By Dr. Piriye Kiyaramo
The most important economic feature of activities related to the tourism sector is that they contribute to three high-priority goals of developing countries: the generation of income, employment, and foreign-exchange earnings. In this respect, the tourism sector can play an important role as a driving force of economic development.
The impact this industry can have in the different stages of economic development depends on the specific characteristics of each country. Given the complexity of tourism consumption, its economic impact is felt widely in other production sectors, contributing in each case toward achieving the aims of accelerated development
It is against this background that I like to commend the vision of the incoming administration of Akwa Ibom State led by the Gubernatorial flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Umo Bassey Eno who hinted on his plans to reposition the state’s tourism sector to make it a world class tourism destination, adding that tourism was the easiest way to make Akwa Ibom State an outstanding sustainable and competitive tourism hub in Africa.
Speaking at the maiden edition of Akwa Ibom State Tourism Roundtable 2022, with theme, “Akwa Ibom State: Succeeding in the Land of Limitless Possibilities”, held at the Watbridge Hotel Uyo, some time last year, Pastor Bassey Eno, who unveiled a private-sector driven tourism and hospitality entrepreneurial fund, named after him, announced the sum of 5million naira as seed fund for the development of “Akwa Ibom Tourism Blueprint 2023”. He informed the gathering that the proposed tourism blueprint will facilitate the building of a thriving visitor economy in the state.
Pastor Eno noted that the proposed tourism masterplan which will be given priority attention when he becomes the next governor, will look at the ‘big picture’ of providing a workable strategic document that will bring individual strategies together to serve the vision of building a world-class tourism destination that would create jobs with a view to growing the state’s economy.
The gubernatorial candidate who is ahead of all the other candidates, reiterated the need to focus on the tourism sector, lamented the slow pase of development at the tourist sites in the state. He also promised to develop coastal and marine tourism potentials which abound in the state to attract foreign exchange to the state when eventually elected, come March 11, 2023.
Pastor Eno, who also is a tourism expert said the sector will be developed in Akwa Ibom to the level of becoming the mainstay of the state’s economy, stressing that his incoming administration will leverage on state-owned Ibom Air as a vehicle for tourism development.
He said the incoming PDP administration will harness the rich cultural heritage of the people, with a view to marketing Akwa Ibom as a preferred tourism destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition (MICE) in Africa.
The gubernatorial candidate who commended the management of the Akwa Ibom State Hotel Management and Tourism Board charged the board to galvanise the private sector with a view to collating relevant statistics of all hospitality facilities across the state and conduct proper grading of such facilities, particularly the hotels, in addition to initiating trainings for personnel in the sector, ranging from taxi drivers, keke riders, boat operators, restaurants and bar operators among others for certification to improve the customer service level in the sector.
Chairman, Central/Working Committee of the Akwa Ibom Tourism Roundtable 2022, Mr. Usen Udoh (Amb, P), who also doubles as MD/CEO of Legacy Tourism Development Services Ltd, in his well researched paper titled: “Sustainable Tourism Development: Key to Akwa Ibom State Holistic Development”, described tourism as the king of all public businesses as well as the world’s fastest growing economic sector.
Mr. Udoh maintained that: “Tourism is essential to achieving the general objectives of the socio-economic development of Akwa Ibom in the areas of job creation, infrastructural development, management of cultural and natural heritage as well as strengthening the true identity of the people of the state.
He explained that the objectives of the Akwa Ibom Tourism Roundtable 2022 were to bring together tourism stakeholders to a roundtable discussion on how best to move the industry forward in the state, with a view to providing opportunities for collaboration and networking among stakeholders through cross fertilisation of business ideas concerning the travel and tourism sector of the state’s economy, in addition to making recommendation to the government on possible areas of partnerships and collaboration with the private sector.
Akwa Ibom which boasts of array of tourists attractions that beckon on tourists, needs a governor like Pastor Bassey Eno grow the economy through tourism.
The rolling and undulating hills in Itu, Ahaubu Blue River in Ukanafun, the over 129km sprawling sand beaches, Nwaniba waterfronts, and the rich forests reserves in Mbo are waiting to be tapped. No to talk of several historic sites like the bridge of no return, the 1929, the war museum and epitaph in Ikot Abasi, the 1914 Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria, with the Lord Lugard antiquities and the Amalgamation House, the slave route and Mary Slessor’s cairn in Itu.
The state is known for its unique folklores, cultural displays, songs and dance, salivating cuisines, other beautiful sites and scenes, arts and crafts, and very friendly and warm people, making it so famous for its hospitality.
Also, the likes of Usoro Uso Arts and Crafts exhibition, Orange September, Ukapisua, Talent Hunt showcase, Ibeno beach Fiesta and groove, Christmas village as well as the maintenance and running of quality hospitality facilities have value to the tourism sector.
The Five Star Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, the Sheraton by Four Point hotel, remodelling of the Ibom Tropicana complex with Shopping Mall, and the hosting of the National Festival of Arts and Culture Exhibition in the state, among others have carved a niche for “Destination Akwa Ibom”.
Dr. Piriye Kiyaramo is the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Bayelsa State Governor on Tourism. He writes from Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Capital.