By Rotimi Ijikanmi
Madrid – The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has commended the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for its commitment to developing the nation’s tourism sector.
The Secretary-General of the UNWTO),Mr Zubab Pololikashvili gave the commendation in Madrid, Spain at a joint news briefing addressed by him and the Nigeria Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the minister was at the UNWTO headquarters in Madrid for the signing of Agreement between Nigeria and the organisation on the hosting of the Conference of UNWTO Commission for Africa.
The Conference of the African Ministers of Tourism and global tourism players with the theme “Tourism Statistics, a Catalyst for Development” is scheduled for June 4 to June 6 in Abuja.
Pololikashvili said the UNWTO had been following development in Nigeria with regards to attention given to the tourism and creative sector in the diversification agenda of the government.
He said that Nigeria “has all it takes’’ to become the flagship of tourism in Africa and the UNWTO would work with the minister to improve and develop the sector.
“We are aware that the Nigeria government is fully in support of developing its tourism sector and we have concrete implementation plans that we will put on top of our agenda to support this.
“The role we want to play is to see how Nigeria will be a leading example in the whole of African continent
“I strongly believe that Nigeria has the opportunity, the potential and what it takes, looking at it from culture, music, film production, nature, hotel and infrastructure,” he said.
Pololikashvili specifically commended the minister for his passion and doggedness toward promoting the tourism sector in Nigeria and Africa in general.
He noted that the minister’s election as UNWTO Vice President for Africa in 2017 in Chengdu, China, was not by accident but recognition of his efforts to tourism development.
The UNWTO helmsman expressed his willingness to work with the minister at the Executive Council level of the organisation.
He also pledged the support and assistance of the organisation toward a successful hosting of the African Ministers of Tourism in Abuja.
“As you know, I just assumed this office two months ago and my first visit and assignment in the African continent will be in Nigeria for the CAF.
“I think that we are on the right path and we will continue to support the clear vision the minister has on how to develop the tourism sector in Nigeria.
“We have concrete implementation plans that we will put on top of our agenda in promoting tourism sector in Nigeria,’’ he said.
Pololikashvili said the organisation had taken steps to arrange a Bilateral Air Service Agreement for direct flights from Nigeria to Spain to promote tourism and investments.
“I have already talked with the IBERIA Airline and Air Europa, which are the strong airline companies in Spain for a direct flight from Nigeria to Spain.
“This will bring about a lot of opportunities because Spain will offer a lot of markets for Nigeria in Spain Europe and South America which is very close to Spain,’’ he said.
The minister thanked Pololikashvili and his team for their support toward Nigeria’s tourism sector development and the forthcoming hosting of African ministers in particular.
He said the forthcoming event would not be a solely government affairs but leverage heavily on the private sector, the creative industry and its celebrities.
He said the government was interested in tourism and the creative sectors and the strategic roles they could play in the economy.
The minister noted that one of the advantages of the CAF meeting was to put Nigeria on global platform and tell the world on what were available in terms of sound sight culture and creative industry.
According to him, Nigeria has everything that can make it a tourism destination and the government will work very hard to develop the nation’s tourism infrastructure.
The minister commended UNWTO for placing itself as a catalyst to member states to build their tourism sector.