Amachree calls for restoration of tourism ministry

Former President of Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN ), an investor and  stakeholder in the tourism industry, Alabo Mike Amachree has called on the government of President Mohammadu Buhari to bring  back the tourism ministry. 
He said the sector should not be subsumed under culture or information but rather, tourism should stand as a ministry. 
He said this has become important in the light of the key role tourism plays globally in the economic development of many countries. 
He said Nigeria should not be different. 
His words: “I am not really bothered about pushing the ministry to information but what I am saying is that tourism was not mentioned. They just pushed culture to merge with information and tourism is now under culture. Mind you, if you build an industry and you are producing products. If those products are not marketed, the industry will close down because it has to be marketed and people have patronised it. If you say you only recognise culture, mind you, culture does not exist on its own. It can only be for entertainment. Cultural products can only be for entertainment. They are not capable of generating income without going through tourism. So, tourism is about the biggest provider of jobs in the country. Let me tell you, all the airlines, human transportation, and movement of all kinds are under tourism. You can see the number of people those agents are employing, and in talking about foreign exchange earning, what else maybe apart from petroleum that can get foreign exchange more than tourism. If we plan our tourism very well, people will be coming to Nigeria because certain centres. Let us develop tourist sites, museums and other things that will attract the world to Nigeria, this is the work of tourism.”  
On the impression that tourism ministry may not have done well in the last couple of years, he said: “
That is not true. They don’t keep records of tourism. They don’t have records. Most government agencies don’t have records. We had government agency’s stand at the port in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and so on, but they were all removed. They no longer function.
“Government cannot push tourism to the background; let them find out why the ministry was unable to do those things. The departments under tourism should do their work that is what they are supposed to do. Why is it that other countries that have many products to showcase still sell their tourism? Gambia here, sells more tourism than a lot of other African countries. Tourism is their main generator of income. If those you put in-charge cannot do it, consult the practitioners, they will tell you what to do. You can’t just go and employ people. That is how it is. We know those who are good and can do the work.
“In those days, when I was young, during FESTAC 77, we saw a lot of in-flow of tourism into Nigeria and  with money, pay hotel bills and buy food from the market, not that government will be feeding them. They should bring their money to the country to spend. We stopped that.”
Amachree talked about how practitioners had clamoured for the ministry before it was created. He said: “When I came into tourism, tourism was buried under ministry of trade and industry. It was not mention, rather it was buried there. It was when General Abacha invited us to join vision 2010 that we deliberated on it. Among us were the late Chief Segun Olusola, Captain Okon, former managing director of ADC Airlines and myself. We were senior members of the committee. We deliberated that tourism should not be buried; let it come to limelight, let it be brought out from the Ministry of Trade and Industry. We met Chief Shonekan, he was the chairman of the Vision 2010 committee. We told him that this is what we want; he said we should go and debate it, we did and we won. That was the beginning in bringing out ministry of culture and tourism. Culture products on their won cannot be marketed or generate employment. So, we call it Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Since then things were going on well, now tourism has been on the forefront, but in the current cabinet of President Buhari, tourism is no longer mentioned, they rather picked culture to add to Ministry of Information. Tourism is not supposed to be under culture and information because tourism is the generator of revenue and employment in this country. Which other sector can generate employment and revenue like tourism. Tourism is the movement of people from one point to the other, and any money you make from the movement of people is tourism earning. So, people move to all parts of the world and within Nigeria, if you make money from the movement of people, you have created wealth and job. So, I am using this opportunity to call on the Federal Government to still bring out tourism and culture as one ministry. You cannot say it is under information. It is not supposed to be so.” 

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