Nigeria: Lagos state government set on taking tourism to the next level

The tourism sector is a major point of focus for Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. His commitment to promote tourism all year round stands unwavering, and during the Lagos Tourism Summit on Monday, he disclosed that tourism sector contributed $2.2 billion (N800 billion) to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, representing 0.016 per cent of the GDP.

While giving the figure at the Lagos Tourism Summit held at Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, the state governor noted the development of critical infrastructure projects across the state to promote tourism. This while justifying the unrelenting demand to take over the National Stadium, National Theatre and National Museum, which he said was designed to revolutionise the tourism potential of Nigeria.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (2nd right); former President of Republic of Ghana, Mr. John Dramani Mahama (middle); Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed (2nd left); former Minister of State for Defense, Chief Demola Seriki (left) and Commissioner for Tourism, Arts & Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde (right) during the Lagos Tourism Summit with the theme “Destination Lagos: Towards A Sustainable Tourism-Driven Economy” at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Monday, April 16, 2018.

In February, culture activists, historians and tourists breathed a sigh of relief as the metropolitan city released a calendar of over 70 state-sponsored and endorsed arts and culture programmes slated for 2018 in its bid to garner visibility for tourism-oriented art programmes.

The state’s Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, described the calendar as a novel exercise designed to highlight both state and privately driven arts, culture and entertainment events that will have positive effects on tourism promotion.

With the expectation that the projected figure will double or triple in the next five years, Governor Ambode said, “The enormous resources we have deployed in physical and social infrastructure across the state will begin to crystallise by December into mega structures that will support tourism and market our state as a smart destination.”

The tourism master plan designed to project arts, entertainment and leisure is focused on six key sectors: culture and heritage; film, art and entertainment; business tourism; nature and adventure; medical and wellness and then beach and leisure.

Infrastructural development, regeneration of old and creation of iconic attractions for entertainment, arts and culture enthusiasts are some of the methods used by the state to boost economic activities, improve domestic tourism and expand opportunities for job creation during the various events slated on the calendar which the state governor had started off with his attendance at Ali Baba’s January 1st Comedy concert.

Other arts and culture events held in January and February 2018 included a month-long indigenous cultural festival in Epe, Wazobia FM Carnival and the Lagos Marathon.

Although not exhaustive, the calendar contains many of the indigenous cultural festivals across the state: entertainment events, concerts, visual and performing arts, and fashion and culinary events.

“The state is forging ahead of expanding the consumption of its tourism products by improving access to tourism information and creating an events guide for the media and tour bloggers,” Ayorinde said.

Lagos Street Carnival. Courtesy: Lagos at 50

In December 2017, about N50billion was spent on entertainment and leisure alone, a testimony to the huge economic gain across the tourism and entertainment value-chain in promoting tourism in Lagos State.

“This and other economic factors make Lagos one of the most vibrant culturally significant cities in Africa,” said Ayorinde, “with potentials to make enormous impact in driving in-bound tourists from across the globe.”

Meanwhile, in his keynote address during the Summit, former President of Ghana, John Mahama, suggested that partnership between Lagos and Accra is capable of making the cities of Lagos in Nigeria and Accra in Ghana choice destinations for tourism in West Africa.

“Partnership among members of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is important because the prosperity or instability of one will rub on other countries within the sub-region,” Mahama stated.

Gidi Culture Festival 2015

Mahama continued saying Lagos “has the potential to emerge as a foremost destination for tourism development in Africa. With the billions of dollars revolving in the sector across the world, and over 1.8 billion tourists, the state was heading in the right direction in its bid to become Africa’s tourism hub.

“I have been following the progress Lagos has made on various fronts, and I join those who have celebrated Ambode for the contributions he has made within this short period to enhance the efforts and contributions of his predecessors.”

Other major events are listed in the calendar: Lagos Water Regatta and the International Jazz Day celebration on April 30, which will be dedicated to the South-African Jazz legend, Huge Masekela; the Lagos Comedy Festival on May 6; and the Eko Art Expo at the last weekend in May.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode spoke about the need “to build a solid infrastructure architecture that will endure.” He also acknowledged that the state has become the commercial and entertainment nerve-centre of Africa, and that Lagos “is arguably the city best suited to promote the idea of an iconic super brand for the black race with our young and energetic population, coastal location and other natural resources.”