Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs Sally Mbanefo, has described tourism as the greatest employer of labour.
Mbanefo who said this during the 2015 World Tourism Day, with the theme, “1 Billion Tourists, 1 Billion Opportunities,” and held in Enugu State, underscored the role of the tourism sector as a valuable and sustainable source of livelihood for millions of people.
She said, the corporation under her administration is leaving no stone unturned to ensure practical development and promotion of domestic tourism, which according to her, will propel job creation, develop the nation’s economy, and raise social awareness on cultural preservation and environment protection.
Her words: “Nigeria has a better advantage over so many other countries to benefit from tourism. We have the advantage of population. Tourism contributes 10 per cent to the global GDP but as at now, Nigeria is not fully benefiting from tourism like other countries. For instance, 4,333,000 tourists visited Nigeria in 2013, which contributed about four per cent to our GDP, while tourism contributes 17.7 per cent to the GDP of Gambia; 13 per cent to Egypt; 12 per cent to Kenya; 11.9 per cent to Mexico; 9 per cent to South Africa, and six per cent to Cuba.
“We need to know that Nigeria should focus more on tourism as the best alternative to oil, with domestic tourism as the catalyst.
“I need to emphasise that Nigeria has the best of the ingredient of tourism. We have fascinating tourist sites, enviable cultural festivals, good weather, good and hospitable people. Have you ever wondered why most diplomats, after serving their terms chose to stay back in Nigeria? It is because of the warmth and friendliness of our people, environment and potentials.”
Mbanefo, who emphasised that the potential of tourism in Nigeria is N4billion prayed that government should take privatisation to the next level, which according to her will further facilitate an enabling environment for tourism to thrive in Nigeria.
The NTDC boss lauded the Enugu State government for making tourism alive in the state, while describing the state as a hub of eco-tourism.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Mrs Nkechi Ejele, described tourism as the way forward for Nigeria.
She noted that the ministry is, on a daily basis, intensifying efforts at ensuring the money spinning sector is well developed and promoted in Nigeria, to ensure Nigerians, among the people of other countries, maximally benefit from the potentials of tourism.
The Group Managing Director, Viko Nigeria Group of Companies Limited, Mr Lucky Kanu, in his speech expressed the readiness of his company to further support NTDC in promoting domestic tourism, thereby creating more jobs and wealth in Nigeria.
“Our partnership with NTDC could be best described as demonstration of a successful practice of public private partnership in Nigeria, as the partnership has yielded opening of information desks in about six states in Nigeria, while we are working on a new project that will create over 500,000 jobs for the youth in every state of Nigeria,” Kanu said.