By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said Nigeria will leverage tourism in its efforts to take development to the grassroots.
The Minister stated this in a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday to mark the 2020 World Tourism Day, which has the theme: ‘’Tourism and Rural Development’’.
This was contained in a statement signed by Segun Adeyemi Special Assistant to The President (Media) Office of the Minister of Information and Culture.
He said the theme, in the words of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), celebrates tourism’s unique ability to drive economic development and provide opportunities outside of big cities, including in those communities that would otherwise be left behind.
‘’Tourism plays an important role in preserving and promoting culture and heritage all around the world. This is why we are leveraging on the sector to take development to the grassroots by ensuring that local communities own and benefit from the cultural heritage and the tourist attractions in their domain,’’ Alhaji Mohammed said.
He said the plan by the Federal Government to establish community museums is part of efforts to ensure that local communities benefit from tourism, thus ensuring that the sector contributes to rural development.
The Minister said the occasion of the 2020 World Tourism Day presents the opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on the impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic, which has hit the sector hard and also stepped down the national celebration of the day.
He said despite the negative impact of Covid-19 on the sector, it was a mark of its resilience that governments around the world still look to the sector to drive recovery as a leading employer and economic pillar in cities and the rural communities.
‘’It is globally recognized that tourism empowers rural communities and provides employment mostly for women and youth. It plays an important role in diversifying the rural economy and its growth, thereby contributing to the sustainability of the population and the economy of the areas.
‘’Tourism therefore helps rural communities make the transition from agrarian to diversified and sustainable economies,’’ Alhaji Mohammed said.
He said rural tourism perfectly suits the trend of most modern travellers seeking authentic and unique experiences, local lifestyles and the need to experience natural and unspoiled landscapes.
‘’Rurality is the central and unique selling point in the rural tourism package, and apart from being located in rural areas, small in scale, traditional in character and slowly growing and controlled by the local people; rural tourism is regarded as tourism in the countryside, which embraces the rural environment. Most importantly, rural tourism aims to include and benefit rural communities, while preserving their environmental and cultural assets,’’ the Minister said.
He said in line with the comment made by the Secretary General of the UNWTO, that the current Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity for member states to rethink the tourism sector and its contribution to the people and planet, Nigeria set up a committee to look at the impact of Covid-19 on the Creative Industry and Tourism, with a view to finding ways to catalyze the growth of the tourism sector in particular and the Creative Industry in general.
Mohammed expressed the hope that all the relevant sectors will fully integrate and promote all the recovery recommendations and deliverables developed to support the recovery efforts.