With uncertainty surrounding the value of oil and gas as the backbone of any economy, given the decline in revenues from the sector for several years now, investment in the tourism sector has become increasingly imperative to sustain Economic Growth.
A leading example in this regard is Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which is achieving tremendous progress and impact on the global economy as a result of its enchanting investments in the tourism sector.
Interestingly, the country has recently opened its doors to the Rivers State government with the aim of boosting its domestic tourism and thereby enriching its economy.
Undoubtedly, Rivers State has rich tourist attractions in many local councils waiting to be exploited. These include Atlantic Beach at Ikuru Town in Andoni Local Council, Abuloma Sand City Beach and Kula Beach among others.
The results show that these tourist sites, if well developed, can attract national and international patronage which can revive the economy of the State.
Unfortunately, the state has repeatedly hosted the annual conferences of many professional organizations in the country such as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Institution of Property Surveyors (NIESV ) and the Pharmaceutical Company. of Nigeria (PSN) but did not have functioning tourist centers to make the participants’ stay more exciting.
Thus, many industry observers have seen the recent visit of a management team from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and 30 different companies with an unrivaled tourism track record to Port Harcourt to partner with the state to develop its great tourism potential as a welcome development.
Some of the travel partners in Port Harcourt included Al Khoory Hotel, Atlantis The Palm Hotel & Resort, Copthorne Hotel and Emaar Hospitality.
The others were Hilton Garden Inn, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, La Ville Hotel & Suites, Jumeirah Group, Mandarin Oriental, Millennium Airport Hotel, Palazzo Versace, SLS Hotel and Residences and Sheraton Mall of the Emirates.
Also, Dubai Healthcare Authority, American Hospital, Canadian Specialty Hospital, Kings College Hospital, Neuro Spine Hospital and Thumbay Hospital were among the healthcare facilities that stormed Port Harcourt.
A visit by The Guardian to Dubai in March this year revealed why the partnership would be a worthwhile venture. During the tour, he was taken to major sights like the Burj Khalifa, a 124th-floor skyscraper and the tallest tower in the world. Also, a trip to the Arabian Desert revealed that it is a popular excursion site for many visitors. Tour operators were ready to take visitors tearing up the sand in a 4×4 – including an exhilarating descent into the dunes.
A visit to Dubai Mall revealed the world’s largest malls with tons of family attractions. Most stunning was the country’s recently launched “Museum of the Future”, which gives a glimpse of what life will be like in 2071.
The museum, located 77 meters above the ground, is an architectural marvel, built using robotic technology and with a focus on sustainability. The building is powered by 4,000 megawatts of solar energy. The pillarless structure houses seven unique and distinct floors. For visitors, the museum represents an unparalleled window to discover the future in all its aspects and dimensions.
Speaking to reporters in Port Harcourt during a road show, Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism’s Regional Director of International Operations, Ms. Stella Fubara, pointed out that Rivers State is endowed with a rich natural heritage and resources which, if well exploited, could improve the economic position of the state more than oil and gas.
She explained that Dubai Tourism has been in partnership and collaboration with the national tourism board for about three years now.
“We started in 2020 and we have collaborated with Rivers State Tourism Development Agency Chief Executive Yibok Koko to launch an art challenge here in Rivers State for the 23 council areas local. In this challenge, the artists had to draw their fiction of Dubai and we selected the top three. We took them on a seven-day trip to Dubai and exposed them to greater artistic awareness. This was the start of our collaboration with the Rivers State Tourism Board,” she said.
She explained that the main reason for the Dubai 2022 roadshow, which was also held in Lagos, Abuja and Kano, was to open a window of great opportunities for the country, adding that it was able to expose the wealthy Nigeria’s cultural heritage to the outside world. for a positive exploration.
She noted that it would also help travel agents and tour operators operating in Nigeria to improve their business and learn more about the destinations that actually serve Nigeria.
“It will help them develop their businesses, develop the economy and develop education. All we do is make the travel industry here better informed about what they are doing. Of course they use these tools throughout the road show and apply them to destinations and even apply them to inbound travel to Nigeria,” she noted.
Speaking to The Guardian, a media researcher and trainer who recently visited Dubai, Mr. Klem Ofokwu, said the partnership between Dubai and Rivers State will open the door to multiple development opportunities.
He pointed out that Rivers State has ample chance of doubling Dubai’s success as much of what Dubai has turned into tourist spots is man-made as opposed to natural resources such as the Oyorokotoro fishing colony and the creeks that run through it. local councils waiting to be exploited for tourism purposes. .
Ofo said, “The impact of tourism on the economy of Rivers State through this link will mean that hospitality, food, culture and every other aspect of people’s lives will come to life. If the government is serious, thousands of direct jobs and a million indirect jobs could be created within a few years to get young people off the streets.
Asked what lessons the state government should learn from Dubai, he said: “What makes Dubai thick is that leaders think globally; they see the whole world as their market. There is a sense of excellence and business consideration in everything they do.
“In Dubai, they have a smart strategy to get visitors to spend their money on top of making you go home satisfied. Tourism is not accidental and so if Rivers State wants to participate in this sector, it needs to sit down and develop a long-term plan, and ensure that safety is at the forefront.
“By talking about security here, I don’t mean deploying stern-looking men everywhere. In Dubai you don’t see security guards showing off, but they are there and visitors have a sense of security 24 hours a day. Rivers State should try to exploit areas where it has a comparative advantage. However, there are overlapping things like infrastructure and there is no shortcut. There is no tourism without a good transport system and citizen participation. Dubai boasts of all this.
Also speaking, Onyekachi Nwosu, a journalist based in Rivers State who was in Dubai during the Afrozon 2022 event, urged the state government to have a deliberate and long-term plan, which he said will was one of Dubai’s key strategies. .
“Always be ready to revamp and modernize existing plans to meet the latest trend. Be ready to engage the services of experts no matter who or where it comes from and invest heavily in areas of comparative advantage” , said Nwosu.
For his part, the Director General of the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency, Mr. Yibo Koko, claimed that Dubai had deliberated on what they were doing in the tourism sector.
He said: “Dubai is taking it gradually because to the extent that you take people to Dubai, you also take people to Rivers State.”
He expressed his optimism that the partnership would significantly boost the state’s economy.
However, many industry analysts have insisted that the state’s current enthusiasm for partnership will mean nothing unless the state government matches words with deeds by putting in place the necessary facilities that would resuscitate its tourism sector.