The Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Sieriake Dickson, has stated that his administration has come up with a policy framework to make the state a priceless tourism destination through the Bayelsa State Tourism Development Agency.
The Governor, who made this known in his keynote address at the 36th World Tourism Day (WTD) celebrations held on Friday, 27th September, 2013, at the Ox-Bow Lake, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, disclosed his administration’s readiness to explore the tourism option for economic growth, having realized that the sector had been dormant in the state, and that his administration has been building and developing tourist centres, which had started attracting a lot of people to the state.
Commenting on this year’s WTD, with the theme, “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future,” Governor Dickson, who was represented at the occasion by his deputy, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (rtd), noted that the theme is geared towards creating the awareness on the need for sustainable clear water, its accessibility in the present and in the future for all mankind, because water is an essential component of humanity.
He added that in this regard, his administration had initiated collaboration talks on partnership with the Federal Government and the private sector to see how to provide portable water to all residents in the state and that the talks has been yielding positive results.
Earlier in a joint press briefing at the Banquet Hall of the Government House, Yenagoa, to mark the celebration, Governor Dickson remarked that Bayelsa State, which was created on 1st October, 1996, has, among others things, a thriving petroleum sector, an extensive fishing industry, a developing tourism sector, and a growing private sector, adding that the state had beautiful beaches, mangrove forests, rivers, creeks and islands; therefore, it is building on these natural resources advantages to take its pride of place among the economic stories of Nigeria.
In the bid to actualize this, Governor Dickson informed that his administration has built an Institute of Tourism, Catering and Hotel Management to train professionals that will help in driving the tourism sector in the state and that the institute would be commissioned soon.
Earlier, the Honourable Minister for Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, in his remark, appreciated the Governor for hosting WTD and building the Institute of Hospitality and Tourism in the state, noting that the event is aimed at fostering awareness in the international community on tourism’s social, cultural and economic values in the affairs of nations, adding that water is part of life and tourism itself is life, contributing significantly to the world’s economy and that billions of people travel around the world for the sake of tourism.
The Minister further commended the State for her pace-setting role as a forerunner in the promotion of culture and tourism in Nigeria, recalling that Bayelsa State just hosted a grade “A” National Festival of Arts & Culture (NAFEST), which had raised the stakes in the hosting of the national cultural fiesta, tagged, “the unity forum.”
He acknowledged that the state is endowed with many tourism potentials, maintaining that the collaboration between his ministry and the state is very robust, and urged the state to keep the pace of its strategic approach in developing the tourism sector.
It will be recalled that the United Nations (UN) has set aside the 27th of September every year for member countries to mark the World Tourism Day celebration; and the first of such celebration was marked in 1980, following the Manila Declaration on World Tourism.
To mark this year’s celebration, the United Nations chose Maldives, a sleepy Caribbean Island, as the host; the city was chosen because it is surrounded by the seas but has difficulty in getting clean water; but the people have adopted means of treating the sea water to get clean water and have learnt to preserve it.
Similarly, the Nigeria Government chose Bayelsa State to host the WTD 2013 celebrations because of the similarity between the State and Maldives: the peculiarity of Bayelsa State with over 70% of the landmass covered with water, the difficulty of the terrain and tourism goals.
The Executive Secretary of National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, Nollywood Icons: Sam Dede, Columbus Irisoanga, Charles Inojie, and Millicent Jack, were among other top government functionaries that attended the event.
The ceremony at the Oxbow Lake featured many activities including a carnival float, Owigiri music by King Robert Ebizimor and His Izon Brothers Band, traditional dances, boat regatta display by the Bayelsa State Cultural Troupe, and exhibitions, as well as gala/cultural night at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Yenagoa.