By Ebitonye Akpodigha
Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, has disclosed that the tourism industry has the potential of being the country’s main foreign exchange earner.
Mr Mohammed made this known on Tuesday in Lagos at an event to mark the 2016 World Tourism Day in Eko Atlantic, the city that is being built on reclaimed land on the Bar Beach.
The 2016 World Tourism Day was themed ‘Tourism For All: Promoting Universal Accessibility.’
The Minister remarked that, “It takes an investor to have a great confidence in any economy before putting hundreds of millions of dollars into a city like this. Those who can see the bright stars in our horizon, beyond this temporary cloud of difficulties, are investing in the country even as we speak.”
He said as the Federal Government works day and night to pull Nigeria out of recession and put the country’s economy on the path of sustainable growth, “it is becoming increasingly clear, like President Muhammadu Buhari has admonished, that we must think out of the box.
”We must find other sustainable means of earning foreign exchange outside of oil, to grow our country’s GDP and create jobs for our people. Agriculture and mining are viable options, but tourism is the low hanging fruit in this regard, and we must not hesitate to pluck it,” he said.
Mr Mohammed explained that the choice of Eko Atlantic City as the venue of the 2016 World Tourism Day celebration was significant, adding that, “While I will like to reiterate Nigeria’s readiness to explore and exploit tourism for the benefit of its economy, I can confidently add that Eko Atlantic City has what it takes to drive tourism in Nigeria. And this is just as well, because while the role of the government will be to provide the enabling environment, the private sector will drive the growth of tourism.”
He described Eko Atlantic City as “a tourist haven” which has what it takes to drive tourism in Nigeria
“The city will boast of 450,000 residents and 300,000 commuters (daily), which is a boon for the myriad of businesses to be located in the city.
“In addition, it will have a registered Free Economic Zone to encourage economic activities. As you are also aware, shopping malls attract tourists the way bees are attracted to honey. The shopping mall here in Eko Atlantic will be the largest of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The 10 million square metres of space in the city will also boast of an impressive retail layout for shopping, vast amenities for entertainment, such as food courts, cinemas and playgrounds, an ample parking space and a canal that can be used for water transportation and water sports.
“Nigerians who are looking for relaxation spots and exquisite shopping malls will no longer need to jet to Dubai and similar destinations, because Eko Atlantic City will be a better destination than Dubai. This is not a joke! Whereas you can only comfortably soak in the sights and sounds of Dubai for a maximum of four months every year due to the prevailing inclement weather there, Eko Atlantic City offers – in addition to the massive shopping mall – 365 days of sunshine and clement weather. This is an added incentive for foreign tourists. In short, the city will have everything you need for tourism to thrive: security, modern infrastructure, good weather, uninterrupted power supply, potable water supply, etc,” he said.