Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and the President of La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye, have outlined plans, strategies capable of developing the vast tourism potential in the state.
Akeredolu has repeatedly expressed his intention to make Nigerian culture the central theme of his tourism economy, hence the choice of tourism afficionado, Akinboboye who has proven his mettle in the industry with an enviable track record.
Akeredolu made his intention of etching Ondo’s tourism on the world tourism map by working with Akinboboye to achieve this tall dream known during a tour of the La Campagne Tropicana recently.
This meeting, which was held in the glare of the entourage of the governor and some team members of La Campagne, was a sequel to the earlier meeting between the governor and Akinboboye in the Government House, Akure, where the governor formally signed Akinboboye on as a strategic partner in his quest to transform Ondo State to a tourist destination.
During the La Campagne meeting, Akeredolu put in perspective his desire to etching Ondo’s tourism on the world tourism map working with Akinboboye to achieve this tall dream. According to him, it all started long before he became governor when he first heard a private talk with Akinboboye on the possibility of replicating La Campagne brand in the state but that dream was short lived somehow.
Going down memory lane, Akeredolu revealed that: ‘‘In the last four years that I have been in Ondo State, I have been concerned about the development of tourism and we made serious efforts. Akinboboye, my brother here, is from Ondo State and he made reference to our meeting some years ago.
‘‘It was then that I invited him and said let’s discuss, I want to see how I can have La Campagne brand in Ondo State. I am sure that both of us got busy and that idea didn’t materialised.
‘‘But when he was back to have Destination Ondo and came up with the Asun Carnival in Ondo, I got a message across to him that when he is finished with it that I would like to have a meeting with him.
‘‘I was happy he came and we met. And in a couple of hours when I was discussing with him, it was clear to me what we needed to do and what we needed to do is to really develop our tourism. Therefore, what we are set for is that we want to really change Ondo State face and we want tourism to be one of the key Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) industries in the state. ‘‘Yes, we have had 241 or so and so field, all the while not a single drop of oil has come out from there. It has existed since Aderanti time.’’
With humongous investment made so far on the oil fields without any return, the governor has seen the need to seek for another viable revenue earner for the state. In this quest, he has set his sight on tourism. It is instructive to note that the choice of Akinboboye as strategic partner was an easier and natural one.
Not just because he is from the state but rather due to his expertise and track records, which the governor himself not only referenced but actually commended him for the laudable projects he undertook for the state when he worked with one of the past administrations in the state to beat a path for tourism.
‘‘We have lost so many things but the time is here now to have that rebirth and recreate and at least, the concept he (Akinboboye) has, in which everything is weaved around African culture.
What we have to export is our culture and we stand better rather than to have a foreign culture and he has always used that word, ‘an inferior,’ and imitation of foreign culture. Nobody is coming to patronise you. So, we need to have our culture, so that we can be patronised. So that is clear to all of us.’’
Akeredolu listed frontline projects that he wants Akinboboye to develop. Top of which is the replication of the La Campagne Tropicana at the Araromi Beachside, the revamping of the Idanre Hill to serve as a tourist attraction and the re-packaging of Mare Festival.
Others are the development of Igbogbo Festival, elevating Oke Maria for religious tourism all geared towards creating employment for the teeming youth population in Ondo State.
The frontline projects that would be of immediate concern and top on the list is the transformation of Araromi beachside, which the governor wants to be a top-rated tourist destination by perhaps building a replica of the La Campagne Tropicana brand or some sort of tourism enclave that would offer haven for relaxation to the people.
In this wise, he dreams the construction of Araromi bridge link to bridge the gap and allow people to have a boat cruise from La Campagne to Araromi, which is estimated at 30 minutes cruise on the Ocean.
‘‘In about six months we should be able to transform Araromi beachside and everybody will start working there and within those six months or immediately thereafter, we also have to go back to Idanre Hills’’ he said.
Next on the governor’s project in revamping the tourism potential in Ondo State the revamping of Idanre Hills, and given that Akinboboye has once worked on it as one of his signature projects during his stint with the state government, Akeredolu sees it as a quick fix, as he paid tribute to Akinboboye for leaving his footprints there.
Mare Festival is another quick fix for the governor, which he wants re-energised alongside Idanre Hills. ‘‘What I will call his footprints remain on Idanre Hills today because he built a number of the huts there and he started Mare Festival before it was hijacked from him and he has to leave it.
So, we still have Mare Festival and we still have to develop Idanre Hills too, it is one of the most beautiful parts of this country and the golf course there too. We would look at it’’ he added.
Igbogbo Festival is another festival which the governor believes has a rich potential of attracting the world to the state just like any of the Brazilian carnivals.
‘‘We spoke about Igbogbo Festival and we want to make Igbogbo Festival to what is akin to the Brazilian Carnival. Why not? Because during Igbogbo Festival we have young brides who will only be in beads and parades the street and everybody dancing. Why don’t we bring it back?’’ he enthused.
The governor also revealed his intention to elevate Oke Maria to a captivating enclave for promoting religious tourism. This, the governor wants to latch unto as he speaks of its transformation:
‘‘Oke Maria, what effort we can bring into transforming it. It is a religious tourism site for the Catholics, but we can build an attraction round it to make it a tourist destination’’ he said.
The onerous task for Akinboboye in the governor’s drive for improving the lots of his people is creating a tourism economy that generates employment for the youths and transforms the rural community.
‘‘Get more of our youths employed, get more of the people in our locality involved and employed and if we are able to do that it pays us. Akinboboye and I have talked about that’’ the governor disclosed.
Recall that La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort in Ikegun Village, Ibeju Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos State, has continued to play host to a number of serving governors across the country.
This year alone, the African themed resort, which is acclaimed for its blend of African hospitality and Euro – centric opulence, has welcomed two governors to its fascinating enclave. First was the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo – Olu and now the governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, whose visit was penultimate week.