In contemporary time, tourism can be clearly defined as the new socio-economic game changer. The economic potential of tourism is remarkable, with direct and indirect impact on wealth creation. It is a good public relations device through which a city, state or country could attract needed foreign investments. Cities like, Bangkok, London, Paris, Nairobi, Dubai and New York City are also top tourists’ destinations.
African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt and South Africa are vigorously tapping into the expansive global tourism market. However, in Nigeria, tourism is still in its infancy. This is largely due to years of the oil boom and over dependent on the revenue from the sale of crude oil as well as weak infrastructure.
However, in Lagos State, the Ambode administration is creatively making efforts to tap into the enormous tourism potentials of the State. In a renewed bid to engender a tourism driven economy in the State, a 15-20 years tourism master plan that will steer the tourism potentials of the State has been developed. The master plan that was designed by Messrs Ernst & Young focuses on culture and heritage, film, art and entertainment, business tourism, nature and adventure, medical and wellness and beach and leisure.
Similarly, with a view to resourcefully explore the tourism prospects of the State, State government recently organized a first-ever Tourism Summit with the theme, “Destination Lagos: Towards a Sustainable Tourism-Driven Economy”. The Summit which had Governor Ambode and members of the State Executive Council in attendance attracted notable personalities such as former President of Ghana, John Mahama, who delivered the keynote address; the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Professor I. A. Ayodele, Professor Pat Utomi , James McGregor, Ikechi Uko, Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba, Chief Gani Adams; the Director-General, Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Folorunso Folarin Coker; President, La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, Ambassador Wanle Abimbola; Chairman Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), Prince Dapo Adelegan; Honourable Desmond Elliot and a host of others. As fallout of the Summit, a 2018 tourism calendar has been developed for the State.
Also, the State government recently held the 2018 Boat Regatta at Lagoon Waterfront, Oyinkan Abayomi Drive, Ikoyi. The festival, an annual cultural and entertainment funfair highlighting the State’s aquatic splendours, promotes Lagos’ aquatic custom and tradition. The ceremonial regatta held amidst glitz and glamour with entertaining boat parade, captured the thrills and frills associated with coastal festivals. Cultural performance by various troupes and safety tips on water transportation were also provided.
As part of plans to further advance the cause of tourism in the State, Lagos has continued to a number of first-rated entertainment events such as Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) which it hosted in July 2017.
Similarly, the State government endorsed and supported the hosting of the first Nigeria Beer Festival held between 25th September and 1st October, 2017 at Eko Atlantic, Victoria Island, Lagos. The event enabled the State showcase its cultural and socio-economic potentials. Globally, Beer Festivals are a key tourism driver with attendant social-economic benefits.
The Lagos Street Carnival, which was supported by the State government, also took place last December along the popular Oba Akran Road, Ikeja. The event, which is an improved version of the Lagos Street Party which was held in 2016, showcased the tourism and economic potentials of concerts and leisure in the State as over 1000 accredited vendors had huge sales. The creative content of the event was provided by over 22 artistes.
Equally, the Lagos Grows Talent programme, which seeks to unearth, nourish and recompense outstanding and talented youngsters, took place between 19th December and 21st December, 2017 with 12,500 registered participants across the five Divisions of the State. Winner of the competition, 13 year old Ishola Idris (Opizzy) carted home N1, 500,000 as prize money while first runner up, 23 year old Onyekachi Alexander, got N1, 000,000.
In 2016, Governor Ambode hosted an Evening of Jazz in commemoration of 2016 International Jazz Day. Equally, the City of Lagos beat other major African cities to the hosting right of 2016 AFRIMA. Lagos also recorded a remarkable showing at the 2016 and 2017 editions of Nottingham and Toronto Carnivals. At the Toronto Carnival in particular, eight films by Lagos State-based filmmakers were selected for red-carpet premieres and screenings.
This has given local filmmakers a great mileage in terms of publicity, business opportunities and exposure. Also, the scope of the annual Lagos Countdown, an event with which the State Government ushers in the New Year has been broadened. Now renamed One Lagos Fiesta, OLF, subsequent editions of the event which is now one week affair, had clearly lived up to expectations.
Since 2015, the event has been holding concurrently across the five major divisions of the state viz- a -viz at Agege, Epe, Badagry, Ikorodu and Lagos Island. The plan is to guarantee that every part of the State is given the opportunity to have a taste of the stimulating experience. A major unique trait of the last two editions of OLF was the profound participation of the private sector.
Equally, the State government has continued to build, maintain and manage monuments such as Tinubu Square fountain, King Ado statue, Ma’ami statue (Muri Okunola Park, Victoria Island), Awolowo, Fawehinmi and Fela busts among others. Likewise, the JJT Park which was conceptualized to become a prominent tourist site as well as relaxation hub in the state has since become one huge recreation hub in the State.
Perhaps, more importantly, there is no better way to promote tourism than current efforts aimed at improving infrastructure across the State. Infrastructure is quite essential to the growth of tourism as any visible defect in infrastructure will surely dissuade tourists. Hence, on-going efforts to change the face of public transportation through the provision of more jetties as well as expansion of access to waterways, construction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges, construction of modern bus terminals among others we are principally engendered by the need to build and sustain the needed infrastructure upon which enduring tourism pillars can stand.
Cheerfully, the State government’s investment in tourism is progressively paying off. For instance, in 2007, the activities within the tourism sector contributed about N800billion to the State’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).With the infrastructure and resources currently being expended in the sector, it is expected that this figure would progress in the next few years.
Ogunbiyi writes from Lagos