Within the last two decades, tourism has emerged as a huge global treasure and a symbol of socio-cultural advancement and economic prosperity. It has remained an elegant sector in the global economic index, representing the highest generating revenue for developing countries. Aside the aesthetic appeal, enthusiasm and serenity that are usually associated with it, it has dynamically evolved to influence the viability of other sectors such as agriculture, construction, telecommunication, IT, manufacturing, education, culture, sports and entertainment.
Despite its glowing commercial and political opulence, the city of Lagos still maintains its historical adornment, cultural profusion, expansive beaches, extensive natural and artistic attractions and adventure opportunities. In Nigeria, any time stuffs like cuisines, monuments, natural wonders and vibrant nightlife are discussed; Lagos spontaneously comes to mind.
Of the few modern cities in Africa that can best relay the struggle and triumph of the black race to the conscience of the entire world, Lagos provides the most grandeur of such heritage identity. Today, Lagos has evolved to become one of the fastest growing, liveable and multicultural cities in the world.
One major location that titillates the feelings of primordial journey and emancipation in Africa is the historical city of Badagry. Badagry is a repository of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade where Africa’s rich and extensive history is evident. The city harbours the Black Heritage Museum that provides an insightful experience of the dark days and contains historical artefacts, trade documents, sketches, photos, sculptures and other salvaged historical records.
A journey into the entrails of the museum’s nine galleries will throw you into splendour of antiquity. Other monumental sites in Badagry that resonate the experience of the dark days include; The point of no return, Ark of no return at Gberefu Island, Vlekete Slave Market, First Storey Building in Nigeria, Well of Spirit Attenuation (Tomiyi well) and slave Port and Palace.Towards the regeneration of this patrimony and the preservation of its sacrament and relics of slavery, the State government has upgraded the 154-year-old Museum, constructed a Tourism Information Centre, Mini Theatre and Performance stage and exclusive bar at Slave Port. A trip to these iconic sites will surely be mind-blowing.
The State responsive approach to have distinct policy in promoting and sustaining her inspiring heritage through the State’s Council of Arts and Culture has built an enabling environment for private participation in cultural advocacy and creative presentation. Through its generation and participation in local and international events, the council has nurtured and promoted diverse talents in fields such as creative arts, music, entertainment and sports.
The State’s Public Private Partnership model has afforded private initiative to thrive in harnessing and strengthening the component units within the tourism sector. The expansion of hospitality and construction of tourist destination further illustrates the determination of the state to upscale investment in the creative industry, stimulate the state economy and cause an improvement in the aesthetic appeal of all existing iconic facilities in the state in partnership with stakeholders. Some of such projects include the ongoing world-class Lagos museum which co-exists alongside the famous National Museum at Onikan, the redevelopment of J.K Randle Centre and the construction of six new theatres across the state.
Furthermore, the state is bequeathed the finest qualities of nature, a coastal city with lots of sandy beaches adorned with the coconut trees nestling in various parts of the metropolis, the charming landscape and the enthralling atmosphere ideal for relaxation spots makes it a bride of tourists. The city’s waterways boast vibrant economic and unlimited recreational opportunities and a major business best suited for that stretch of waterway is tourism.
Interestingly, tourism is a powerful incentive for the provision of adequate infrastructure and facilities that create favourable environment needed for the industry to thrive. The government is glutting the rural and urban areas of the state with relevant social infrastructure through the construction and expansion of roads, bridges and flyovers across the state. Massive urban and rural electrification project baptized “Light –up-Lagos” has illuminated over six hundred streets across the state and improved power supply. Currently, the state is pursuing an integrated road network through the construction of several excellent roads to reduce gridlocks and since the city is interlinked with a network of waterways, the state is optimally exploiting this as a motivation to make water transportation a viable option.
Conspicuous innovative efforts to strengthen the operation of security agencies to meet the inevitable security challenges of the 21st century highlight government desire to create an excellent landscape for tourism and business development. This has modelled the city a breeding habitat for both local and foreign investors and has engendered the endearing expedition tourists have always enjoyed in the state.
With the establishment of Office of Overseas Affairs and Investment (Lagos Global), the State is not only projecting to the world its abundant potential for business, tourism and leisure, it is also managing investment opportunities that will outlive generations. One major project that will soon launch the State into global eye and open it for greater economic prosperity is the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ). Soon, the public- private driven project will host an international airport, seaport and a refinery among others.
More importantly, the development of tourism depends mainly on the quality of the environment and natural sustainability because there is hardly any kind of business, which is more interested in the preservation of all components of the environment than tourism. To this end, government is channelling sufficient technical and financial assets to replenish the resources used by tourists and sustain the ecosystem (natural endowment) by promoting the ideals of greening and efficient disposal mechanism. Towards combating climate change and environmental degradation, the state has been embarked on regular planting of trees and landscaping by ensuring the establishment of parks and gardens units in all LGAs and LCDAs to stimulate the development of recreational parks at the grassroots.
In order to further leverage on its various tourism potentials, the state government has come up with a tourism master plan that will consolidate current gains in the sector. The master plan that was designed by Messrs Ernst & Young focuses on culture and heritage, film, art and entertainment, business tourism, nature and adventure, medical and wellness and beach and leisure.
With dwindling oil revenue, there is indeed an urgent need for all tiers of government in the country to diversify the economy. Developing the tourism sector remains one sure option that can help in accelerating our socio-economic development. This is what the Lagos State government aims to achieve with its current strides in the sector. With many attractive tourist centers, diverse cultural heritages and a resilient people, Lagos certainly stands to gain a lot if all stakeholders evolve new strategies to explore its huge tourism potentials.
Akinfenwa is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa Ikeja.