By Isaac Garba, Jos
The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) is advocating for the development and branding of home grown tourism assets in the country, which will be consumed by Nigerians in an order that will boost inter regional association and exploration.
Director General, NTDC, Mr Folorunsho Coker stated this while on a courtesy visit to the Plateau State Governor, RT. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, at the Old Government House, in Jos, on the 17th of July, to introduce the Tour Nigeria project. This is an initiative of the NTDC, which he said is geared towards domestic tourism, to make Nigerians appreciate better the richness of their cultural diversity.
The DG said: “Our brand focus is on domestic tourism, it is about Nigerians enjoying more of what they have. It is about being brave enough to leave one region and getting to know people from another region.”
Although Plateau State is known as Home of Peace and Tourism, “the cradle of tourism in Nigeria” says Mr Coker, very little information was in the digital sphere to lend credence to that claim. He, therefore, urged the state government to do more in embracing the digital technology in disseminating the tourism potentials of the state. He advised that the state government key into the digital space which utilises the social media platform, where youths between the ages of 18 and 34 find expression.
Mr Coker who expressed willingness to partner with the state government in expanding the frontier of tourism potentials in the state, which he said is capable of generating more revenue for the state, and even thrive better than revenue from oil and gas which has been the main stay of Nigeria’s economy.
“One thing you have is the wealth of natural resources, as well as very hospitable and warm people here. I think with the climate, that you also have, you have an alternative to the oil economy of Nigeria, to the Tin economy of Jos and the agricultural as well,” he said.
The NTDC DG said in order to make tourism more attractive and desirous, there must be a deliberate effort to develop minor facilities in such destinations such as toilets and viewing centres, thereby creating more employment opportunities, add value and make such destinations marketable.
He advocates that the state government explores the option of bringing in private investors as stakeholders in supporting her efforts to grow tourism in the state.
Earlier, the Governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong represented by the Deputy Governor, Prof. Sonny Todyen acknowledged that the conversation on tourism in the state has taken a positive turn, adding that he is ready to partner with NTDC to revamp the sector in the state.
“We are willing to partner with you, we have in fact started putting in the necessary infrastructure to see that private sectors are engaged in the move towards revamping the tourism sector in the state. A number of the hospitality institutions that we have lying aground; hotels that were been lying moribund, we are discussing with private entrepreneurs to see how they can factor into the global picture the state has.”
The governor said, work is going on in earnest to give Hill Station Hotel a facelift because of its historical significance to the state, “that was where the Queen of England, (Queen Elizabeth stayed when she visited Nigeria in 1956). We feel that given that historical significance, it can be turned into a befitting tourism landmark.”
The Governor appealed to the DG NTDC to develop the tourist site in Kurra falls which the state government had given to the organisation since 1991 and the governor Lalong administration issued the C of O. Its development will attract both local and international tourists alike to the state, he said.
Tourism is a key element of the Lalong administration’s policy, the governor said, and therefore wants NTDC to take advantage of the diverse ethnic groups in the state: “ I also want to draw your attention that Plateau State has 53 ethnic groups, and I believe that in the Nigerian Tours programme, which you have on your table, I believe, there could be a section for cultural tourism.”
In a visit to the Gbong Gwom Jos’ Palace, Da. Jacob Gyang Buba, His Royal Majesty in his remarks called on NTDC to be part of their cultural festivals which he said the state government had been magnanimous enough to include into the Plateau festival.
The Gbong Gwom also emphasised on the need for preservation of culture through reinforcement of history being taught to the youths.
After the visits, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation entourage that accompanied the Director General went on sightseeing in the state; the group was led by the Zonal Coordinator, North Central Zone, NTDC, Nanna Yakubu (MITP), to various tourist sites in the state: Kurra Falls, Shere Hills, Rayfield Resorts and much more.