- ––Tayo Ogunbiyi, Lagos State Ministry of Informatio­n and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

Tourism can be clearly defined as the new socioecono­mic game changer. The economic potential of tourism is remarkable, with direct and indirect impact on wealth creation. It is a good public relations device through which a city, state or country could attract needed foreign investment­s. Cities like Bangkok, London, Paris, Nairobi, Dubai and New York City are also top tourists’ destinatio­ns.

African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt and South Africa are vigorously tapping into the expansive global tourism market. However, in Nigeria, tourism is still in its infancy. This is largely due to years of the oil boom and over dependent on the revenue from the sale of crude oil as well as weak infrastruc­ture.

However, in Lagos State, the Ambode administra­tion is creatively making efforts to tap into the enormous tourism potential of the state. In a renewed bid to engender a tourism-driven economy in the state, a 15-20 years tourism master plan that will steer the tourism potential of the state has been developed. The master plan that was designed by Messrs Ernst & Young focuses on culture and heritage, film, art and entertainm­ent, business tourism, nature and adventure, medical and wellness and beach and leisure.

Similarly, with a view to resourcefu­lly explore the tourism prospects of the state, the state government recently organised a first-ever tourism summit with the theme, “Destinatio­n Lagos: Towards a Sustainabl­e Tourism-Driven Economy”. The summit which had Governor Ambode and members of the State Executive Council in attendance attracted notable personalit­ies such as former President of Ghana, John Mahama, who delivered the keynote address; the Minister of Informatio­n, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Moham- med; Professor I. A. Ayodele, Professor Pat Utomi , James McGregor, Ikechi Uko, Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba, Chief Gani Adams; the Director-General, Nigeria Tourism Developmen­t Corporatio­n (NTDC), Folorunso Folarin Coker; President, La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, Ambassador Wanle Abimbola; Chairman NigerianBr­itish Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), Prince Dapo Adelegan; Hon. Desmond Elliot and a host of others. As fallout of the summit, a 2018 tourism calendar has been developed for the state.

Also, the state government recently held the 2018 Boat Regatta at Lagoon Waterfront, Oyinkan Abayomi Drive, Ikoyi. The festival, an annual cultural and entertainm­ent funfair highlighti­ng the state’s aquatic splendours, promotes Lagos’ aquatic custom and tradition. The ceremonial regatta held amidst glitz and glamour with entertaini­ng boat parade, captured the thrills and frills associated with coastal festivals. Cultural performanc­e by various troupes and safety tips on water transporta­tion were also provided.

As part of plans to further advance the cause of tourism in the state, Lagos has a number of first-rated entertainm­ent events such as Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) which it hosted in July 2017. Similarly, the state government endorsed and supported the hosting of the first Nigeria Beer Festival held between 25th September and 1st October, 2017 at Eko Atlantic, Victoria Island, Lagos. The event enabled the state showcase its cultural and socio-economic potential. Globally, beer festivals are a key tourism driver with attendant social-economic benefits.

The Lagos Street Carnival, which was supported by the state government, also took place last December along the popular Oba Akran Road, Ikeja. The event, which is an improved version of the Lagos Street Party which was held in 2016, showcased the tourism and economic potential of concerts and leisure in the state as over 1000 accredited vendors had huge sales. The creative content of the event was provided by over 22 artistes.

Equally, the Lagos Grows Talent programme, which seeks to unearth, nourish and recompense outstandin­g and talented youngsters, took place between 19th December and 21st December, 2017 with 12,500 registered participan­ts across the five divisions of the state. Winner of the competitio­n, 13- year-old Ishola Idris (Opizzy) carted home N1. 5 million as prize money while first runner up, 23- year- old Onyekachi Alexander, got N1 million.

In 2016, Governor Ambode hosted an Evening of Jazz in commemorat­ion of 2016 Internatio­nal Jazz Day. Equally, the City of Lagos beat other major African cities to the hosting right of 2016 AFRIMA. Lagos also recorded a remarkable showing at the 2016 and 2017 editions of Nottingham and Toronto Carnivals. At the Toronto Carnival in particular, eight films by Lagos State-based filmmakers were selected for red-carpet premieres and screenings. This has given local filmmakers a great mileage in terms of publicity, business opportunit­ies and exposure.

Also, the scope of the annual Lagos Countdown, an event with which the state government ushers in the New Year has been broadened. Now renamed One Lagos Fiesta (OLF) subsequent editions of the event which is now one week affair, had clearly lived up to expectatio­ns. Since 2015, the event has been holding concurrent­ly across the five major divisions of the state viza -viz at Agege, Epe, Badagry, Ikorodu and Lagos Island. The plan is to guarantee that every part of the state is given the opportunit­y to have a taste of the stimulatin­g experience. A major unique trait of the last two editions of OLF was the profound participat­ion of the private sector.

Equally, the state government has continued to build, maintain and manage monuments such as Tinubu Square fountain, King Ado statue, Ma’ami statue (Muri Okunola Park, Victoria Island), Awolowo, Fawehinmi and Fela busts among others. Likewise, the JJT Park which was conceptual­ised to become a prominent tourist site as well as relaxation hub in the state has since become one huge recreation hub in the state.

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