Following the official inauguration of Bayelsa State Chapter of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) over the weekend in Yenagoa, the State government has stressed the urgent need for synergy between the public and private sectors to grow tourism in the state to achieve set objectives.
Bayelsa State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Iti Orugbani who made the remark during the inauguration of state chapter of FTAN, at Harold Dapabiriye Conference hall at the Golden Tulip,Yenagoa maintained that there could be no thriving ministry of tourism without working in collaboration with the private sector as represented by the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria.
According to Dr. Orugbani, tourism boosts the revenues of the economies, creates thousands of jobs, develops infrastructures of a countries and states as well as plants a sense of cultural exchange between foreigners and citizens, just as he called on investors to take advantage of the peaceful environment in the state to invest in the tourism sector.
He enumerated some tourist sites in the state, including the tallest lighthouse in Akassa, the white men graves both in Twon-Brass and Akassa, the rich cultural heritage, local cuisine and the alluring landscapes and beaches that dot around the coastal areas.
In her welcome address, National Vice President of FTAN, South South zone, Mrs Justina Ovat pointed out that the development of the tourism sector in Bayelsa State has become critical as it holds the potential of contributing to state’s economic, social and physical well-being.
Mrs Ovat reiterated that with the abundant tourism potentials in the state, which range from the rich cultural heritage, history, good people, arts and crafts, gastronomy, wildlife sanctuaries, natural parks, fine beaches, slave routes, the tallest lighthouse in West Africa, historical monuments, artefacts and landscapes, when fully developed and promoted, have the potential to reposition the state’s economy beyond oil.
The Zonal Vice President also called on the federal government to create stand alone ministry of tourism in line with global best practices, adding that: “the mandate of FTAN, being the umbrella body that represents the private sector’s interests in the Nigerian tourism industry, must continue to grow and strive across all regions, hence the inauguration of the Bayelsa Chapter of FTAN becomes vital in the actualisation of our tourism aspirations”.
Also speaking, the President of Ijaw National Congress (INC) Professor Benjamin Okaba, described the Ijaws as elements of tourism, adding that Bayelsa and by extension, the Ijaw nation has a lot of tourist attractions begging for attention.
Prof. Okaba who maintained that: “there is no place in Nigeria as endowed as the Ijaw nation, hinted on plans by the leadership of the INC in collaboration with stakeholders to ensure that Ijaw films are shown on African Magic and other international television channels to promote the rich cultural heritage of Ijaw nation.
The President of the umbrella body of all Ijaws worldwide, commended Senator Douye Diri for his tourism development efforts, but lamented that while Bayelsa state and the Ijaw nation have enormous tourism potentials, including the human capacity to advance tourism, there is the challenge of lack leadership to steer the industry to limelight to attract tourists and investors to the sector.
Delivering a paper titled “Bayelsa: Who We Are”, the Chief Historian and Archivist of the state, Dr Stephen T. Olali, said “Bayelsans are creative, cultured and civilised.”
“Their hospitability has made the capital, Yenagoa and major towns and villages cosmopolitan, integrating a vast array of cultures brought over by itinerant traders, artisans and other professionals from virtually all parts of Nigeria and beyond.
“First, Bayelsa State is located in the Niger Delta, bordering the Atlantic Ocean in Southern Nigeria. Infact, Bayelsa State houses countless picturesque tourism-valuable ocean side shores, beaches rivers, rivulets, lakes and canals, and very significantly, the point from which the Niger Delta takes its triangular shape; that is the bifurcation of the Rivers Nun and Forcados into the River Niger.
He noted that the creativity of the Bayelsa people is evident in their crafting of their tools, implements and vehicles such as the canoe; their land and aquatic theater, their visual, musical and spoken arts in folktales, folklores and proverbs etc.
“Bayelsans are inventors of fashionable clothing and fantabulous cuisines. The ‘Etibo’, ‘Woko’ or ‘Angapu and Doni’ are all quintessential male outfits. While women wear an assortment of blouses and dresses upon wrappers of indigenous or foreign manufacture,” Dr. Olali maintained.
In their brief remarks, Lagos State Coordinator of FTAN, Ime Udo and South-South Zonal Public Relations Officer, Ubong Ekpe Okon, emphasized the urgent need for proper marketing strategy to be put in place to grow state’s economy through adequate promotion of the abundant tourism potentials of the maritime state.
In his acceptance speech, the State Coordinator of FTAN, Arc. Tom Nkotaria assured that the National Vice President, South South of the commitment of the state working committee towards actualising the mandate of FTAN.
Dignitaries that graced the event include, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the governor on Tourism, Hon. Piriye Kiyaramo, Bayelsa State commander of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Mrs Abieye Ikhidero, State Chairperson of the Institute of Tourism Professionals of Nigeria (ITPN), Mrs Dickson Esther Dieye, Coordinator of Bayelsa Kids In Tourism Initiative (BYKIDTI), Dr. Jennet Ekpefa Abdullahi, Assistant Registrar of the International Institute of Tourism and Hospitality, Yenagoa, Mr. Akepiteigha Zikenah who represented the Rector and Chef Mabel Oborokumo from Bayelsa Kids In Tourism Initiative.