‘‘We can create and convert Nigeria into the main tourist destination in Africa. There is a huge potential here. Culture, nature, food you have everything here.”
Those were the words of Zurab Pololikashvili, the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) who met with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa this week to discuss Nigeria’s tourism potential.
The discussion took place at the sidelines of the 61st UNWTO Commission for Africa (CAF) conference, which brings together African Ministers of Tourism, principal executives of the global tourism body and other stakeholders in the tourism sector.
Pololikashvili told the President that Nigeria has huge potential to develop the tourism sector considering its large economy. ‘‘You are investing in agriculture, improving seamless travel through the visa-on-arrival programme, reforming the economy and doing so much in terms of security,’’ he said.
President Buhari confirmed Nigeria had improved considerably in terms of safety and security. He explained it would have been inconceivable to host an international tourism conference in Abuja four years ago, because of security concerns.
“Minister Lai Mohammed has been trying to convince the world that Nigeria is safe and has great potentials for tourism and investment. I am glad that you and your team have come here to see things for yourself,’’ the President told the UN tourism chief
The President added he was pleased that the country is now sufficiently safe and secure to host major conferences. He said the message should go out to the world for all tourists and business travellers. “The first thing tourists look out for is security,” he said adding he was happy the country now has adequate security in place.
Highlighting the nexus between tourism and sustainable development, the President said Nigeria would not be left behind in ensuring that communities and businesses benefit from tourism development.