The Nigerian tourism industry in 2023 witnessed a significant improvement with the creation of a sole ministry for the sector after years of clarion call from stakeholders in the industry that tourism should be separated from the Ministry of Information.
The tourism industry which was under the Ministry of Information, Arts and Culture attracted little or no attention. Tourism in Nigeria didn’t gain the neccesary feasibility in spite the enormous potential in the industry.
On Aug. 16 2023, President Bola Tinubu yielded to the yearnings of tourism practitioners by creating Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy respectively.
This saw the total separation of the Ministry of Information from tourism, arts and culture, which attracted massive celebration with expectations that the industry will thrive better.
Lola Ade-John was appointed Minister of Tourism and Hannatu Musawa, Minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy. With this development, the ministry of tourism has only two parastatals to work with, while the arts, culture and creative economy is opportune to have no fewer than seven parastatals.
After critical analysis of this development, stakeholders in the culture and tourism sectors have continued to express deep concern about the separation of the ministry of culture from tourism.
The stakeholders said that to be strategic enough, the Federal Government would have established a sole ministry for culture and tourism instead of separating the two.
According to them, the industries are interwoven and cannot stand separately. They say the four industries will have to be streamlined into one ministry to be able to maximise the cultural, tourism and artistic potential of the nation.
Culture talks about the ways of life of particular individuals while art refers to the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as paintings or sculptures.
The products emanating from the nation’s culture and arts (artistes and artists) becomes tourism attractions for the world, while the marketing of these products will now involve the creative industry.
Chief Olusegun Runsewe, Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), who tried to draw the federal government’s attention to this, says there is an inevitable partnership between culture and tourism as they remain interwoven.
Runsewe says going forward, the culture and tourism sectors must be allowed to operate as a single entity to give room for sporadic growth in 2024.
“Infact, as two sides of the same coin, tourism cannot exist without culture because culture provides the necessary ingredients and content for tourism development.
“Our festivals, costumes, heritage sites, food, fabrics and fashion, fascinating arts and artistic products which are the rich elements of our culture are indeed the motivations that can make our nation a choice tourism destination.
“This is why in all parts of the world where tourism is a strong economic venture, culture provides the building block and unique selling point.
“This matter bothers on administrative policy at the highest level,” he said. For Frank Meke, a Tourism Consultant, tourism and culture should be made to operate under a single ministry to attract enough budget from the federal government for proper enhancement of the nation’s cultural products.
Meke says while the culture sector is saddled with the preservation and generation of cultural products, the tourism sector will promote and market those cultural products, which accounts for the reason the two sectors must be made to operate as an entity.
“Culture cannot market itself, it needs tourism. We need the two sectors merged, to attract improved budgetary allocation, which is needed to enhance the promotion and marketing of our cultural products and heritage sites,” he said.
Meke notes that tourism and culture are specialised sectors which require engaging professionals to spearhead the sectors.
According to him, the nation will be doing a lot of disservice to itself when incapable hands are constantly engaged in the leadership of the sectors.
He says nations yielding bountifully from the promotion of tourism and culture, like United Arab Emirate, Gambia, South Africa, Kenya and more have over the years involved professionals in the sector.
He explains that engaging professionals as ministers, commissioners and all within the sectors will bring about remarkable transformation as well as attract international collaborations.
“The tourism and culture sectors are capable of putting Nigeria on the global stage if the ennormous potential in the sectors can be well harnessed by professionals.
“These are sectors that can generate the needed job opportunities for our youths but unfortunately, government is not looking in that direction,” he said.
Also, during the recent review of the 35 editions of the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), stakeholders recommended that culture and tourism should remain as one ministry, both at the federal and state levels.
This, they say, will complement each other and contribute meaningfully to the diversification efforts of government and the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of the nation. The review committee including state commissioners of tourism and major stakeholders in the industry say that culture provides the content for the development of tourism and as such, culture and tourism are intricately interwoven and inseparable.