The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel has reiterated its resolve to make the state a major tourism hub in Africa, adding that the state has witnessed the largest foreign direct investment just after Lagos State.
The Governor who was represented by Secretary to the State, Mr. Emmanuel E. Ekuwem at the fifth Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Nigeria Association of Tourism Operators, NATOP held in Uyo, said Safety, infrastructure and industrialization are cardinal policies of the state government in which tourism is key.
He welcomed NATOP members for having their AGM in the state and noted that the state abounds with tourist sites and programs including the month long Ibom festival in December.
“We welcome the NATOP executives and members into Akwa Ibom State. We urge you to support us in making the, a tourism hub not only in Nigeria but in Africa.
“Ikot-abasi has a heritage site where the Scottish, Mary Slessor fought and campaigned for the stopping of the killing of twins. Itu is another heritage destination. Our Government has worked to promote
Safety, infrastructure and industrialization in the state. Today after Lagos, the next place for the foreign direct investment is Akwa-Ibom State. All these is because we have a governor who is passionate about development in the state and challenges the status quo. There are nations in Africa whose main stay of economy is tourism. So we take this vision of developing the tourism potentials of Akwa Ibom State serious.
The AGM attracted key stakeholders in tourism industry including, Minister Of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who was represented by Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Information, Dr (MRS.) Ifeoma Adaora Anyanwutaku. The annual program has the theme: ‘Restarting Tourism in Nigeria. A new Template’, former Minister of Tourism from Ghana, Mrs Catherine Afeku, who was a keynote speaker at the event said that the there should be a focus on domestic tourism targeting heritage sites that will also resonate with Africans in diaspora.
“The new template of tourism begins here. In 2018, our government tasked the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of which I was the chief servant at that time to put together a program to welcome the descendant of our long lost relative back home whose ancestors were victims of trans-atlantic slave trade. That was the beginning of year long celebration, we tagged Year of return. Just as we have the heritage sites- Place of no return, you also have the Bridge of no return. Use the bridge to welcome them home. See them as relatives not as tourists. ”
“That was the beginning of a great tourism project in Ghana in which we welcomed half a million visitors in 2019. In an effort to restart tourism in Nigeria, I also recommend that it is important to look inwards which is domestic tourism like the template we used: See Ghana, Eat Ghana and Wear Ghana. It is also important for tour operators to help the government to lobby for incentives and reduction of taxes to attract young people to the tourist places. Also as we restart tourism in Nigeria, I will humbly appeal to the all of us to adopt our own in ‘Eating Nigeria, Drinking Nigeria and wearing Nigeria,”she stated.
Mr. Akanimo Udofia: the CEO Desicon Engineering Nigeria Limited lauded the efforts of Akwa Ibom State Government in making the state a tourist hub.
Udofia who was the second keynote speaker and a native of Akwa Ibom, submitted that tourism was the new oil. He spoke on the background as one who has spent more than three decades in the oil and gas industry.
He said, “I believe that in line with the governor of state of Akwa Ibom that our state can be the next big thing to happen in Nigeria as regards the tourist industry. I have been in oil industry in 32 years and I have found success there. I am here to tell you that tourism is bigger than the oil industry. I reiterate that 32 years after I have been in the industry, I see tourism as a potentially bigger industry.
“As we chart a new course in restarting the tourism in Nigeria. Akwa Ibom has set a good example we have an airline of our own.
One of the beautiful things I find most exciting is the Governor creating an enabling environment to make the state a major tourist hub in Nigeria- be it in agriculture or in medicine, our governor is building an international airport. So if you are coming from Aba or from Ibadan or from Abuja, you are bound to fly Ibom Air. Akwa Ibom is going to be known for medical tourism. We have a teaching hospital and other lofty projects the Governor is building to make the State the hub of medical tourism and he is committed to finishing it. I pray and I wish other Nigerian Governors will identify the enormity of what tourism represents. Tourism is the future. I know it!”
NATOP President, Hajia Bilikisu Abdul also commended the Akwa State Government for hosting the AGM and added that the association will collaborate with them to ensure that the state realise its desired plan in tourism.
Other dignitaries that graced the occassion include the Director General, NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, Mr Folorunso Coker: DG, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Lagos State Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, represented by Permanent Secretary, Princess Adedoyin Ajayi and NATOP executives.
Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Tourism, Honourable Orman Esin, earlier had boasted that the state was the only state to operate a commercial airline in Nigeria. He also added that the state is positioning herself to become an industrial tourism friendly city with the
Ibom Deep Sea Port, rich natural resources and heritage sites. “We are priviledged to host again tour operators, NATOP after having them months earlier. Our drive to make the Akwa Ibom State a a major hub of tourism is not in doubt. Last December, we had the Naija7Wonder team in our state as we celebrated the Ibom Festival. Today, we are considered as the most peaceful state in Nigeria. When you consider tourism, you must consider security. Our working policy is Peace, Safety, Infrastructure,” he noted.