By Taiye Olayemi
Gov.Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom on Thursday called for a review of the national policy on tourism to take full advantage of the enormous potential in the sector.
Eno, speaking at the 26th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), said this was needed to reap bountifully from the sector.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the AGM has its theme as “Tourism Today and Tomorrow: Setting the Agenda for the New Administration”, and the sub theme: “Community involvement in Tourism Development: Building Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism”.
The governor represented by his deputy, Sen. Akon Eyakenyi, said that amendment of existing tourism laws must be accelerated for sporadic development in the sector.
“The global tourism sector is not slagnant. It is growing and evolving almost with the speed of light so can’t afford to use policies which emanated from old thinking to drive a 21st century ICT driven sector.
“We must tailor our legal framework to encourage investments in the sector, existing laws must be reviewed and new ones enacted to encourage direct foreign investments and the participation of more local investors in the sector.
“For the nation to experience development in tourism, the challenge of insecurity must be tackled because insecurity and tourism development are mutually exclusive.
“We must work very assiduously toward building a reputation of a safe and secure country in order to attract more tourists and even investors to the country,” he said.
According to Eno, building of quality infrastructure must underpin tourism development
He said a national culture in support of tourism must be created and adhered to by all.
“The Dubai tourism sector, for instance, is largely driven by bold infrastructure.
“From the quality of our airports, to roads, seaports, railways and other infrastructure, the signature of excellence must be unmistakable.
“Nigerians are no doubt very hospitable people. But we can do better because we are competing with the rest of the world.
“Government should aggressively sensitise Nigerians on attitudinal change in the direction of tourism development so much so that we should be ranked the best in the world in hospitality.
“We must be intentional about the image we project to the world, hence the need for a conscious corporate branding of Nigeria to make it more attractive,” he said.
Eno advised government at different levels to engage professional associations such as FTAN to work out a framework, to finally tap into this sector.
He said this would bring about job creation and huge growth, as millions of Nigerian youths would be gainfully engaged.
He noted that in Akwa Ibom, tourism was a key focal point in his administration’s “ARISE Agenda”.
“As a hospitality practitioner myself, we are determined to invest heavily in this sector and get our people back to work. We will promote our nationally and internationally known cuisines
“We have several historic sites, the house where the founder of Nigeria, Fredrick Lord Luggard lived in, is in Ikot Abasi. We have the Raffia works in Ikot Ekpene and other sites to see.
“Our plan is not just to get more people to travel to Akwa Ibom state and spend their money. We desire to give those who visit our state maximum value for money and satisfaction to warrant voluntary repeat visits.
“Presently, the Ibom Icon Hotel, situated amidst a rich palm forest vegetation within the Nwaniba Golf course, offers the kind of serenity that is rare to find anywhere else in West Africa.
“Ibom Specialist Hospital in Uyo is a world-class medical facility designed to redirect medical tourism from other parts of the world,” he said.
Eno said with all these already in place and a lot more, his administration would focus on the development of the vast coastline of the state.
“We will upgrade facilities in the various tourist sites to international standards, expand existing infrastructure and consolidate on the present atmosphere of peace and security in the state,” he said. (NAN) (nannews.ng)
Edited by Folasade Adeniran