Lagos State has demonstrated it commitment to take the lead as the number tourism destination in the country and West Africa.
One of such initiatives aimed at promoting tourism in the state is the recently organised fam trip tagged “bestoflagosfamtour22” which exposed the tour operators and the travel media to the tourism assets of the state.
Franklin Ihejirika who was on the trip writes
It was a deliberately planned and executed project by the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Art and Culture, under the leadership of Pharmacist Uzamat Akinbile Yusuf, the Commissioner aimed at espousing and promoting the rich and untapped tourism potential of the state.
The Fam trip was an exciting experience for all the participants as it offered all the rare opportunity of seeing the best of Lagos tourism assets with new eyes.
The project tagged, “bestoflagosfamtour22” which was executed in collaboration with the private sector tourism body, the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria, FTAN, local government chairpersons, the Obas , tour operators, Members of the state House of Assembly, the Media and other key stakeholders was the elixir, Lagos needed to reposition the sector on the path of sustainable growth in line with the state government mega city plan where tourism plays a major role.
Mrs Akinbile Yusuf has shown commitment in transforming tourism in Lagos state through so many laudable projects and initiatives, despite being a pharmacist which many thought would be an impediment.
The three days fam trip which started on Wednesday March 30th and ended on Friday April 1, took the team to all the state’s five major divisions starting from Ikeja, the African Shrine, to Oshodi, Freedom Park, to Badary on a boat ride where the delegation spent a night.
In Badary after a befitting welcome, the delegation led by the Commissioner visited Vlekete Slave Market, Lagos Theatre, Naija Tourism Radio, Heritage Museum, the Agia tree monument, the Badagry slave museum, the slave cell called the dungeon and other tourism assets especially the slave trade assets that the city is reverred for .
Speaking at Freedom Park in Lagos, Mrs Akinbile Yusuf, the Commissioner explained why Freedom Part is very important to the state government because of its rich history which cannot be forgotten in a hurry and what makes the park a special asset and a heritage, being a former colonial prison where many of the country’s leaders were kept during the colonial era.
She pointed out that :”We want to tell our stakeholders to do much more to market all these sites. Lagos state government has invested hugely into all these sites.
Tour operators should package tours around all the places visited and engage the administrators on how to make their souvenirs available in these places”.
She stated further that the fam trip was to see the Tourism Potential of Lagos and expose them to the stakeholders.
She noted that the state government plan is to carry the private sector along who will package tours around these facilities with the aim of promoting them and bringing tourists to visit them.
The Commissioner emphasised the state government determination in making tourism one of the key pillars of the administration.
She said when tourists come to the state, the tour operators will not be in a dilemma of where to take them to as tour packages arranged alongside these facilities will be readily available.
In his presentation earlier, Mr.Theo Lawson, the administrator of the Park and top architect gave a brief history of how Freedom Park has metamorphosed over the year from a prison and gallows to an entertainment park.
He said the park serves as host venue for musicians, entertainers to showcase their talent to their audience.
Mr Lawson noted that the history of Lagos and its tourism centred around Lagos Island.
In his presentation at the Badagry Museum, on re-inventing Lagos as the prime destination for African diaspora, Mr Anago Osho, a tour guide, urged the Lagos State Government to invest in attracting Americans of African descent to boost tourism in the state.
Osho advised the state to also focus on attracting individuals of African descent.
According to him: “Due to the activities of the slave masters years back, many Nigerians and Africans believe they are of American origin, which is wrong,” he said.
He tasked the state government to engage individuals suspected to be of African descent and invest in conducting the DNA Test for them to truly ascertain their origin.
Anago said that as a tour guide who had invested over 25 years practising, he had come across a lot of Americans who were products of slave trade and wish to retrace their root.
“From the knowledge have gathered on slave history, Lagos happens to be the capital of diasporians, we need to reconnect with them.
“This can be done when the state engages them, conducts DNA tests which is known as genomics for them, this will tell where they actually come from.
“I know so many of these Americans who are of African descent and willing to locate their root, if government can invest in this, it will boost tourism growth in the state.
“This will attract others to visit Nigeria.
Personally, I did the genomics and I was able to realise that I have families in Togo, Ghana and Benin Republic, this shows that many Nigerians are experiencing same.
“In Badagry, we have the most authentic slave trade history across the globe,” he said.
In his remarks, Mr Solomon Bonu, Special Adviser to Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Tourism, Arts and Culture, stated that the ministry was working on similar suggestion.
Bonu who is from Badagry said that the state government would be hosting 10 Americans for one month , when they would be taught how to prepare Badagry delicacies, farming method peculiar with the ancient town and visit attraction sites.
He said this was part of the state government’s efforts in wooing tourists back to their roots.
After the Badary trip, the team went back to Lagos on boat through the state jetty at Falomo to the famous Nike Art Gallery reputed to warehouse over 25000 art works and paintings for visitors and residents.
At the gallery, it was a warm welcome by the proprietor, chief Mrs Nike Ekundayo in her charismatic style.
This art galley has become a must visit in Lagos for tourists and visitors who appreciate the beauty of art in a cosy and serene environment with beautiful art works and paintings for sale.
In his presentation in Epe, the chief executive officer of Wakanow.com. Mr Bayo Adedeji advised the Lagos State Government to develop its aquatic endowments to boost tourism activities in the state.
Adedeji emphasised the enormous benefit inherent in water tourism and the cleaning of the beach front and making it very attractive for tourists
Mr Adedeji enjoined the state to explore its over 180km of water bodies and gain from its huge benefits.
He called for the needed infrastructure to be put in place as it is done in other African countries like Kenya, Ghana and Gambia that have developed their coastal areas.
He pointed out these countries are generating huge revenue from tourists’ visit to their beaches.
Wakanow boss stressed the need for huge investment in acquiring cruise boats for tourists’ delight, adding that tourists would be made to pay.
He said this will boost the state’s Internally Generated Revenue.
Adedeji noted that since the economy of Epe is based on fish, there were lots of avenues to generate revenue from this through actual sales of the fish, exporting it, viewing the different fish species by tourists and more.
In Ikorodu, the Oshodi Art Gallery offered the team another unique experience unexpected in a place like Ikorodu.
The Oshodi Art Gallery which houses over 17000 works of art for sale surprised the delegation to find such a wonderful place in Ikorodu.
With all the art works and paintings owned by the gallery, visitors in Lagos now have something beautiful to see in when in Ikorodu.
At the palace of the Oba of Ikorodu, the Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba Kabiru Shotobi, urged the Lagos State Government to assist Ikorodu town in building infrastructure that could boost tourism in the area.
Shotobi said that the town lacked the needed fund to put such infrastructure in place, even though Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu had given approval for the building of charlets.
He said that Ikorodu needed to have charlets, recreation parks and hotels, due to the limited number of such tourist attractions in the community.
He said that Ikorodu had been known as a community with beautiful festivals but limited tourism infrastructure.
“Please , we seek your assistance to build charlets, recreation centres, 5-star hotels and other infrastructure that can attract tourists to Ikorodu community.
“We have the land already and we will give every support needed on our part, and you know this will also create employment opportunity to our youths,” he said.
Shotobi urged his local chiefs to support the government through provision of land at their various jurisdictions.
He said plans were underway to build tourist waterfront and recreation centres on a 12-hectare of land on the lagoon.
According to him, there were also plans to convert all cultural centres in Ikorodu to amphitheaters, where masquerades can perform to the delight of tourists.
The Oba assured tourist’s that during their annual Oro festival, the community had made arrangements to always conduct the exercise at some restricted areas.
He noted that the Ikorodu community would never jettison that ritual exercise which was used to stop the activities of a cult group that operated in the community years back.
“Our usual Oro festival is our core tradition here, and we are not ready to abandon it, this was what we did when we had a group terrorising us, we had sleepless nights conducting this festival of Oro to drive them away.
“Then, the state government did not assist us,we fought the war ourselves. So, I advise women to always stay off whenever we are conducting the ritual,” he said.
In her remarks earlier, the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, while appreciating the traditional ruler’s hospitality promised to look into his request.
It will be recalled that Lagos has launched the first State Tourism Masterplan, initiated Community Based Tourism CBT and have done the #bestoflagosfamtour22, among other laudable programmes.
Indeed Lagos has invested hugely in the development of tourism facilities across the state. Regular fam trips like this is what Lagos and other states need to re-awaken that tourism consciousness in the citizens and move the tour operators to action.