By Frank Meke
It is not in doubt that Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwuolu has uncanny ways of getting his economic messages across to all Stakeholders in the business of moving Lagos forward.
Driven by passion and enthusiasm, the listening Governor of Lagos State, will stake it big and high with the organised tourism practitioners and investors March 25th at Eko hotel in lagos.
Weeks in and out, the very restless and ” gentle giant” pushing the dream of lagos State beyond measure, through massive support to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, has not left anyone in doubt about his determination to leave a lasting and verifiable transformational tourism legacy for the people of lagos and Nigerians at large.
With a dedicated one billion naira post Covid soft loan to verifiable industry Practitioners, to systematic upgrade of tourism infrastructures across the state, empowerment and funding of state agencies with windows to grow tourism and hospitality related enterprises, Governor Sanwo-Olu may become the fulcrum and solution driver to the quest to truly open up the tourism economy of the aquatic State.
Though Ehingbeti Investment Summit remain the blue blood platform to create and drive a multi economic sectorial engagement for lagos State, projected as the third biggest economy in black Africa, the latest and newest interest by the government of Babajide Sanwu-Olu to define the parameters of tourism in the state in partnership with the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, lagos chapter is not only futuristic but Olympic.
Certainly, the specific attention to the needs, aspirations and desire of the private to partner the state in driving the frontiers of tourism beyond the lagos littoral borders, clearly interprets and redefines the process of collective engagement and collaboration.
Industry investors and practitioners burdened and weighed down over the years by past uncharted tourism territory and taxable baselines, some stipped in confusion, leading to close-ups and confrontations, are happy that Governor Sanwo-Olu through his pharmacist Commissioner of Tourism, Uzamat Akinbile, is flagging the olive branch, practically calling for a new dawn in tourism Promotion and empowerment.
Lagos Tourism, Hospitality, Arts and Culture Economic Summit ( lAHACE) , slated for Eko Hotel come March 25, is the official private sector vehicle to drive the Sanwo-Olu strategic policies and agenda on tourism and the creative sector in the state. Make no mistake about it, the lagos Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria ( FTAN) having identified the seeming disconnect and poor financial capacity of most Practitioners, felt an outstanding appointment with sustainable tourism development in Lagos State must be driven with all hands on the deck, with opportunities for both government and practitioners to untangle the fear and anxieties that had kept both parties at different opposing trenches.
Gbenga Sumonu chairman Lagos FTAN, who has become the poster boy of progressive tourism private sector initiatives in the state, sacrificing time, energy and finance, told me recently that time has come for the industry bedeviled by all kinds of stumbling blocks and unexplainable tourism policy matters, to be part of the solution to their problems.
The young hospitality manager, lecturer and consultant is of the opinion that lagos State among the several federating states in Nigeria, has placed its reputation and strength on the table for practitioners to brace for a new beginning.
The lAHACE platform, targeting about five thousand Practitioners from all shades and appearances of the industry, Gbenga Sumonu believes a plenary on the various challenges anchored and knived through surgeries by tested speakers may set the tourism economic summit on roller coaster ride but importantly, a select industry clinic for about one hundred serious operators, will leave a long lasting impressive relationship, beneficial to the growth and harvesting of the abundant lagos tourism ecology.
Lagos unrivaled in Nigeria for providing sustainable empowerment programs for tourism practitioners through soft loans and Sundry palliatives, leads in tourism activism Covid tourism yet there there are seeming aparthy and lack of trust from the organised private sector to its various tourism and related enterprises issues.
Consequently, this private sector round table summit may turn as the timeless advocate to end the impasse and disconnect.
It is good news indeed to know that the Governor Sanwo-Olu will personally lead the entire state government apparatus to the village meeting and slated ahead of the pack, is Uzamat Akinbile led Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, which would set up a table to capture and register Practitioners in the state, with the intention of putting together a database and other sundry engagement processes that will sustain the awareness and promotion of tourism in the state.
Others are the Ministries of Transportation, Environment, local Government, Physical Planning, Health and the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN). State agencies with tourism windows and related enterprises, that will show case partnership flavours are, the Ferry services, Lagos Waterways Authority, Employment Trust fund, Safety commission, waterfront, Parks and Gardens and the Internal Revenue Agency, the friction enabler between the state and tourism SME’s in the state.
Discos are not also left out of the all inclusive tourism trade gathering since distribution and costing of power is critical to the sustainable Lagos tourism efforts.
Towards this end, Eko and Ikeja Discos, two major power distribution outfits in the state, will be on hand to educate investors and Practitioners on how to keep tourism businesses running without stress.
Uzamat Akinbile no doubt has made very clear concerted efforts to carry industry operators along since she assumed office but this FTAN Lagos initiative to which her ministry paid the mother hen attention, is the true icing on the cake if Governor Sanwo-Olu keeps to the promise to listen to the many pains of tourism practitioners, and provide assurances of solutions to a win win situation, all to a refreshing narrative to breaking the holds and road blocks that has denied lagos State tourism from breaking grounds and from being the choice of destination managers and tourists from Africa and beyond.