ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, ON THE OCCASION OF THE WORLD TOURISM DAY HELD IN BIRNIN KEBBI, KEBBI STATE, ON 27TH SEPTEMBER 2021
Please permit me to express my sincere gratitude to His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Kebbi State, for accepting to host this year’s World Tourism Day celebration. Not only is the organization and management excellent, but I am also happy that it provided the opportunity for us to experience the goodwill and hospitality of the good people of Kebbi State.
2. Since 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has observed World Tourism Day on September 27 of every year. This date was chosen to coincide with an important milestone in world tourism, which is the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on 27 September 1970. While UNWTO invites nations and people of all ages and backgrounds to take part in the celebration in their respective countries, the official World Tourism Day celebration for 2021 is also being held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on the basis of geographic rotation.
3. The essence of the annual celebration is to foster global awareness of the social, cultural, political and economic value of tourism and the contributions of the sector towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. The event is also considered as a powerful advocacy tool and occasion to mobilize political will and resources, address global problems, celebrate and reinforce achievements at all levels and educate the public on issues of concern.
4. The theme of the World Tourism Day 2021 is ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth’. This is an opportunity to look beyond tourism statistics and acknowledge that, behind every number, there is a person. UNWTO invites its Member States, as well as non-members, sister UN Agencies, businesses and individuals to celebrate tourism’s unique ability to ensure that nobody is left behind as the world begins to open up again and look to the future. Furthermore, the inclusiveness of tourism is about creating an environment that can cater for the needs of all; whether we are travelling or staying at home.
5. Nigeria is home to so many tourism resources, including cultural assets, amazing waterfalls, beaches, heritage sites, caves, wildlife, mountains, etc. However, the over-dependence on oil resources has led to the neglect of these resources and, as a result, the many benefits of tourism in Nigeria are yet to be fully deployed. While Nigeria’s oil sector has enjoyed the most attention, and the solid mineral and gas sectors have received only scant attention, other natural resources, including tourism, appear to be untapped and undeveloped.
6. The tourism sector is not just a leading source of employment for the skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled, it also promotes territorial cohesion and socio-economic inclusion for the most vulnerable and helps communities to hold onto their unique natural and cultural heritage, support conservation, safeguard endangered species and keep traditions alive.
7. Ladies and gentlemen, tourism is one of the most important pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goals 1, 5, 8 and 10 which deal with ‘No Poverty’, ‘Gender Equality’ ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’ as well as ‘Reduced Inequalities’. The role of tourism in inclusive growth is also demonstrated in the second principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, with the pledge by Member States to ‘Leave No One Behind’. This pledge is more relevant than ever before, because tourism has a unique ability to make sure that nobody is left behind, as showcased in the theme for this year’s celebration of the World Tourism Day – ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth.
8. Inclusive growth deals with policies that allow people from different groups; gender, ethnicity, religion and across sectors; agriculture, manufacturing, etc to contribute to and benefit from economic growth. Inclusive growth is also seen as sustainable growth that will create and expand economic opportunities and ensure broad access to those opportunities so that citizens can participate in and benefit from the growth.
9. This is well demonstrated in Kebbi State, given the fact that the tourism sector in the state revolves around components such as culture, agriculture and sports, among others. Kebbi State is known for its industrial growth, especially in the areas of rice mills and tomato factories which employ a lot of women as farm staff (80%), out growers (30%) and factory staff (10%). In the areas of culture and sports, the annual Argungu International Fishing festival, the Durbar, traditional wrestling and carmel racing, among others, have over the years proven to be viable sources of economic growth, job creation and empowerment, especially for the women and youth. All these underscore the state’s efforts and capacity to achieve the SDG goals.
10. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has re-emphasized the importance and necessity to develop and promote domestic and regional tourism that is inclusive and caters for the wellbeing of the community, while ensuring smooth cooperation and rewarding experiences for all stakeholders involved. Kebbi State, like every state in the country, was adversely affected by the pandemic, which led to the postponement of some of its major tourism programmes such as the Argungu International Fishing Festival and the Durbar. Consequently, it resulted in a decline in revenue generation and economic activities in the state. However, with the roll-out of the vaccine and the lifting of restrictions, destinations are beginning to open up and the hosting of the 2021 World Tourism Day in Kebbi State clearly demonstrates the commitment of the State to restart tourism.
11. The COVID-19 pandemic had a colossal social and economic impact on the world, and both developed and developing economies were not spared. Marginalized groups and the most vulnerable have been hit hardest of all. It is however envisioned that the restart of the sector will facilitate global recovery and growth that will be widely and fairly felt. In order for tourism to restart and to ensure that growth is inclusive, Member States of the UNWTO are encouraged to focus on certain priorities such as partnerships with key stakeholders and international organizations, as well as engage in advocacy to promote the role of tourism in inclusive growth.
12. Apart from these priorities, however, there is the challenge posed to restarting tourism globally by ”vaccine nationalism”, which has heightened the inequality and inequity in the global vaccine distribution system. Today, rich countries are able to procure vaccines for their own citizens through direct agreements with pharmaceutical companies; while low and middle income countries are lagging, unable to act as speedily as rich countries in securing the quantity of vaccines they need or unable to afford to pay for any at all. Whereas some rich countries are already talking of third booster shots, many low and middle-income countries have not even given one shot to their citizens.
13. Added to this is the restriction placed on the citizens from certain countries by the rich nations. These restrictions, made possible by the use of ”vaccine passports”, as well as the low level of vaccination in the low and middle income countries due to ‘vaccine nationalism’ that has seen the rich ones mop up available vaccines, are capable of thwarting the efforts to restart tourism. It is therefore imperative for the rich countries of the world to retrace their steps and embrace a collective and equitable global strategy for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing, procurement, and distribution. They must also stop ineffective nationalistic disposition in COVID-19 responses. And COVID-19 response should be science driven, with experts in epidemiology, virology, and the social sciences (not politicians) taking the lead in devising and implementing science-based strategies to reduce the risks that the pandemic poses to the most vulnerable across the globe and to reduce transmission of this novel virus.
14. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that tourism remains a sector of hope, providing opportunities for empowerment and entrepreneurship for people and education. I enjoin all stakeholders to place inclusiveness at the centre of their strategies in order to develop a safe, unique and overwhelming experience for visitors.
15. I must not fail to reiterate that Nigeria’s Creative Industry, which comprises film and movies, fashion, music, arts, etc., is globally recognized and accepted. Our Movie industry, which – in the pre-Covid-19 pandemic era – produces over 200 movies monthly, is rated second in the world after Hollywood. Kebbi State, with its beautiful and breathtaking scenery, is a good place for movie shooting. I therefore encourage the state to explore this.
16. Finally, I wish to sincerely commend the efforts of the government and people of Kebbi State in tourism promotion, particularly through the Argungu International Fishing Festival, which has translated into a remarkable international event. I assure you of the Ministry’s continuous support in your drive to ensure that tourism is accorded a priority status as an important economic driver.
17. I thank you all for your kind attention.