TalebAs the world gradually approaches the 2015 deadline established for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) and prepares to embrace the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the UN Secretary-General, World Tourism Organisation, Taleb Rifai has said that empowering
individuals and communities around the world at all levels through tourism can be a fundamental step towards achieving the MDG goals.

He has also stressed that tourism as a people-based economic activity can only prosper if it engages the local population by contributing to social values, such as participation, education and enhanced local governance.

This was contained in his message, as the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation in collaboration with Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) organized an event for Nigeria to join the rest of the World to mark the World Tourism Day 2014 at the Arts and Crafts Village in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Saturday, 27th September.

In the address, read on his behalf by the Honourable Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, who was represented at the occasion by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Nkechi Ejele, Rifai also said that even in the midst of such developments, no real tourism development can take place if it damages, in any way, the values and cultures of the host communities or if the socio-economic benefits generated by the tourism sector do not trickle down to the community level.

According to him, the theme of World Tourism Day 2014, “Tourism and Community Development,” brings to the fore, the potentials that tourism has to promote new socio-economic opportunities that will better living conditions for communities around the world, while highlighting the critical role that community engagements have in advancing sustainable development.

His words: “Each time we travel, use local transport at a destination or buy products from a local market, we are contributing to a long value chain that creates jobs, provides livelihoods, empowers local communities, and ultimately brings in new opportunities for a better future.”

He therefore called on all tourism stakeholders and host communities to come together to celebrate the World Tourism Day, as a symbol of global common efforts in making tourism a true pillar of community development and community development the basis of a more sustainable tourism sector.

Speaking in a similar vein, the Director-General, Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo noted that, truly, the opportunity to become part of the tourism value chain actively involves host communities in the development process, thus making tourism a catalyst of social cohesion beyond the immediate impact of job creation and its positive economic consequences.

While maintaining that in Nigeria, the tourism industry had direct and significant impacts on foreign exchange earnings as well as the entire economy, Mbanefo stressed that for us to develop an economy that will encourage people to stay in the community or rural areas and provide long term investment and employment, Nigeria needed to think outside the box.

Her words: “Let’s not be timid, let’s not be afraid to put everything on the table by partnering, by working together; government and the private sector because I am confident that we can achieve our dreams of making Nigeria, Africa’s destination hub.”

Chief Executives of federal parastatals under the culture ministry present at the event were the Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, Director-General, National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Mrs. Chika
Balogun, and Director-General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman.

Directors present at the occasion were Mr. George Ufot (International Cultural Affairs), Dr. Paul Adalikwu (Domestic Tourism), Mr. Johnson Odekina (International Tourism), Ms. Grace Gekpe (Entertainment and Creative Services), Mr. Seyi Womiloju (Heritage and Cultural Industries), as well as Mrs. Patricia Narai (Assistant Director, Tourism); while NICO’s Director, Orientation and Cultural Affairs, Mr. Alex Omijie, accompanied the ES.

Caleb Nor
Corporate Affairs Unit
NICO, Abuja