Inspiring new vision to re-brand culture, tourism in Nigeria.
It is common knowledge that Dubai in United Arab Emirate is one of the world’s most visited cities in recent times. Tourist attractions in the city include Miracle Garden, Dubai Aquarium, Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountain, Old Dubai, Global Village, Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world and Burj Al Arab, the world’s tallest hotel with an underwater restaurant. Dubai has since emerged as a city where commerce communicates with culture to resonate as the tourism hub of the Middle East.
Unlike most tourists to Dubai, Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe, recently led the council’s management team on a trip to Dubai. The aim was to expose the delegation to cultural tourism management using Dubai as a model. It also served as capacity building investment primed to reinvigorate staff potentials in order to expand the frontiers of management of culture in Nigeria.
The team’s take-away is how does Nigeria leverage this illuminating exposure to brand and reinvent her cultural sector as a key player in the nation’s economy? Also, one inspiration behind the trip to Dubai is ‘Travel, see the sights and see what other people are doing with their culture and tourism. Come back home and see how to do something with ours. Market ours to the world, attract funds, grow the economy using culture and tourism to create jobs and attract tourists to Nigeria.’ In charting a new path to make total change in the creative sector, some major stakeholders in the sector especially, tourism operators, converged on Abuja last Friday for an interactive session devoid of rhetoric and theories. The screening of a 30-minute documentary on Dubai major sites set the tone for the brainstorming event organised by NCAC.
Otunba Runsewe did not mince words when he told every participant to freely express his mind on the way forward as Nigeria cannot afford to neglect its rich cultural heritage that must be promoted as foreign exchange earner like oil and gas. He said it is high time Nigeria woke up to the reality that the creative sector has the capacity to fund the nation’s economy if given adequate attention. He disclosed that NCAC is planning to take 36 state commissioners and other key stakeholders to these sites in Dubai for practical experience.
He said this vision needs drivers, ambassadors, platform runners, which every participant at the forum fits into. To him, this is a call to a new beginning to Africa and Nigeria must take the challenge first. “We are a people that believe we can do things first and I believe if they can do it there, we can do it and even better. The time is now as we cannot afford to wait any longer. The unborn Nigerians, the future generation of this country will not forgive us and posterity will not forgive us if we do not make amend and effect the changes now. So, I implore all stakeholders to come together for us to make a total change in this sector,” he said.
He noted that only three states in United Arab Emirate Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Chaja are states that make economic impact using artificial approach to the endeavours of life and turn it to economic strength. According to him, the management of NCAC undertook the trip to learn the tricks of these wonderful sites, with a view to inspiring same development back in Nigeria. “Only Dubai Mall has about 180 restaurants, over 5000 car park facility seeking more workers. Today, we must find a solution to our tourism industry,” he added.
Director Research and Development NCAC, Dr. Elizabeth Ben-Iheanacho described the trip as a fantastic learning experience from which Nigeria can learn from the tourism strength particularly the history and evolution of the city of Dubai from the ancient desert to a fascinating tourism destination.
Director Arts and Crafts, NCAC, Mrs ChinweAbara said the Dubai trip was phenomenal, which shows that the Emirate is well structured which Nigeria should emulate its commitment, spirit and sincerity of purpose of Dubai people in transforming some of our cultural sites into world tourism hub.
Director Performing Arts, Mr. Sam Agbi NCAC, said: “Words may fail me to express exactly how I feel. What I saw in Dubai is simply creativity at its peak. The experience at all the tourists’ sites shows that the people are wonderful and I pray and hope that government of Nigeria will replicate same.”
Among issues raised at the storming session that lasted some hours included setting up of a think-tank to drive the vision, conceptualise the ideas and develop them for implementation; establishment of a stand-alone tourism ministry and tourism police; imbibing the new culture of being proud of Nigeria, having Nigeria at heart and selling Nigeria; ensuring that professionalism is key in the new narrative; creating of content that will drive tourism; identifying like-minds that will serve as drivers, ambassadors and platform runners of the vision; and sustaining the advocacy for total change in the sector.
Among participants at the interactive session were President National Association of Tour Operators Hajia Bilikisu Abdul-Ogueyi, Tourism Boat Operator Mr. Gani Tarzan Balogun, Vice President Society of Nigerian Artists, Mr. Akeni Prosper, President National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, Mr. Bankole Bernard, Vice President Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria, (FCT) Mr. Badaki Aliyu and President ANJET Mr. Andrew Okungbowa.