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No Love but Boycott for UNWTO Cultural Tourism Conference in Nigeria

Written by Andrew Okungbowa

Nigeria hosting of the UNWTO Conference has raised protests in Nigeria. The Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria says NO to UNWTO.

Tourism operators in Nigeria under the aegis of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) have kicked against the planned hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisations (UNWTO) first conference on cultural tourism and creative industries.

UNWTO coordinated a similar conference with UNESCO in 2017 in Oman.

This UN event is hosted by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, FTAN says it is of no benefit to either the Nigerian tourism or the operators and therefore resolved to stay away from participating in it.

This development was disclosed in Lagos yesterday at a press conference addressed by the President of FTAN, Nkwereuwem Onung, when he made known the position of the operators on the conference and advanced reasons why President Muhammadu Buhari should prevail over the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to shelve the planned conference and address more pressing issues facing the tourism sector.

Mohammed had recently inaugurated a central planning committee to organize the UNWTO conference, which is planned for November 14 and 17 as part of events slated for the reopening of the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, which is presently being renovated through the Nigeria Bankers’ Committee.

According to Onung, the federation has written a formal open letter to President Buhari on the matter, stating why hosting the conference is inimical to Nigeria. The letter is titled;

Hosting of United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s first conference on cultural tourism and creative industries: A wild goose chase of no benefit to Nigeria and Nigerian cultural tourism and creative industries.

Onung hinged the private sector tourism operators’ resolve to boycott the conference principally on the neglect of the sector by the minister over the last seven years, noting that the minister has completely abandoned Nigerian tourism with no impact whatsoever from the ministry on its development and promotion despite the huge budgetary allocation to the sector yearly.

He said at no time has the minister met with the private sector to deliberate on areas of policies, concerns, and problems facing the sector and operators and work out implementable strategies in addressing identified concerns.

Onung disclosed that all efforts made to have a meeting with the minister to discuss the way forward for the sector proved abortive, with no response from to the over six letters written. But rather than meet with them or attend local tourism events, the minister, he said prefers to attend meetings and events outside the country hosted by the UNWTO on tourism and culture where he only parades himself as the country’s tourism minister while the domestic tourism is suffering from government’s neglect.

Hosting the November UNWTO conference, he noted is not what the country needs to recover from its present economic woes as it is only an avenue to enrich a few people and fritter taxpayers’ money away in a mere jamboree that is of no benefit contrary to what the minister has made the Presidency and nation to believe.

The open letter reads in part: ‘‘The supervising ministry for TOURISM; the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, and the Minister in charge, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is, to say the least, have neglected TOURISM, with no basic policy direction, programs and activities wholly initiated and/or in partnership with the private sector to drive TOURISM in other to improve its contribution to the country’s GDP.

‘‘Not even in the difficult era of COVID-19 when most of the MDAs worked closely with the private sector to devise palliatives for survival strategies did the Minister and Ministry think it wise to court the private sector.

The only reaction from the Minister was to set up a ‘controversial’ creative industry committee to work out palliatives for the sector.

‘‘Unfortunately, the recommendations of the committee and the review committee are today gathering dust and cobwebs in the ‘golden’ cabinet of the Minister; neither disclosed nor recommendations implemented.

‘‘Moving to recent happenings, the common dominator of the pre-COVID -19 era all over the world, is TOURISM RECOVERY STRATEGIES championed by the UNWTO. 

‘‘Sadly, the Minister has not felt the need to work in this direction especially given our peculiar situation; with our economy bleeding and our tourist destinations gripped by insecurity that does not repose confidence in tourists and investors in revamping our neglected TOURISM.

‘‘Rather, what we have seen over the last seven years is that the Minister and the Ministry have been more focused on merely attending international events and meetings of the UNWTO and thus becoming ‘biding specialists’ by lobbying to get hosting rights to any UNWTO related events without putting in perspective the attendant economic cost and benefits to the country.

‘‘The latest in the quest by the Minister and Ministry to turn Nigeria into ‘Father Christmas’ and ‘host country specialist’ for anything labelled UNWTO, is the forthcoming FIRST WORLD CONFERENCE ON CULTURAL TOURISM AND CREATIVE INDUSTRY scheduled to hold between NOVEMBER 14 AND 17, 2022 at the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos now undergoing renovation courtesy of the Nigeria Bankers’ Committee, which the Minister said is now to be renamed – Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre.

‘‘Mr President Sir, we the private sector, strongly believe that this world conference is of no benefit to Nigeria and our TOURISM INDUSTRY. It is rather self–serving and more of personal aggrandizement and these can be deciphered from a critical analysis of the present state of our TOURISM and CULTURE.’’

UNWTO states on its website:

Objectives of the Conference:

In line with Promoting Cultural Heritage; one of the priority areas of the UNWTO Agenda for Africa 2030 –Tourism for inclusive Growth, which was spearheaded by the UNWTO Secretary-General and the programmatic priority of UNWTO on ‘Protect Our Heritage: Social, Cultural and Environmental Sustainability’, this high-level conference will have the following objectives:

Gather top-notch panelists and stakeholders to discuss linkages and opportunities between cultural tourism and the creative industries;

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