Nigeria needs new visa regime to attract tourists- Lai Mohammed
The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has stressed the need for a new fexible visa policy that will help attract tourists into the country.
Speaking in Lagos on Sunday during a meeting with Tourism, Art and Culture Correspondents, Alhaji Lai Mohammed emphasised that it has become imperative to overhaul the Nigerian visa policies and other challenges militating against the growth of tourism in the country.
He stressed the need to train officials at the country’s border post to be more tourism friendly in order to promote tourism growth.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the process of getting Nigerian visa abroad is too cumbersome and too rigorous as it will not help in encouraging the growth of tourism.
He cited the example of Ghana that has concluded arrangements to introduce visa on arrival which is a step towards boosting tourism.
He also observed the need for accurate tourism statistics for reference and planning purposes.
The minister of Culture and Tourism noted that the Calabar Carnival can compete favourably with other international Carnivals abroad because it is better organised in terms of decency, and quality, adding that the Carnival is worthy of international promotion and marketing abroad to attract tourists to Nigeria.
He called for the collaboration of the the different tourism stakeholders in different ministries like Interior, National Security, Aviation, Immigration and others to turn the country’s tourism fortunes around.
He said the country is going to witness improvement in tourism infrastructure so as to drive traffic, including the need to also get the stakeholders involved.
The Minister observed that despite the challenges of poor infrastructure, location of some of the tourism attractions in remote areas and all that, “we know what to do grow tourism and what to put on ground to develop our creative industry.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed promised that the government will provide the enabling environment for tourists, especially religious tourists coming into the country for different church programes like that of Synagogue and others for spiritual purposes so that they can continue coming again and again.
The Minister disclosed that the National Theatre will remain the property of the federal government.
Lai Mohammed noted that this Administration is diversifying the economy away from oil, which for many years has been the mainstay of the country’s economy.
According to him: “Among the sectors that have been identified as veritable sources of revenue for the nation are the Arts, Culture and Tourism Sectors. This is why we in the Ministry of Information and Culture are working hard to move these sectors from the margins to the mainstream and ensure that the rural poor in particular are factored into the Sector’s architecture”.
The tourism Journalists in their articulated position called for the resuscitation of the Presidential Council on Tourism, (PCT) which was introduced during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo and the review and updating of the Tourism Masterplan which has been abandoned for many years among other requests.
The Minister promised to tackle the issue of the country’s bad image which tourists encounter first hand with the various agencies at the points of entry into the country.
He warned that, “we must not neglect our creative art industry”.