Economy: Tourism is the new oil – Lai Mohammed

Despite the current economic recession, Nigeria’s future is bright, as the country diversifies its economy away from oil, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said, yesterday, in Lagos.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 2016 World Tourism Day in Eko Atlantic, the city that is being built on reclaimed land on the Bar Beach, the Minister said there is no better testimony to Nigeria’s bright economic future than the new city.

He said: “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.”

Alhaji Mohammed said that 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.

According to him, ‘’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 the choice of Eko Atlantic City as the venue of the 2016 World Tourism Day celebration is significant, adding: ‘’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.”

The Minister called Eko Atlantic City ‘’a tourist haven’’ which has what it takes to drive tourism in Nigeria.

His words: “‘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.

Addressing the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day celebration, themed: ‘TOURISM FOR ALL: PROMOTING UNIVERSAL ACCESSIBILITY, the Minister said Eko Atlantic City that is shaping up as one of Nigeria’s top tourist destinations would be accessible all: the rich and the poor, the young and the old as well as men and women.

Earlier, the management of Eko Atlantic made a video presentation of the budding city to the Minister, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule (who stood in for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode), their entourage and the media, after which they were all taken on a guided tour of the city, whose first resident is due to move in next month.

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