By Modupe Gbadeyanka
In a bid to transform Nigeria into a tourist sector destination in Africa and position it as lever of Nigeria’s economic growth and development, Heritage Bank Plc has partnered federal government and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
The bank partnered Nigerian government at the 61st meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organization-Commission for Africa (UNWTO-CAF), in Abuja, attended by over 166 foreign delegates, 26 ministers and 332 Nigerian delegates, excluding local and foreign pressmen.
Speaking on the 61st Meeting with the theme ‘Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development,’ President Muhammad Buhari stated that Nigeria was safe and secure for tourism, citing improved security and the country’s burgeoning economy as basis for his verdict.
He called on tourists and investors in the tourism sector to consider Nigeria as their second home saying government has provided attractive investment incentives for investors in the sector.
Whilst wooing the investors for developments, President Buhari assured of minimum tariff on investment on amusement park equipment, materials for hotel construction, furnishing, dedicated transportation for tour operators and equipment for restaurants not manufactured in Nigeria, minimum duty on casino equipment and work permit for foreign workers with specialised skills within the industry.
Speaking at the event, the MD/CEO of Heritage Bank, Mr Ifie Sekibo, said since the government deemed it right to partner with the bank in order to synergies together and move tourism potentials of Nigeria to the next level, the bank will continue to increase investment and support to the sector in year ahead.
“Over the years the bank has believed in tourism and we always keep trying as much as possible to support the tourism sector. Over the years we think it is something we have done with a quite a number of stakeholders and we have done that quite well.
“In the coming years, we should expect more of better handshake. We intend to do more; because looking at what they are trying to achieve here now, we have seen that they are trying to take in much into the other sectors. We think we would still be there for them.
“The sector is quite lucrative, but for us, what we are doing basically is like partnership. That is what we have done with them over the years. We have done quite a few investments in the sector,” Mr Sekibo hinted.
He further called for increased support from financial institutions and governments at all levels, especially in creating enabling environment for operators to thrive.
In his remarks the Secretary-General of United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Zurab Pololikashvili affirmed that Nigeria has the potential to be one of the world best tourists destinations.
He said it is imperative for the nation to have a proper statistics of tourism contributions to the growth of Gross Domestics Products (GDP).
Pololikashvili expressed satisfaction at the turnout of both local and foreign participants at the 61st UNWTO/ CAF meeting.
In his remarks, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, who thanked the UNWTO Secretary-General and his entire team, Heritage Bank and others for their support noted that tourism has become an important sector of the economy for many member states, especially as an important source of foreign exchange earnings, employment generation and income creation. Mohammed said in addition to encouraging infrastructural development and poverty reduction tourism is one of the sectors the federal government has identified as very key to its economic diversification agenda.
He said that the sustained growth of the tourism industry illustrates how this all-important sector, with its added advantages can assist member states’ economies to reap the benefits of globalisation.
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