Nigeria: Tourism Operators Seek Railway Linkage

The Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) has called on the Federal Government to connect tourist destinations across the country with the railway lines to encourage and boost the sector.Alhaji Rabo Saleh, the National President of the association, made the call at the 4th edition of the Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE) 2018 in Abuja.

NTIFE is an annual tourism forum organised by FTAN to bring relevant stakeholders from the tourism sector to brainstorm and network with the aim of moving the sector forward.Theme of the two-day forum and exhibition is: “Infrastructure and Security: Catalysts for Sustainable Tourism Development.”

“We appreciate recent investments by the previous and current governments in rail transportation, particularly Abuja to Kaduna rail line and the Abuja City light rail connecting the airport to Abuja City Centre.In this regards, we plead that major tourist destinations and towns at each geopolitical zones have rail terminals along the newly built rail transport infrastructure.

“This is because rail transport is one of the best ways for tourists to see a destination, picture of countryside and meet locals in the rural communities. FTAN believes in the enviable potential of Nigerian tourism and the inevitability of good governance to the development of the country’s tourism economy. Hence, we chose this NTIFE 2018 to meet with fellow stakeholders, government officials, technocrats, tourism business investors, travel entrepreneurs and teeming enthusiasts,’’ Saleh said.

The FTAN president said that both the Federal and State Governments should analytically look at the Nigeria’s tourism map and build motorable roads leading to and from tourist destinations.Saleh said that government needed to map out Tourism Development Zones (TDZs) to provide requite tourist facilities and also facilitate land acquisition for tourism investors.

“Such TDZs should be mapped out based on the state’s actual and potential tourist attractions. Subsequently, the state government should appoint a local tourism committee to advise the state government on the touristic needs of each TDZs.

“The local tourism committee members should include local government officials, private sector, representatives of host communities, religious/tribal leaders, local artisans, local tour guilds, local vigilante, transport unions and youth groups.

“We also call on the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to come up with a National Policy on Cultural Tourism.This is because cultural tourism is our most competitive tourist product, if only it will be well harnessed,’’ Saleh said.

He said that with more than 300 ethnic groups in the country, Nigeria was a mini-Africa and that no country on the continent could boast of its rich cultural diversity.

Saleh said that it was this exclusive `bragging right’ that would create desirable cultural tourist products from Nigeria’s diverse cultures.He said apart from Nollywood, Nigeria’s performing arts and fashion had been making waves all over the world, adding “culture is our God-given tourism comparative advantage’’.

Saleh said: “I insist we can creatively transform our latent culture and rural communities into attractive tourist products and appealing destinations.Also, government should work with the tourism private sector to reposition Nigeria as the most remarkable destination to see and enjoy true African heritage,’’ he said.

In his remarks, Otunba Segun Runsewe, the Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, stressed the need for the development of the country through tourism.

Runsewe said there was a plan to hold a “Day for Cultural Diplomacy’’, noting that internal and external peace was absolutely necessary for tourism development.Tourism is the only sector that nobody is a failure. It is a sector that has the potential to develop Nigeria and Africa in general,’’ he said.

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