Frank Meke, a Media and Tourism Consultant, has described the impending global conference on tourism and creative industry which Nigeria is set to host in November 2022 as a “wasteful jamboree”.
He expresses deep scepticism about Nigeria’s ability to attract United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) member states to the country despite the allure of mouth-watering incentives.
Meke’s reservations were contained in a recent article he penned following the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the UNWTO Headquarters in Spain during his recent visit to the country.
He described President Buhari’s visit to the UNWTO’s office as a ‘smart move’ by Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohamed, to exact a commitment from the president regarding the conference.
“Come November, another wasteful tourism jamboree beckons and at the end of the day, the civil servants in the ministry will smile to the banks and Nigeria tourism will still be at the rung of the ladder.
“In Madrid, Lai Mohamed ensured President Muhammad Buhari visited the office of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
“The President said the right things about our indigenous tongues and culture, the investment opportunities and cheap labour, assuring the world and member states of the organisation that Nigeria has all it takes to host them in November.
“It was strategic to get our President who was a guest of the Spanish government, to help validate our preparedness to host the conference. Smart move by Lai Mohamed.
“If you ask me though, I really don’t know what we truly stand to gain from the UNWTO visit. Would it improve our image ranking? Would UNWTO help us in improving our tourism products and services?
“What again will this visit which is expected to gulp almost all the funding expectations of over eleven agencies under the ministry bring to our table?
Nigeria, one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world, with over nine hundred indigenous tongues, rich culture and tradition, yet very unfortunate in making the best of these gifts.
“So, our President has endorsed the UNWTO visit and we wait to see how many countries may consider us serious enough to honour our invitation.
“No doubt, free hotel, feeding and all luxurious vintage opportunities will be thrown at the member states to lure them here but we know that we are not yet there, indeed far from meeting the tourism scale of preference,” he wrote.
Meke also lamented the absence of a Nigerian village in the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Best Tourism Villages since its inception.
In 2021, over 40 villages from more than 30 countries across the five world regions from over 170 applications were recognised as Best Tourism Villages and a further 20 villages were selected to participate in the Upgrade Programme. However, no Nigerian village received recognition on the list.
“I just dey laugh! Now to the issue at stake. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation, conceived the Best Tourism Villages as strategic plans to highlight how tourism helps safeguard rural areas, local gastronomy, values, landscape, natural and cultural diversity.
“In 2021, a total of such Villages from 32 countries were granted attestation and our dear Nigeria, didn’t even get “waka pass’ mention,” he lamented.