The Lagos State government has announced that it plans to engage the creative and tourism sectors of the economy to increase the state’s standing as a leisure destination for both residents and visitors.
“We know and applaud the fact that Lagos is one of the top three most visited cities in Africa for business,” says Steve Ayotinde, the state’s commissioner for tourism, arts and culture, while addressing the organising partners of the Tourism Innovation and Development Advantage (TIDA) who paid him a courtesy visit. “But mind you when business people come, they must also be aware of where to go and what to do, which leads us to part of what we plan to do this year, which is to create a quarterly calendar that details events and programmes throughout the year.
“Knowing that that the creative sector is important to us and to the entire country, the interest of His Excellency Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is that we must engage that sector with more seriousness, with more vigour. He didn’t want tourism to co-mingle with anything that has nothing to do with it; combining tourism with arts and culture is to say that our own oil and gas in Lagos state will be the creative economy.”
Two other key policy direction of the government, he adds, will include the design of a tourism master plan and the hosting of a two-day tourism summit (sometimes in April), where all stakeholders will discuss the shortcomings of the industry and proffer ways forward.
“A summit in the manner that we like to do in Lagos state will achieve something. People salute what we have done with traffic management –the lay-bys, the sleep roads and the overhead bridges working wonders in Lagos State—but not many people realise that it was the product of a traffic summit that we had in November 2015,” says Ayorinde, who until recently was in charge of the Information ministry.
He also hinted that Lagos will most likely have a tourism promotions council, so that the government side can function properly as the enabler, having a broad view of the entire sector while the Council will busy itself with collecting data and dealing with other specifics of the industry.
“The vision of Governor Ambode is to take fun and development to every division in Lagos State. It is the reason why the eight-day “One Lagos” fiesta got a lot of people who were compelled to change their flights to a future date, just so that they could attend the shows. That registered well with visitors. Those sort of information are important to Nigerians in the diaspora and the expatriate community in Lagos.
“For the second year running, hotels have witnessed a remarkable increase in their occupancy rates. More people stayed in the hotels, people who ordinarily would have travelled elsewhere in December. Our findings show that the tourism business contributed N50b extra cash to the Lagos State government earning for 2017. It’s high time that we took Lagos tourism to a level whereby if you want to check for what to enjoy in the state, you can get that at the click of a button online.”
When asked how much he believes he can achieve in just over a year, Ayorinde says he doesn’t think any time is short to make an impact. “As a Commissioner for Information, I related closely with the Tourism ministry for more than two years, because it was an important part of the strategy for this administration; I was involved directly or indirectly in the ideas that were canvassed to project this ministry and government often in its execution. So our time here will be a continuation of what we had started in the last two and a half years, which essentially is to give a boost to Lagos tourism.”
The convener of the TIDA Conference and CEO of Skyview Communications, Femi Lawson, believes that Nigeria’s tourist sites have been underserved for decades and that the time is ripe for the country to take its rightful place in the committee of tourism-heavy nations.
“TIDA intends to bring stakeholders, young entrepreneurs and representatives of government together to discuss the opportunities that exist in the Nigerian tourism industry and how we can take advantage of it to transform the economy of the country and its negative image,” he says, adding that one of the key objectives of the conference (to hold on February 15 at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs) will be the launch of Virtual Tourism, the first ever of its kind in Nigeria.
“Virtual Tourism is a product, a recording of all Nigerian tourist destinations in a video on VR. It means that when we attend exhibitions outside the country, if a prospective tourist can share where s/he wishes to go in Nigeria, I can give him/her a VR to watch and experience Nigeria. What that will do is to pique people’s interest so much that they want to come to Nigeria.”
Lawson commends the foresight of the Lagos State government in taking the state’s tourism assets seriously and showing the other states of the country how profitable the sector can be.
In return, Ayorinde praises the team’s vision and commitment and daring to make a difference in how Nigeria is perceived at home and abroad. “It’ll be our pleasure not only to be at the conference but to also support in whichever way that we can. TIDA pretty much aligns with what we (Lagos State Government) are trying to do,” he adds.