Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong has declared a state of emergency in the tourism sector to enable the state to immediately develop its tourism potentials.
Lalong made the declaration, Friday in Jos during the opening of the first-ever Plateau Tourism Conference, which held under the theme; “Unlocking the Vast Potentials of Tourism as a Financial Option for Sustainable Socio-economic Development.”
“I declare a state of emergency on tourism. This will enable us to give the desired attention to the speedy development of the industry into Nigeria’s home of peace and tourism,” he said.
The governor said that the state government had seen the need to provide critical infrastructure in its urban governance and rural transformation agenda.
He said that this was in consideration of the immense potential that Plateau possessed and given the advantage of its all-year-round clement weather.
“The reason for this is simply to ensure that facilities are available across the state to make life easier for the various communities in the state, thereby, creating a visitor-friendly community throughout the state.
“We are indeed very proud as a state to host today’s conference, considering our comparative advantage over every other state in Nigeria in terms of our tourism endowments.
“It is quite significant that we are hosting this conference at a time that there is the urgent need for an inclusive and participatory tourism development roadmap,” he stated.
Lalong said that the roadmap involved the communities through their development associations, local government councils, the state government, the private sector and all critical stakeholders in the tourism value chain.
He added that the conference was also significant because it could stimulate understanding and support efforts toward building a culture of peace which was very critical in development process.
The governor said that mobilising all stakeholders to work together would culminate in making tourism a formidable catalyst for positive change.
According to him, the event was an open attestation of the tourism credentials of Plateau and a greater affirmation of the commitment of his administration to the development of the sector.
State’s Commissioner for Tourism, Culture and Hospitality, Mrs Tamwakat Weli, said that Plateau was blessed with natural, unique and captivating sites, just as she listed the sites to include; rocks, waterfalls, lakes, hills, valleys, zoological gardens, scenic beauty, wild life and caves.
She added that the state was blessed with rich and impressive cultural heritage, enhancing climate and most of all, alluring hospitality of its people.
“The abundance of tourism resources gave the state the appellation ‘The Home of Peace and Tourism’ and the ‘miniature Nigeria,” she said.
The commissioner said that the appellation had over the years placed the state at a focal position in the committee of tourism states.
Also speaking, Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe, opined that Plateau could make a difference for Nigeria the same way Dubai made a difference for United Arab Emirate (UAE).
“Dubai is not the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi is. But Dubai is servicing the seven states of UAE. Why can’t Plateau do the same thing? Plateau has a good weather. It is blessed with scenic beauty and among others,” he stated.
Runsewe who, however, further challenged the Plateau State Government to develop a tourism master plan to guide them, also has said that culture and tourism, when promoted, would earn more revenue than oil, posited that oil is exhaustible while culture is not.
“It is sad that we are paying lip service to a sector that can make Nigeria great. The only secret remaining to make Nigeria great is culture and tourism. This is the only sector where nobody is useless; if you score F9 in all subjects, you will not be useless in tourism. You don’t need a PhD to be a creative person,” he stated.
He said that culture and tourism was one sector that could reduce crime, unemployment and infighting among Nigerians, as, according to him, all that is needed is the right analysis to identify the challenges and work out ways to tackle them.
On his part, Managing Director, Danira Tourism, Scotland, United Kingdom, Mr Benjamin Carey, said that Nigeria needed to create synergies with other countries for its tourism sector to grow.
Carey said that Nigeria was blessed with rich heritage that could be explored for the good of the country.
He advised Nigeria to focus on what it has, conduct a baseline survey and communicate the potentialities by working out margins for depreciation and margins for profit.