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World Tourism Day: Minister makes case for sustainability in tourism development

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In comemoration of this year’s World Tourism Day, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has disclosed that sustainability is absolutely necessary if tourism is to achieve its full potentials, which include being a catalyst for economic growth and poverty eradication.

In a statement issued in London on Wednesday as part of the celebration, the Lai Mohammed hinted that, without sustainability, tourism cannot generate benefits to all stakeholders, solve serious problems such as extreme poverty, and preserve precious natural and man-made resources on which human prosperity is based.

Referring to the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day, which is Sustainable Tourism – Tool for Development, he said Member States of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) are encouraged to make sure that their policies and actions for tourism development and management fully embrace the principles of sustainability.

‘’The sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established among these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability,’’ Alhaji Mohammed said.

He said that in the context of the universal 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations General Assembly designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, underscoring its power to help eradicate poverty.

‘’Tourism was singled out in three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of sustainable economic growth and decent employment, sustainable production and consumption, and the conservation and sustainable use of oceans (Goals 8,12 & 14).

‘’Today, tourism generates 10% of the world’s GDP, one in every 10 jobs, and 30% of world trade in services. It is key to many countries’ economies and livelihoods. It has evolved from an industry engaged in and patronized only by the rich and elites of the society, to an industry enjoyed by all with significant impact on the nation’s economy.

‘’As an invisible export, tourism creates a flow of foreign currency into the economy of a nation through public revenue which comes in the form of taxes, duties, licenses etc; business revenue derived from services provided by restaurants, hotels, transport, shops etc and from local resident revenue which come in the form of wages, salaries, rent, interests in investments. Most of these revenues especially those that accrue to the business establishments and the local residents are usually ploughed back into the economy to create additional business thereby generating grater revenues and increasing employment opportunities,’’ the Minister said.

While government will play its part in the development and management of tourism and in making it more sustainable, the minister said the real key to making Nigeria’s tourism industry flourish lies with the industry itself and the businesses and organisations at its heart.

‘’Governments use a number of mechanisms to encourage greater private-sector engagement, capturing its expertise in ways that will be beneficial to the companies themselves as well as population. The private sector, on the other hand, has an opportunity to work collaboratively with government to yield unprecedented returns in both economic and human capital, and fulfilling the promise of a more equitable, productive, and prosperous global community,’’ Alhaji Mohammed said.

Overall, he said, sustainable tourism requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building.

Meanwhile, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has called for collaborative actions from all stakeholders for sustainable tourism development in Africa. The call hinged on the Bank’s recognition of the fact that Africa’s tourism and travel industry can serve as an engine room of progress for socio-economic transformation.   

According to the bank, this year’s theme for the World Tourism day presented a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the contribution of sustainable tourism among public and private sector decision-makers, as well as the international community.“In addition to its investments in tourism infrastructure such as ports, airports, roads and rail, AfDB is promoting the creative and cultural industries to diversify the economic base of African countries and attract tourism.  

“The Bank has, through various initiatives, given tourism development a new focus”, the statement read.Through its Fashionomics Africa initiative, the bank has been at the forefront of supporting the development of creative industries that utilize local products, especially cotton, in Africa.  

“The Bank’s Food Cuisine Africa platform connects key players and newcomers in the food industry in Africa.“Even the fashion industry has the ability to fuel sustainable tourism. Fashion Weeks, a fashion industry events, generate considerable foot traffic for cities like Lagos, which hosts the annual Lagos Fashion and Design Week. But there are needs to be a deliberate attempt on the part of African governments to tap into the potentials that fashion has, to grow the tourism industry.   

“Also, AfDB’s Visa Openness Index measures how open African countries are when it comes to visas by looking at what they ask of citizens from other countries in Africa when they travel.”The bank further held that Visa openness blends with AfDB’s Integrate Africa agenda, which seeks to make Africa more open, prosperous and interconnected.  

“After adopting a visa-on-arrival policy, Rwanda witnessed a 22 per cent annual increase in the number of tourism arrivals for meetings, conferences and events. Many visitors in turn, have become investors in the country.  

According to Principal Policy Expert at the AfDB, Jean-Guy Afrika, visa openness was not the solution to all problems, structural aspects such as the size of the market, infrastructure connectivity and purchasing power, are also important. He noted that the 2017 Africa Tourism Monitor – an annual research publication by the African Development Bank in collaboration with New York University, Africa House, and the Africa Travel Association – highlighted the importance of developing a sustainable and resilient tourism industry through innovation, entrepreneurship and technology.  

“The AfDB has for many years highlighted infrastructure development as one of its focal priorities to facilitate accessibility and trade across the continent. The Bank is also supporting the construction of a new terminal at Ghana’s Kotoka International Airport. The project is expected to make the country a destination of choice with a yearly target of five million passengers,” he added.

The idea of World Tourism Day was initiated by a Nigerian, late Mr. Ignatius Amaduwa Atigbi, the then Secretary General of the Nigeria Tourism Association (NTA), now Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), and Chairman of Africa Travel Commission (ATC). It was adopted at the 22nd General Assembly of the International Union of Official Travel Organizations (IUOTO) in 1971.

The 27th of September of every year is marked as the World Tourism Day to create awareness for tourism as a tool for economic growth and promotion of international peace and understanding.



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