Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari has declared open the first-of-its-kind United Nations World Tourism Organization, UNWTO Global Conference at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos State.
The conference themed UNWTO Global Conference on Linking Tourism, Culture and Creative Industries: Pathways to Recovery and Inclusive Development, is aimed at promoting the development and growth of tourism culture and creative industries while providing entrepreneurial skills to traditionally marginalized population groups, diversifying experiences and adding value to the tourism sector.
It also seeks to address the current challenges and tapping into emerging opportunities to speed up the global economic recovery.
Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, who was also graced the opening ceremony, said hosting the conference in Nigeria is historic by bringing the world to Nigeria.
“First is the fact that this is the first time the UNWTO would be bringing stakeholders in tourism, culture and the creative industries together at a single forum to deliberate on issues of common interest,” he said.
According to the minister, the Global Conference was the first to be held at the national theatre since its renovation. In his word, “This is the first event to be held since the completion of phase 1 of the 100-million-dollar renovation of the iconic National Theatre.
“It’s important to note that this is the first major renovation work on the National Theatre since it was built over 40 years ago. Many thanks to the Bankers’ Committee for this great job,” he noted.
Lai also stated that hosting the UNWTO Global Conference, which kicked-off in Nigeria with two experts’ workshops on tourism and culture, as well as tourism and the creative industries, would be of great benefit to Nigeria and other countries in the world as it has the potential to alleviate poverty and stimulate the nation’s economic growth as well as mitigate climate change.
“Within these premises, tourism, culture and the creative industries, therefore, present a huge potential to bridge this gap, especially at a time of great economic challenges the world over,” he said.
The minister also stated that the Nigerian Government had long identified the creative industry, tourism and culture as sectors critical to the diversification of the nation’s economy away from oil, describing the three sectors as not just the new oil, but also the new gold.
In his words, “This realization explains why we have paid much attention to the sectors. We have given much visibility to our cultural sector, and one of the fallouts of this is our successful campaign to repatriate our much-coveted artefacts, which were looted and taken to different parts of the world. Hundreds of these timeless works of art are currently being repatriated to Nigeria, in a reflection of our successful campaign.”
At the expert’s workshop, UNWTO secretary general, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili and Alhaji Lai Muhammed had a discussion with some primary school students on the importance of culture, tourism, and the creative industries to national development.
Some of the objectives of the conference include: offering a unique networking opportunity for industry players, practitioners, government officials and policy makers to debate contemporary and future issues, as well as exchange ideas and information relating to tourism, culture and the creative industry; share best practices around the world by focusing on areas such as Nollywood film productions in Nigeria, among others.
The UNWTO Global Conference which kicked-off on 14th of November is expected to end on Wednesday with about 166 countries in attendance.
Some of the delegates present at the conference include; the Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Lydia Jafiya; Benin Minister of Culture, Babalola Jean-Michel Hervé Abimbola; Minister of Tourism, Côte d’Ivoire, Siandou Fofana; Minister of Leisure and Tourism, Cote d’Ivoire, Sven Leirvang; Minister of Tourism, Gambia, Hamat Bah; Minister of Culture, Democratic Republic of Congo, Catherine Katungu Furaha; Minister of Tourism, Democratic Republic of Congo, Modero Nsimba Matondo; Minister of Culture and Tourism, Republic of Togo, Kossi Gbenyo; Deputy Minister of Tourism of Namibia, Heather Sibungo.