Lagos State prides itself in being futuristic and ambitious in transforming the state into a 21st century economy built on rapid infrastructural development and provision of economic opportunities for the teeming residents.
However, for the state to continue to tick and make progress, conscious futuristic plans have to be put place for its continuous economic development in its areas of comparative advantage. One of such areas is tourism.
It is in line with this that the Babajide Samwo-Olu led Lagos State government under its T.H.E.M.E.S. (acronyms for Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21ST Economy, Entertainment and Tourism and Governance and Security) agenda has developed a tourism master-plan to synchronize and drive tourism developments.
Tourism master-plan is novel in Nigeria, most especially because the Federal Government is yet to deliver on the national master-plan that was first started in 2005 in collaboration with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Then, the Federal Government, under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, had made tourism one of the six priority areas to help move the country from being a mono-economy. The national tourism master, the government said, was required to strengthen capabilities and develop the tourism sector. The proposed national tourism master plan was kick-started on February 7, 2005, and 16 years after, it is yet to see the light of day, despite the collaboration and input by both the UNWTO and UNDP. This has made many tourism industry stakeholders to commend the Lagos State government for the achievement.
For the Lagos tourism master plan, according to a source that worked on the project, the state spent a minimum of N386 million to bring the master plan to fruition.
The master plan is divided into six areas of growth called the pillars. They are: wellness and heritage; film, art and entertainment; beach and leisure; nature and adventure; business and M.I.C.E.; and medical tourism.
The state aims to achieve by 2038 the following: grow tourism receipt to US$5.1bn; grow tourism jobs to 1.1m; increase overnight spends of visitors; increase industry service quality; and improve transportation and connectivity.
The master plan is also divided into short and long term projections. The state intends, in the short term, to have tourism receipt of $2.7bn with a 4.5 per cent annual growth rate. It is hoping to receive 4.3 million visitors between now and 2023. The medium and long term contribution of tourism to the economy of the state is 6.1 and 7.2 per cent respectively, hoping to attract about 13.8 million visitors by 2038.
Speaking on the plan, publisher of ATQ news and organizer of Akwaaba West Africa travel fair, Ambassador Ikechi Ukoh spoke on its and also about the Nigeria’s national tourism master plan that is yet to see the light of day: “The Nigerian tourism master plan, from my own understanding, was faulty from the beginning and I pointed it out to the team that was putting it together. And when we went to Aso Rock (Presidential Villa) for presentation to President Obasanjo, I also pointed it out that it is built on a wrong premise. You cannot build your tourism based on foreign tourists from Europe when we have other issues that you are not likely to solve in 10 years. I said it was not going to work. They said no that it was a national plan and that everybody was going to work towards it. Now, after you had introduced the master plan, you dismantled the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT), which was one of the platforms you could have used to coordinate implement at the national level. So, I knew that the national master plan was never going to take off and I won’t say that I was surprised that it didn’t take off.
“Lagos State is a country on its own with more than 20 million people, with an international airport, seaport and with all the sophistication that you have in place. There is no reason one of the biggest city states in Africa should not thrive in tourism and become of one the leading destinations. It is a grand idea that Lagos is putting together a plan to actualize its tourism vision, and that to me, is commendable.
“Do I also agree with every of their milestones, personally, no. some of the points I do not agree but I think the vision is correct, the idea of having a plan for tourism in Lagos, I agree 100 per cent.
“If you ask me personally, I have quarreled with the people who worked on the master plan and I said their aims are low. You have an international, one of the top five in Africa. You have a seaport that could become a cruise ship port. You have an international population that is bigger than Dubai. In the next 20 years, Lagos in my own vision should be in the top 10 most visited cities in the world. That to me is where I think Lagos should play.
“But I accept that people are working with realistic figures of what is happening now. If it were me, I think we can do much better, and it is not too difficult to achieve.”
Ikechi advised other states on tourism development: “Lagos should be commended by this. I think it started in 2018 under Steve Ayorinde. It has been reviewed by some industry experts and produced the final document from where they are now going to extract a blueprint for implementation. This set an example why we should have forward thinking people as leaders.”
On what goals the state has earmarked to achieve by 2038, Ikechi believes it was achievable: “I believe they are achievable. Lagos is already doing well in some of these areas. If you talk about entertainment, I don’t think there is any in Africa that could go down as the entertainment capital of Africa. We now need to reinforce some of those things, articulate and organize them better. For business and a little bit of M.I.C.E., I think that is an area where we can scale up and dominate, but the understanding and organization to achieve those goals now need to be done.”
The President, Institute of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ITPN) and Project Coordinator of the annual International Tourism and Transport Summit (ITTS), Chief Abiodun Odusanwo also spoke on the newly unveiled tourism master plan of Lagos State: “It provides a platform on which activities can now be planned by both those in the tourism industry and those outside tourism, you know tourism affects many facet of our daily lives. With the tourism master plan, it now provides basis on which budgets activities can now be planned. It allows for more or less uniformity terms of activities of many stakeholders in the state and even outside the country.
Now what it does also is that with the tourism master plan, associations can begin to map out their corresponding activities emanating out of the tourism master plan. What the plan just did is to give an indication on what could or should be done achieve a particular outcome. The master plan would now allow players to begin to have their strategic activities linked to the master plan. It allows for more coordination for activities throughout the state. For example, somebody within the transportation industry will now say this is the master plan, how will this affect mine sector of the economy? It gives strategic options at the state level for one to follow. I am glad that the state’s tourism master plan has finally been unveiled. I think we should equally look into the case of the Nigerian Tourism Master-plan. Since it was introduce many years ago, it has not been implemented. So, with the pioneering state of Lagos, what is now means is that more states in the country will now use it as a spur to come up with their own tourism master plan. So, it is a good development, it will also allow other sectors of the economy to now begin to see how they can develop master plan for their sector.”
On the inability of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to birth the Nigerian tourism master plan, Odusanwo said the draft national tourism master plan has become obsolete: “It is a pity a lot of efforts and time were expended in arriving at the Nigerian tourism master plan. I am afraid it is more or less late for the national tourism master plan to be implemented because the way thing were many years ago when the master plan was actually drafted are different now. So, really the tourism master plan is out of date. It divided Nigeria into clusters and identified some key areas of focus. It is very unfortunate, while some of them could be relevant; a large number of them are out of date in terms of technological advancement and social indices of the country. So, it is unfortunate that the national tourism master plan was not implemented. I am afraid now it couldn’t be any more because most of the factors captured therein are no longer tenable.”
Other industry practitioners believe the Lagos State government’s tourism agenda is on right track and called on the Federal Government to revisit the issue of master plan for the development of tourism in the country.