Folarin Coker: Nigeria is your cheapest holiday
The Director-General of the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Folarin Coker, has advised Nigerians to consider travelling more within the country and help build the local tourism industry, especially as the world gradually emerges from the huge economic damage caused by Covid-19.
“This is our opportunity to fix domestic tourism. If we spend enough of our money here, we would turn this place into our Dubai, our South Africa, or our Kenya,” he said at a stakeholders’ meet hosted by the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture on 23 June. “We are a huge market and our strength is in our people,”
He added that studies show domestic tourism receipts to be six (6) times the value of international tourism, and that Nigeria – all factors considered – is the cheapest holiday Nigerians could hope to have.
“Nigeria has more infrastructure than a lot of African countries,” he said to the gathering, comprising staff of the ministry, legislators, officials and members of relevant tourism associations and the travel press. “Your Naira spent here is value for money; that dollar that you’re waiting for, the cost of it is exploitative. Let’s focus on ourselves and consume more of what we have.”
Coker was recently re-appointed as DG of the NTDC, which has a five-year tenure. Before his first appointment in 2016, he had been the commissioner of the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
The forum was a home coming for him, more or less, so it was no surprise that he devoted a part of his presentation to celebrating Lagos and highlighting the city’s importance to Nigeria’s tourism development and economic recovery plans.
“Lagos is the heartbeat of Nigeria, of sub-Saharan Africa,” he said of the country’s business and creative hub. “How do you define Africa without Nigeria? How do you define Nigeria without the heartbeat, which is Lagos?
“It’s time to unlock the economy of Lagos. The economy of Lagos is the economy of Nigeria. When Lagos is breathing Nigeria is breathing; When Lagos is sick, Nigeria is sick. When Lagos is in lockdown, Nigeria is in lockdown. Unlock Lagos.”
The fashion of Africa, he argued, lives in Lagos. So is its film and food. And Lagos, he noted, has everything it needs to compete with many of the world’s celebrated touristy cities.
“All the ingredients to cook the best soup are here. Light the fire,” he remarked. “The population of Lagos is not 20 million. The population of Lagos is not 22 million. We have a daytime population and a nighttime population. You have a market-day population – all three are different.”
The Best of Lagos
As Nigeria works towards re-starting its economy and its tourism, Coker said now is the time copy world’s best practices, and for practitioners to co-operate with one another rather than compete.
“We must re-imagine our events,” he continued. “We must re-think them. Can we do Eyo Festival now? Maybe we can, in a different way – we just have to look at it. Can we do Osun-Osogbo Festival now? Can we do the Durbar Festival?”
The current commissioner at the ministry, Pharmacist Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf, said the current administration has prioritized the engagement of stakeholders more than ever. “Our conviction is based on the belief that this sector can thrive better if stakeholders are allowed to play their roles while the government provides the enabling environment by maintaining all needed synergy with all individuals within the value chain.
“We have equally taken a step further in our determination to increase the vibrancy of our tourism sites with the concept of community-based tourism, which is premised on taking advantage of specific tourism potentials in all the Local Government Areas (LGAs) and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) across the state.”
Akinbile-Yussuf added that a key decision to that effect is that the ministry will have desk officers attached to the 57 LGAs as well as the LCDAs to work with the communities to identify and develop their respective tourist assets.
At a 2-day summit also organized by the ministry in mid-June, the meeting concluded with a resolution to promote “The Best of Lagos”.
As part of this plan, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will present the revised Lagos State Tourism Masterplan and Policy on 1st July 2021.
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