Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, assured the international community that Nigeria is safe and secure for tourism, citing improved security and country’s burgeoning economy.
Tye president gave the assurance when he had audience with the Secretary-General of United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Zurab Pololikashvili, at the Presidential Villa.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement, quoted President Buhari as saying that it would have been inconceivable to host an international tourism conference in Abuja four years ago, because of security concerns.
‘‘I am pleased that the country is now sufficiently safe and secure, and the message should go out to the world for all tourists and business travelers. The first thing tourists look out for is security and I am happy we have it now.
‘‘Minister Lai Mohammed has been trying to convince the world that Nigeria is safe and has great potentials for tourism and investment. I am glad that you and your team have come here to see things for yourself,” he said.
Highlighting the nexus between tourism and sustainable development, the President said Nigeria would not be left behind in ensuring that communities and businesses benefit from tourism development.
In his remarks, Pololikashvili, who is in Abuja for the 61st UNWTO Commission for Africa (CAF) conference, commended Nigeria for the successful hosting of the conference which brings together African Ministers of Tourism, principal executives of the global tourism body and other stakeholders in the tourism sector.
The UN tourism chief told the President Nigeria had huge potential to develop the tourism sector considering its large economy.
“We can do it in Nigeria, we can create, convert Nigeria to the main tourist destination in Africa. There is a huge potential here. Culture, nature, food you have everything here.
“You are investing in agriculture, improving seamless travel through visa-on-arrival programme, reforming the economy and doing so much on security. Nigeria is safe,” Pololikashvili said.
Also speaking, the Information and Culture Minister said 166 delegates, including 26 tourism ministers from Africa are attending the UN tourism conference, holding from June 4 to June 6 in Abuja.