Edo Governor, Godwin Obaseki says the state will support and participate in the hosting of the 61st Conference of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)/Commission for Africa (CAF).
The governor made the pledge on Friday in Benin when the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed paid him a courtesy visit to promote the Nigeria’ hosting of the conference from June 4 to June 6 in Abuja.
Obaseki underscored the benefits of tourism to evolving and emerging economy like Nigeria stressing that the country is sitting on a goldmine.
“A country like Indonesia whose GDP was four times less than ours in 1994 has overtaken us.
“Today, Indonesia’s GDP is five times higher than that of Nigeria. The economy of that country is grown by two key contributors to their GDP, oil palm and tourism.
“We believed Nigeria has great tourism potentials. We understand that this is a goldmine we are sitting on.
“Even a goldmine needs to be taken to the factory to exploit the value before it can be of benefit.’’ he said.
The governor said that an event like the hosting of the UN tourism conference would offer the opportunities for the development of the tourism sector.
Specifically, he said the conference would provide the opportunity for meeting and associating with experts across the globe on how to develop the tourism sector.
“We will be participating and of course we will support you because it is in our interest that the event is successful,’’ he said.
The governor said that Edo had great and rich history of civilisation to showcase to the world.
He said upon realising the rich tourism potential of the state, his administration had initiated moves to begin a tourism master plan.
“We are in the process of inviting international experts to help us design the tourism master plan that will stand the test of time,’’ he said.
Obaseki thanked the minister for the visit and in particular, for the perspective and illumination he had continued to give federal government programmes and policies.
“Times are difficult, especially with the difficult economic environment we find ourselves.
“There is a lot of screaming and it takes a man of competence and knowledge like you to explain for the people to understand what this government is doing to alleviate the sufferings of the people,’’ he said.
Earlier, the minister said that Edo State and Benin City, in particular, could not be ignored in the preparations for such a global tourism meeting, being a repository of culture.
He said with the support of stakeholders like the governor, and the solid preparations the various committees were making, Nigeria would not disappoint the world.
“Let me say that the meeting we are planning to host is very important.
“The UNWTO, which is the custodian of the meeting, has a global membership of 158 members.
“It has six associate members and over 500 Affiliate Members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.
“In addition to the Ministers of Tourism from the 51 members states of the Commission for Africa, the UNWTO/CAF Meeting will also be attended by the Executives of the UNWTO.
“International Organisations, local and international media as well as experts and stakeholders from the public and private sector will also attend.
The minister said that in addition to socio-economic gains, the event will put Nigeria and its tourism industry on the world map.
He said the conference would attract foreign research experts and promote the necessary network that would form the basis for future cooperation.
Mohammed said Nigeria will also get a rare opportunity to showcase itself to the world: “Its tourist attractions, its rich culture, as well as its music and films which have become the toast of the world.’’