for the launch of the Lagos State Tourism Master Plan, has began upgrading and expanding critical infrastructure, including transportation, roads and of course the recent reclamation that is ongoing.
The tourism plan must therefore not focus only on what new tourism facilities it will develop, but how to ensure that the state is made attractive to tourists, improved and well developed quality medical services, enhance transportation services, high-speed mobile services, and of course guarantee security of any visitor to Lagos State.”
The former Ghanaian leader, who is no stranger to the city of Lagos, added, “Lagos, just like Nigerian in general, has such great cultural value that can easily be packaged and even exported; the impressive showing during the Lagos at 50 celebration shows that it’s possible and can be done.
It’s my believe that the Lagos State Tourism Master Plan that will emerge from this summit, would be a masterpiece that would guide this state to become the foremost tourism destination in the whole of African continent.”
In his brief remark, which was preceded by the screening of a short documentary on Nigeria’s tourism sector, Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed commended the Governor for the steps his administration has taken on the development of the sector, urging him not to relent in his support for the Ministry to develop the tourism sector of the country.
Meanwhile, in his opening address, the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, said Lagos was responding to the fact that the dynamics of progress and development were changing and strategies were being redrawn, forcing smart states and countries to be proactive and seek productive alternatives.
“This is a bold step embarked upon by this administration to demonstrate its commitment towards making Lagos, the foremost tourism destination in Africa. It’s a known fact that the Administration of His Excellency, Mr Akinwumi Ambode has pursued vigorously his project T.H.E.S.E agenda, which seeks to invest in human capital and infrastructure to encourage creativity and promotion of genius minds in arts, entertainment, culture and tourism.
This strategic intervention did not happen by accident; it has been a deliberate plan derived from a visionary study of the population trend and analysis of what sector will better absorb the teeming youth population, reduce poverty and crime as well as create jobs with multiplier effects on other sectors,” he said.
In his presentation, which centered on M.I.C.E (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences/Conventions and Exhibitions/Events), travel consultant and founder Akwaaba Africa Travel Market Ikechi Uko, informed that M.I.C.E is driving Tourism growth in Africa, with Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda crediting the industry for the growth of tourism in 2017.
“Today, if you noticed, most events are heading to Kigali and Accra. With the new Airport in Victoria Falls and the exit of Mugabe, Zimbabwe will be the big player along with its poor Neighbour Zambia. While the scramble for meetings are going on in Africa, Lagos has to take advantage of its natural assets to play in the coming years.”
According to Uko, who is also the international consultant for Carnival Calabar, you do very well in areas where you have a natural comparative advantage.
“Here is where Lagos comes in. In the creative economy, which encompasses the arts, Lagos might well become the natural creative capital of Africa.
Despite the fact that most of our products are not captured in organised data, it’s a known fact that Nigerian Nollywood is the leading movie production centre in Africa and the dance halls of Africa are driven by Nigerian music.
So, we can lay claim to be the entertainment capital of Africa,” he said.