By Franklin Ihejirika
It has become expedient to re-brand the culture and tourism sector in Nigeria in order to shift from the total focus on oil as the major source of revenue to the government and diversify into areas like culture and tourism which other country’s are reaping from their huge benefits.
This has become the theme and major focus of the director general of the National Council for Art and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe who is leading this drive which its mandate is to re-position Nigeria on the path of sustainable growth using culture and tourism.
This time, it is not the usual old rethorics without concrete action plans to actualise the vision.
It is against this background that Otunba Runsewe is leading the new revolution in this sector to change this old narrative where oil is the main stay of the economy to the detriment of other sectors.
This informed the recent trip by the NCAC management to Dubai, to understudy how Dubai was able to transform their country using Culture and tourism.
To bring this vision of re-branding the country to reality using culture, tourism and art, Runsewe invited the major payers in the country’s culture and tourism industry to brainstorm and pledge their commitment towards actualising this initiative.
At the event over the weekend in Abuja hosted by NCAAC, the leading private sector players pledged their commitment by signing to work together towards actualising this objective.
Speaking at the programme, Runsewe explained that the objective of the fam trip to Dubai is to expose the management team of NCAC to cultural tourism management using the Dubai model as focus.
According to him, the simple logic behind the farm trip to Dubai is “travel, see the sights, see what other people are doing with their culture and tourism, come back and see how to do something with ours, market ours to the world, attract funds, grow the economy using culture and tourism to create jobs and attract tourist to Nigeria”.
The NCAC boss explained further that the trip was also a capacity building investment primed to re-invigorate staff potential to expand their frontier of management of culture in Nigeria.
The NCAAC boss stated further that the next phase of the project is to take 36 commissioners of Culture and tourism and the top players and stakeholders in the culture tourism industry to Dubai to understudy how Dubai was able to transform its culture and tourism potential into a gold mine.
He said this will expose them on how Dubai is repositioning culture and tourism in their country so that they can learn and replicate that in their various states and at the end, the country will reap the benefit of their visit.
In the words of Runsewe: ” I believe this trip is a great opportunity to reschedule our approach to Culture and tourism in Nigeria, it is the beginning of this big secret in Africa to be starting from the sight seeing of Dubai, to Global Village, Dolphin, Miracle Garden and so many places we visited. It tells the story that this is the sector that will save the economy of so many African countries. I have seen where people have brought artificial approach to the endeavours of life and turn it to economic strength”.
He continued that: “Dubai Mall alone has over 180 restaurants, over 5000 car parking facility, a hotel right in the middle of the sea. To me, this is a call to a new beginning to Africa and Nigeria must take the challenge first. We are a people that believe we can do things first and I believe, if they can do it here, we can do it and even better. The time is now as we cannot afford to wait any longer. The unborn Nigerians, the future generation of this country will not forgive us and posterity will not forgive us if we do not make amend and effect the changes now. So I employ all stakeholders to come together for us to make a total change in this sector”.
Pledging their support and commitment to this laudable initiative, the president of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Alhaji Saleh Rabo promised that the body will work with the management of NCAC to actualise this initiative.
He said this will not only transform the culture and tourism sector, but the entire country.
Rabo said the first step towards this initiative is the creation of a stand alone ministry of culture and tourism.
The FTAN president noted that the current Ministry of Information and Culture is too big for one minister to supervise.
He stated that the minister is too busy managing matters relating to information and may not have time for promotion of tourism sector policies.
In his contribution, the president of National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mr Bankole Bernard stated that the sector needs full government support to achieve the desired result.
Bernard lamented lack of support by government to the private sector players in the culture and tourism industry, including selfish interest by players in the industry in fighting against the establishment of a national carrier for the country.
He observed that the absence of a national carrier is militating against the growth of culture and tourism industry which will ride on aviation to grow.
In her remarks, the chief executive officer of BBOG Travel and Tours and president of Nigeria Tour Operators (NATOP), Hajia Bilikisu Abdul pledged the support of NATOP in actualising this vision.
She stressed the need for the media to always promote the positive things about Nigeria instead of the negatives which may not encourage tourism growth.
Hajia Bililisu enjoined Nigerians to start travelling as tourists instead of travelling for leisure and shopping, adding that the responsibility of selling Nigeria lies on Nigerians.
Also, the chairman of Board of Trustees (BOT) of NATOP and chairman of Remlords Tour and Car Hire Services, Mr Nkereuwem Onung applauded Runsewe on the initiative, stressing that government should be at the forefront of promoting culture and tourism.
He decried the leap service always paid by the government to the growth and development of the sector in the country.
Onung restated the need for a stand alone ministry of Tourism and culture, saying the minister is too busy with other areas like information and do not have time for culture and tourism.
He tasked the players and stakeholders on the need for professionalism, by standing on their line of business and not dabbling into areas they have no expertise on.
Speaking also, the chief executive officer of Tarzan Marine Engineering Services, Mr. Ganiyu Sekoni Balogun called for the establishment of tourism Police who are specially trained in the area of tourism management and security.
He said the issues of the sector will be better handled by trained tourism Police rather than the conventional Police who don’t know much about tourism.
Tarzan advised that culture and tourism should be seen as an everyday thing and not a monthly affairs.
In his contribution also, special adviser to the Plateau state Governor on tourism, Mr Johh Likita Best re-echoed the call by the other stakeholders for a stand alone ministry of culture and tourism.
They were other contributors from the Nigerian Institute of Tourism Professionals, the media, the hotel operators and hotel owners associations, travel and tourism promoters among others who raised several issues militating against the growth of culture and tourism in the country.
The event ended with the major players signing up to work together for the realisation of the new initiative.
After pledging their support for the new revolution which Runsewe is leading in the culture and tourism industry in the country, the stakeholders were also unanimous in their demand for a stand alone ministry of Culture and tourism.