By JIMOH BABATUNDE
The Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, said her visits to the six geo-political zones of the country has revalidated her strong belief that promotion and development of domestic tourism is the way to go .
Mbanefo revealed that after promising stakeholders late last year to focus on domestic tourism that she has been on the road visiting all major attractions to authenticate the existence and status of tourist sites in all the six geopolitical zones and Abuja.
Speaking with this reporter in Lagos after visiting the Akran of Badagry, De Wheno, Aholu Menu-Toyi I in his palace, the NTDC’s boss revealed that she has visited about 15 states, meeting with governors, tourism/culture commissioners, traditional rulers, and chief executives of tourism agencies with the view to partnering with them on the importance of the tourism sector to the local economy.
According to her, the plank of her visits across the country has been that of, ‘we can do it and we must do it jointly.’
Ms. Mbanefo disclosed that her visits have now convinced her that domestic tourism is an avenue to generate wealth for an economy blessed with a rich population.
“From the several festivals/carnivals such as Carnival Calabar, Carniriv, OsunOsogbo, and Mare festivals, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation now has enough activities to promote and stimulate the once forgotten domestic tourism.”
She said is already organizing a national tourism calendar for domestic tourism, working with all states in Nigeria, “while there is no illusion that most of its tourist attractions though in existence, need development and investments, the leadership and board of the NTDC, with the support of the minister, are making conscious efforts to attract investors into the country.”
During her visit to Badagry, the Akran of Badagry, De Wheno, Aholu Menu-Toyi I, described the domestic tourism promotion agenda of NTDC as an incontestable way to promote Nigeria's tourism and boost the nation's economy.
The monarch said "Sally Mbanefo is hitting the nail on the head with the promotion of domestic tourism. This was what the government of Japan did some years ago with a law stopping Japanese from traveling out of the country for holidays. It paid off. It did not only endear Japanese to their country and the tourist attractions therein, but it also wooed foreigners to the country and developed their economy.
"Domestic tourism remains the best approach to promote Nigeria's tourism and better the lots of Nigeria and Nigerians. Hence, the NTDC boss should be well-mobilised and supported by every stakeholder in the industry to achieve her domestic tourism promotion course, which in turn will boost our economy, hearten peace and unity, drastically reduce social vices and woo hosts of foreign tourists to our country."
De Wheno, who described the NTDC boss' visit to his palace as momentous, as the visit coincided with his 37th coronation anniversary noted that Sally Mbanefo is the first Director-General of the NTDC to personally come to Badagry to appreciate the tourist sites in the town with a view to championing their development and promotion.
Mbanefo, while congratulating the monarch on his peaceful reign, disclosed that domestic tourism will enable Nigerians know Nigeria, appreciate the innumerable and enviable tourist attractions in the country, appreciate different fascinating cultures and traditions in the country, and also attract foreigners to the country.”
She described her visit to Badagry as part of her ongoing visit to the geo-political zones in the country to visit the tourists’ sites in the states of the federation, see to how to develop and promote them to encourage Nigerians travel within Nigerian and foreigners to travel to Nigeria. This, according to her will have immense benefit on the nation and her good people.
Mbanefo described Badagry as the first tourist destination in Lagos, adding that, "there is no way the history of Nigeria will be written without prominently mentioning Badagry, where Christianity was first preached in 1842 by Reverend Thomas Birch Freeman, where the first Christmas was held in Nigeria, where the first church, the first primary school and the first story building in Nigeria, just to mention a few, are located.”
The Akran of Badagry while presenting a gift of coconut to the NTDC boss prayed that God should give her Solomon-like wisdom to achieve her lofty dream for Nigeria tourism, which will make Nigeria, which is enviably rich in tourism, stand tall in the comity of nations and enrich her people.