As Nigerians, if you drive us from the calabash we will move into the plate. That is exactly what is happening now. The novel Corona Virus may think that it is wise and can throw spanners into the wheels of Nigeria’s talk shop, it better reconsider that position. Thanks to Zoom and other virtual zones of holding talks, we have found our voices again.
It must have been Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, a culture activist and former Editor of The Guardian on Sunday, who sent me the notice. He added a promise that we should meet virtually. The conference organized by Lagos State ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture last month did not get off to a steady start but when it did, there was no stopping contributions and commendations from participants. Here is a quick snapshot of what impatient Nigerians expressed;
At the close of the webinar, it had over 226 participants in attendance. Since, it was virtual, it appeared the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts & Culture, Pharmacist (Mrs.) Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, participated from her car. This of course made no difference, it just showed that she can multi-task for maximum efficiency.
There were three main presenters and Ali Baba was the first to speak, but not before the usual protocol of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mr. Babatunde Olaide-Mesawaku. He introduced the honorable commissioner and thus started the webinar.
During Ali Baba’s brief remarks, he painted a picture of untapped tourism potentials in Lagos state. In addition, he said that everything done from now in 2020 should be deliberate in terms of policy and allocation of resources. He gave examples of countries where the water-front has more of commercial properties than private ones and to him this is a good model that will serve Lagos state better. He pointed out that the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos is an asset and should be utilized to the maximum. Furthermore, he added that Lagos should start adding Touristic values to Holidays. In conclusion, he mentioned the importance of public art and how these can be images/objects which can make identification with the state a stronger preposition. He also mentioned quick ideas about competitions, concerts, parks and nature spaces as part of the total packaging for tourism for Lagos State.
There were well over ten commendations after his brief remarks indicative of how well his brief remarks resonated with the participants. One commendation that stood out was by Lousia. The person wrote on the side bar that “[t]hank you Mr. Ali Baba for the insightful presentation….. there are quite a number of places where we can get local crafts and arts to buy in Lagos…..to acquaint oneself with our artefacts, people should be encouraged to visit our national and state museums. Unfortunately, most of these museums are seen as elitist and only visited by tourists and school children. I agree with you that the state should put more value on creating such art and craft centres by supporting existing ones. Or creating new ones.”
Another participant, Ayokunle Ayoko added that Ali Baba made a “perfect point” when he talked about the number of quality artists in the state who can easily attract visitors if given the right opportunities. He further stated that “it is a shame that Lagos doesn’t have a world class theme park. It is overdue.”
As expected suggestions were not in short supply. One of the very catchy ones was by Olugbenga Adebayo a member of NATOP. He said “I think Lagos State Ministry of Tourism should revisit and look into the Lagos State Tourism Master Plan. [This] been a document that was prepared by the last administration. This document is really vital for the resuscitation of Lagos Tourism post-COVID. This same point was reinforced by Ayokunle Ayoko who simply stated that perhaps the Lagos State Government should get an attraction plan that highlights these attraction points and market them globally”
However, another participant Hannatu, thinks “the issue here is identifying key products to drive the marketing of destination to Lagos state.” As can be seen the three suggestions are not mutually exclusive, their suggestions are just about which should come first; promotions or (re)articulation of the Master Plan.
There was a scholarly bent to the discussion at the side. Dr. Bello Yekinni Ojo of the University of Port Harcourt threw his intellectual cap into the ring a number of times. He said “it will be practically impossible to market tourism economy of Lagos State without conscious effort to promote tourismprenuship. Tourism resources is different from tourism products. Tourists will be attracted to destinations with tourist products.” He threw more light into what tourisprenuship connotes, “[t]ourism prenureship model explains the need to identify tourists resources with touristic value(i.e Tourism resources stock taking).” Should his interventions come across as too academic, Sam Adeleke offered a perspective that brought home the dynamics of tourism resources? He said “we all know that the water bodies in Lagos are already generating revenue –[but] only for the indigenous families that own such resources – for instance Elegushis, Onirus, etc. We should be honest with conversations regarding our beaches and waterfronts. Lagos is the only city in Africa where the public has to pay to access its beaches. Lagosians will keep travelling out for holidays if we don’t develop and provide value from the money being made from our SAND, SEA assets.” As expected there are people who prefer to view issues holistically, Dansu Bukola sounded a gentle note of caution “I am of the opinion that no matter the edifice we put in place; be it: theme parks, aqua splendor, cinema, historical landmarks etc., without addressing the issue of security would be running around in circles.”
If the reactions above were to the first presenter, you just can imagine the groundswell of reactions to the two other speakers.
Since it is impossible to reflect all that was expressed during the two-hour webinar let this brief selection end with the contribution from Amanda Banjo “[t]hese are all the basics of tourism in terms of theory. It is all well and good to talk about museums and galleries and deep sea diving. What about the supporting infrastructure all around those activities. You can’t expect visitors to arrive without emergency services or adequate medical care for example if they need healthcare if there are accidents etc. Tourism is all about the entire journey. A holiday is all about how it makes you feel. When people go to Paris they feel great they enjoy themselves because nobody harasses them for anything. So Tourism is all about the entire journey right from the moment you hear about they place you are going to visit. What do people hear about Lagos. What do they think and what are their impression, when they finally make up their mind how easy is it for them to book a flight, get a visa, arrive safely on their own ! Can they take a bus or a taxi from airport ?? How do they get to their hotel, traffic police on route, clearing customs, immigration etc. The whole journey”
It is a fact that the webinar started with technical glitches but technology is not that friendly to a developing nation like ours. There is so much to be said about what was unsaid at the webinar but kudos must go to Dayo Adesugba the younger brother of Professor Adesoji Adesugba. He came “very prepared” when compared to other presenters.