NTDC FULFILS PROMISE, RECORDS HISTORIC WORLD TOURISM DAY
Coker Oshinowo and Okpe
Never, since the launch of World Tourism Day (WTD) in 1980, had the event made as didactic an impact on Nigerians as was witnessed in the federal capital, Abuja last Monday. Given the huge success the celebration turned out to be, none could have imagined that arrangements to mark the observance in Abuja were made barely two weeks to the day.
It was revealed that the commemoration, earlier billed for Lagos, was transferred to the federal capital because Lagos could not or would not play host. In any case, the celebration ran the entire gamut, taking in health, environment and entertainment tourism in one fell swoop. There were significant representations of health tourism, environment tourism, leisure tourism and the entire works.
For example, the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) was represented by courteous staffers, who carried out their functions effectively, just like Stelladex Optometry Clinic and Diabetes and Hypertension Help Society (DHS). Stelladex conducted on-the-spot computerized eye tests and had recommended glasses on offer, while DHS carried out sugar level and heartbeat tests within minutes, and even went ahead to offer a three-month cost-free treatment to a man diagnosed with acute hypertension.
The President of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), Mr. Nkereuwem Onung; ATQ publisher and member Tourism Committee of Vision 20: 2020, Mr. Ikechi Uko of 'Akwaaba' the annual Travel Fair fame; star musician Yinka Ayefele; a female solo singer-cum-guitarist, Hephzibah and another band, KC Klan and the Great 'Sensationals' as well as operators/proprietors of eateries, crafts centres all enjoyed a great day, as did the thousands of guests and enthusiasts that turned up, to the joy of the organizers.
Also in attendance were personnel of Lenschop Cuisine Limited, Kinsmen Real Home Cooking, Ladi Kwali Pottery, et cetera, who put on display as well as for sale; foods and drinks, textiles, pottery wares, leather works, brass works, wood carvings and so on. These mini marts, 35 of them as one speaker revealed; were made more inviting because, in many cases, one witnessed practical demonstration of how several products; like textiles, pots and mats are made.
The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) had promised to celebrate this year's WTD in a big way, and those who witnessed the fiesta which took place at Area 1 roundabout in Garki, Abuja on 27 September went home convinced Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, NTDC Director General amply met all expectations.
The date, 27 September, was chosen for World Tourism Day, when the statutes of the Madrid, Spain-based United Nation's World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), considered a defining issue of global tourism, was adopted. The theme of the WTD, when it premiered in 1980 was 'Tourism's contribution to the preservation of cultural heritage and to peace and mutual understanding', while 'Tourism and the quality of life' was adopted for 1981.
This year, WTD revolved around 'Tourism and Biodiversity', whereas 'Celebrating diversity' served as theme for the 2009 observances. In 1997, during the 12th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly in Turkey; it was decided that a country would be designated host country each year to partner with the organizing body in WTD observances. Subsequently, the UNWTO Assembly had decided in 2003 during its 15th Session to select the WTD host designate country from various continents in the following geographic order; Europe (2006), South Asia (2007), Americas (2008) and Africa (2009). China was selected host country for 2010.
The aim of WTD, which is to raise awareness on the importance of the tourism sector vis-Ã -vis social, cultural, political and economic values was ostensibly realized; given the plenitude of people from every strata that attended the event. Furthermore, the observance dovetailed perfectly into the strategy of the Otunba Runsewe-led NTDC, which is to place premium on didactic effects rather than on pedantic exercises in its quest for tangible benefits like creating job opportunities thus helping to reduce crime.
This was realized because, from members of the diplomatic community through World Bank employee Mr. Richards Sandall, to craftsmen, caterers, tourism buffs and even pure water vendors, everyone found some place under the sun. Ostensibly, it was a splendid outing in every sense of the word. Moreover, the convergence of health, environment, entertainment and patriotism through the celebration, courtesy the Otunba Runsewe-led NTDC; was not lost on the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed; who during his address commended the Corporation for the synergy.
That synergy was also played out in the presence of other departments and agencies of the federal ministry of culture such as the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) and National Gallery of Art (NGA); whose helmsmen were all physically present, except NICO's Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, who sent a representative since he was going to be unavoidably absent.
As the minister rightly observed, this coming together of the chiefs of various agencies proved their appreciation of the fact they were working toward a common goal and not at cross purposes. Chairman-designate, House Committee on Tourism, Chief K.G.B. Oguakwa; Mr. Maidugu, Alhaji Munzali Dantata, Mr. Abdullahi S. Muku, Directors General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) and National Gallery of Art (NGA) respectively were among top brasses of federal government at the fiesta, where Kano State also put up a strong presence in the persons of Tijani Aliyu, Racibi Ado and Salisu Talle, Director of Tourism, Executive Director of the local Tourism Board and Chief Tourism Officer of that Board respectively. Mr. Richards Sandall, a private sector development specialist working at Nigeria Country Office of the World Bank on the Gems Programme; and a representative the Ambassador of Spain to Nigeria, were also at the day-long event.
Speaking at the event, the House Committee Chairman also observed: 'The presence of other parastatals at this event is a welcome synergy'. The federal legislator added that the importance of tourism to the nation's social and economic growth was not lost on the House of Representatives, whose Speaker, the committee chairman said, was always ready to support any programme that would create jobs and grow the economy as tourism does.
Hear Hon. Oguakwa: 'Speaker Dimeji Bankole CFR has given a clear mandate to the (House) Committee to make sure that funds meant for tourism development are spent on that purpose'. Commenting on the colossal success that the WTD was, he added, 'Am amazed but not surprised. It's the kind of thing you expect from a competent hand like Otunba Olusegun Runsewe OON'.
Kudos must also go to Yinka Ayefele MFR, who put up a spectacular performance during the event. According to Otunba Runsewe, Ayefele went to the trouble of travelling all the way from Ibadan to play in Abuja free-of-charge in appreciation of the NTDC's contribution to the nation's social and economic growth. To be candid, had the NTDC paid Yinka Ayefele Band a billion naira, it would have been worth every dime, given the warmth and cheeriness Ayefele and his group contributed to the event.
Interestingly, the media were there full force as usual for Runsewe, but it is worth noting that the NTDC-run Tourism Radio was also on ground, and powered by the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN); ran live broadcasts including interviews as the delectations unravelled. To ensure that the tourism drive continues in the future, serious and immortal foundations were laid in the minds of hundreds of students drawn from at least five secondary schools, including Area II Junior Secondary School and Regina Pacis High School.
Truly, celebrations of the 2010 World Tourism Day was historic and those that witnessed the Abuja fiesta are all looking forward to next year's party. In fact, the excitement thrown up by 2010 WTD would be hard to beat in Nigeria; but, as we had mused at least once in the past; what will Otunba Runsewe think up next?