Jude Chinedu, Enugu
It took the observance of this year’s World Tourism Day to discover the tourism potential of Enugu State. The state is dotted with tourism sites ranging from waterfalls, caves and lakes to chains of mountains, which have remained untapped, with many left to rot.
Takeaway from the event was that a new chapter has been opened in the annals of the state’s tourism industry. Government expressed commitment to explore and market these sites to attract direct investment to boost its internally generated revenue.
Recently, Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Ugonna Ibe, at the Ezeagu Tourist Complex, in Omughu, Obeleagu Umana, Udi Local Government, rolled out plans to revitalise the sector. He said the state was poised to move beyond the present economic realities occasioned by the decline in oil prices to tap into the breath-taking tourist attractions scattered in most communities.
This, he said, informed government’s aggressive construction of access roads in rural areas: “The government is open to and looking at direct concession or Private Public Partnership (PPP) arrangements with national or international investors on development of these tourist sites.”
Some tourism sites he said would be revitalised included Milikin Hill, Onyema Hill, Awhum Falls; Opi chain of eight lakes; Oji, Ajali, Duru, Ebonyi and Ezu Nmamu rivers as well as Nyaba, Akwuke and Ekulu beaches. Others are the Obinofia, Akpugoeze and Awa mangrove-tropical forests infested with Bezier wild lives and the Odoro Achi hot lake, Okpogho Oghe/Lejja Nsukka iron smelting and the Ugwu-Uto Pyramid of Nsude:
“These eco-beauties are what nature presents to us that desire harnessing. They have been tested through carbon dating and found that they dated over 3,000 years ago.”
Zonal Coordinator of Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs Chioma Ibe, urged Nigerians to patronise their God-given tourist’s sites, which were more natural and historic than artificial tourist sites found outside the country. She lauded the state government for investing in rural access roads and other amenities, which would further open-up the tourism potentials of the state and make the sector viable.
General Manager, Enugu State Tourism Board (ESTB), Chief Steve Odo, said the board was rebranding and marketing all tourist sites to make them attractive for both local and international investments. He added that a well harnessed tourism economy could catapult the state to an enviable position in terms of revenue generation and facilitate rural development of the state:
“Tourism can only thrive in the atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has provided the right environment for tourism to blossom. Today, we are enjoying peaceful and serene atmosphere, hence tourism is thriving well.
“However, the question is; is the state really reaping the fruit of her tourism potential? The answer is yes and no. That is why this year’s theme of ‘Tourism and rural development,’ is very apt.
Facilitator of the World Tourism Day celebration in the state, Uche Ugwu, said the celebration rekindled the excitement which tourism brings especially in the minds of residents of the state: “The security, logistics, cultural displays, masquerades and local cuisine at Ezeagu Tourism Complex were so superb. I bet that tourists to the complex will have a testimony to share and want a repeat visit.”
The outing was an opportunity for residents to highlight their plight. Chief Vincent Enih, who spoke on behalf of the community, regretted that Omughu has been overlooked in terms of democratic dividends be successive administrations: “Government should provide the community with good road network that will lead people to the waterfalls.
“Government should beautify the waterfalls environment to meet world standard and the standards of other states. This will help to create job opportunities for our youth and the people of Omughu. The waterfalls, the source of the Omughu Lake has its own attractions. We also want government to intervene so that is can attract tourists.”
A stakeholder, Chief John Osoegbunam, said they were not impressed by the promises made by the government during the exhibition because many of such promises in the past were never fulfilled: “We are not happy.
“We don’t know why government has decided to abandon us. We are a peaceful people. Aside the caves, lakes and waterfalls, which we are endowed with, we are great farmers. But we don’t have roads. Our schools are in shamble and our hospital is nothing to write home about.
“We are suffering in the midst of huge natural endowments that can sustain the state economically if properly harnessed. We can feed the entire state with government partnership and good access roads to transport our farm produce.”
A tourist, Kelvin Obioma, said the Okpoku spring and groove of the Ezeagu Tourist Complex provided a relaxing and healing effect on him after the stress and noise of the metropolis.
Another tourist, Miss Joy Anioke, said the experience was wonderful and breath-taking as the complex provided an avenue for her to interact with nature: “This is the best place to unwind. And to discover that there are so many other sites is so exciting. I will be making a return trip here and I definitely won’t be coming alone.”
Tourism is one of the most potent drivers of economic growth and job creation globally. This was clearly stated by a research conducted in 185 countries by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
The report indicates that in 2019, the travel and tourism sector experienced 3.5 per cent growth, outpacing the global economy growth of 2.5 per cent for the ninth consecutive year. Tourism added $8.9 trillion to the world’s GDP, which is 10.3 per cent, while contributing 330 million new jobs globally.