Sally 1Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Dr/ (Mrs.) Sally Mbanefo, has ascribed the steady and speedy growth of tourism in Nigeria to the conscious efforts of the President Goodluck Jonathan led-administration to create an enabling environment for the money-spinning industry to thrive in the country.

She said that last year, Nigeria recorded a total of 4,037,808 international tourist arrivals, which accounted for US $649,468,486 in expenditure.

“Domestic tourism arrivals for 2013 recorded 3,081,808 while US $470,606,780 formed the expenditure. This year, Osun Osogbo Festival recorded 12,207 tourist arrivals while 18,567,060 accounted for the expenditure compared to 21,713 tourists recorded last year. The sharp drop was due to restrictions placed by the government to control the spread of Ebola virus. Sango Festival, which is celebrated in 43 countries around the world, recorded 88 international visitors and over 5,000 domestic tourist arrivals this year,” she said.

Dr. Mbanefo spoke at this year’s edition of the World Tourism Day (WTD), with the theme, “Tourism and Community Development,” organized by the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation and NTDC, at the Art and Crafts Village, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

She said that President Jonathan’s successful privatization of the power sector resulted in an enhanced power generation and supply, which according to her is very important in the tourism industry as it will reduce the overhead expenses of hospitality operators.

“President Jonathan remarkably upgraded airports in the country, which had not be considered necessary by previous administration, while Mr President, who is well knowledgeable about the imports of transportation channels to the development of tourism industry rehabilitation old roads and constructed new roads, while overhauling the railways in the country,” Mbanefo said.

She added that tourism can only prosper if it engages the local population by contributing to the social values such as participation, education and enhanced local governance, noting that “there can be no real tourism development, if such development damages in any way the value and the culture of host communities or if the socio-economic benefits generated by the tourism sector do not trickle down to the community level.

“It is important for stakeholders in the tourism sector to have competitive power over and above what is obtained in other countries of Africa. Therefore, it is imperative that as joint stakeholders, we provide value added content, enhanced services to meet tourists’ needs. All these would result in a synergy of efforts as domestic tourism would enable stakeholders to have the opportunity of finding each other,” Mbanefo said.

Mbanefo, who said that tourism needed to collaborate with other sectors to grow expectedly, charged the private sector and non-governmental agencies (NGOs) to contribute more to the tourism industry, saying that, “this will enable us to jointly achieve our desired objectives. This is because in promoting a tourism development strategy, I cannot rule out the contributions of the private sector. I believe their involvement in conjunction with state governments and government agencies would provide a comprehensive approach to the development and promotion of domestic tourism in the country.”

The NTDC boss, who disclosed the efforts of her administration in promoting and developing potentials in the country, with domestic tourism as a catalyst, lauded the Honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke and the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Nkechi Ejele for their supportive roles.

She disclosed that she had visited over 20 states, meeting with stakeholders in the industry, government and traditional rulers, among others, while joining ventures with the private sector. She added that NTDC under her administration collaborated with the expatriates through the diplomatic communities to sell Nigeria’s tourism potentials and woo foreign tourists to visit and appreciate the fascinating tourist destinations and crowd-pulling festivals in Nigeria.

Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Taleb Rifai, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Tourism Culture and National Orientation, Mrs. Nkechi Ejele, said this year’s WTD represents an opportunity to further advance tourism’s contribution to economic, social and environmental sustainability.

“On the occasion of World Tourism Day 2014, I would like to invite all tourism stakeholders and host communities to come together and celebrate this day as a symbol of our common efforts in making tourism a true pillar of community development and community the basis of a more sustainable tourism sector,” the message read in part.

The Permanent Secretary during exhibition of the Art and Crafts Village lauded the activities of the NTDC boss, saying, “Clap for the NTDC DG, Dr Mbanefo. She is working.”

Mrs. Ejele noted that there was no rivalry between NTDC and the Ministry of Tourism, adding that Dr. Mbanefo was given a short notice to arrange for the 2014 WTD and she delivered, in spite of paucity of fund.

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