Minister identifies tourism as major driver of economic growth

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has identified tourism as a major driver of economic prosperity if properly harnessed in the country.

Mohammed said this at the 2020 National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) Annual Master Lecture Series with the theme “Sustaining the Gains of Hospitality and Tourism Research in a Changing World” on Thursday in Abuja.

The minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Nr Nebeolisa Anako, said that the tourism sector is one of the key sectors that would boost the country’s economy.

“I am particularly happy because this event will provide a wonderful platform for us to highlight the importance of the tourism and hospitality sectors.

“This event is also for us to review the efforts of stakeholders, who have contributed to the growth being experienced in the sector.

“It is also an indication of collective commitment and political will needed for sustainable development of socio-economic gains of both sectors.

“The theme of this year’s event is quite significant, based on the fact that it will guide us on how best we can improve on the industry.

“Tourism is one key sector to Mr President and this administration in terms of programmes that will help lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty,” the minister said.

According to him, the employment opportunities provided by the sector, benefit those that need it most.

He added that the sector had offered a large volume of low skilled jobs and employment, thereby employing a high percentage of women and youths.

He quoted reports from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) which indicated that international tourism recorded a continuous growth of 10 per cent in 10 consecutive years.

He noted that Nigeria had not taken full advantage of the potential of the industry over the years, stressing that the sector would have contributed increasingly to the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and its economy growth.

Mr Otunba Segun Runsewe, Director- General, National Council for Arts and Culture, in his goodwill message, said NIHOTOUR was an important organisation, with special content in the marketing and promotion of the country’s tourism potential.

He said the organisation had the components for the development of the country, in the area of capacity building, and urged its recognition by relevant authorities.

“If you go to a hotel and you are not impressed with the staff, no matter how beautiful the hotel is, you will not go back there another time.

“Ii is only NIHOTOUR that can open our eyes to so many things, they are the only organisation that can deliver and guide us.

“They are the only institution that has the capacity, so we must recognise and appreciate their values on what they are capable of doing in reviving the sector,” he said.

He said employees in the industry must have obtained certification from NIHOTOUR.

Prof. Abba Tijani, Director- General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), in his goodwill message, called for more collaboration in the training of staff, adding that customers’ service was paramount in the industry.

Tijani encouraged NIHOTOUR to embark on programmes that would attract visitors for the industry to move forward.

Meanwhile, Alhaji Nura Kangiwa, Director- General, NIHOTOUR said the organisation’s Annuel Master Lectures Series (NAMLS) was a critical component of the institute’s academic activity, which started in 2016.

According to him, the goal of NAMLS has consistently remained the same, in the attraction of Hospitality and Tourism intellectuals.

“We are in a time of unprecedented crisis, Hospitality and Tourism industry needs to adapt and evolve to meet the ever changing needs occasioned by this crisis.

“No doubt, the industry had to deal with different crises and viruses earlier.

“However, the magnitude of this present crisis and its devastating effects on operations, employees, and customers are unrivaled compared to previous crises.

“For example, the SARS virus impacted the industry drastically in 2003 where there was a 50 per cent decline in hotel bookings, which led to a drop of nearly 9.4 million in international tourist arrivals, with losses estimated at between 30 and 50 billion dollars.

“The industry bounced back as it registered immense growth by 2006, with a total contribution of about 5.1 billion dollars to the global GDP within the year.

“With unprecedented challenges faced by the hospitality industry in the COVID-19 era, it has dealt with the hospitality industry and the academia with uncharted challenges.

“It also presented great research opportunities for hospitality scholars, who are now expected to shift their research focus to develop solutions for the industry.

“This edition is dedicated to studies that will promote new ideas, models, approaches, and paradigms, that will contribute to the development of knowledge and theory of hospitality marketing and management in the COVID-19 business environment.

“As a research and allied institution, we will work hard to sustain this momentum, as well as improve on its overall impact on the industry,” he said.

Kangiwa urged participants to use the medium as an opportunity to brainstorm and provide ideas to move the industry forward irrespective of the challenges posed by Covid 19.(NAN)