This Day (Lagos)

8 December 2012

Nigeria: Lagos Re-Emerges As Tourists' Haven

analysis

LAGOS STATE ISN'T THE ONLY STATE RE-INVENTING ITSELF AS A TOURIST HAVEN. FROM TOP SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC -IMPACTING EVENTS SUCH AS NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVAL TO HISTORICAL LANDMARKS SUCH AS FREEDOM PARK. OMOLOLA ITAYEMI EXAMINES LAGOS STATE's DRIVE TOWARDS BECOMING A TOURIST HAVEN

There used to be a time in the history of outdoor entertainment in Lagos, when all there was were the old fashioned cinema centers, Apapa Amusement Park, picnics at National Arts Theatre, visiting the Marina waterside area and bar beach but there was a catch to it, though these tourist attractions were few and far-in-between, it remains one of the best periods of socialization according to some adults. From the Parkways House of Humorous horrors at Apapa Amusement Club to watching films at Glover hall, fun was in high demand.

Memories were built on these. Take the former Apapa Amusement Club where there were lots of activities one could choose from. A complete park housed in a quiet residential area hidden away at Apapa with facilities and equipment that wowed any visitor. You had the Para-gliders, the sky wheel that made you feel like you were in an open airplane, the bumper cars, the cyclone, the horse rides, the boat ride (with actual water), they had "Rides for old and young alike." The night life wasn't dull either as jazz clubs, night clubs, agidigbo joints and casinos reigned supreme with night revelers moving around freely without security issues. For those that witnessed that era, it was nothing short of a blissful time and joy profound for both adults and children.

So it probably comes as no surprise that Lagos State is set to bring back those good old days though with added technology. In its determination to rehabilitate and bring to life some of these old revelery, landmarks such as the old Broad street prison has been converted into a memorial and leisure park called Freedom Park. Dedicated to our past heroes, it also part of the process of preserving the Lagos colonial heritage and history of the Old Board Street prison, which is less than two minutes drive from the former residence of the governor general and the former prime minister's residence on Marina. The beautiful 10,000 square metres of ruins became a beautiful new world class park.

This new public facility that rose out of the ruins of the old Broad Street Prisons, former home to some of Nigeria's most important politicians like Herbert Macaulay and Obafemi Awolowo. They were both incarcerated by the British government for their agitation for independence. After many years of being in ruins, architect Theo Lawson, drew up a plan to rehabilitate the prison and turn it into public us.

Late music legend Fela Anikulapokuti's former house also got a revamp in partnership with Lagos state. Set to be one of the core tourist landmarks of Lagos state, it has been converted to Kalakuta museum, a museum dedicated to his personal belongings, musical instrument and artworks and also lodging. Architect Theo Lawson also drew up a rehabilitation plan for Kalakuta Museum, turning the shrine into a museum is one of government's effort to immortalize Fela while boosting tourism on the State

According to commissioner of tourism and intergovernmental relations, Dr Disun Holloway, the effect of tourism on the aggregate of this economy is huge. It is a very known fact the the tourism industry impacts heavily on the economy, more than others. In most developing countries, tourism is key and when we employ people in this sector, the effect on the entire economy is desirous."

"We have a masterplan for this ministry and we are going to develop it and no part of Lagos state will be left out.

We have a robust events calendar and various events to support them especially with traditional festivals such as Adamu Orisha festival. We don't believe in having a fire brigade approach to plans, we have to plan and execute it.

What the governor did was to impact the Eyo festival without interfering with the traditional aspect which has become a template we can take to other places like Epe, Badagry and Ikorodu. Our definition of our own tourist is not persons coming from Europe and Asia, no that's not our target. Our target are persons resident within Nigeria and specifically in Lagos and generally along the coast of west Africa, that's our target. We have 21 million people in lagos, how many countries in west Africa have 21 million people?"

My target is those outlined above. Our strategy is that once you have to visit lagos as a biz traveler/tourist how can we keep you longer for one or two days to enjoy these amenities.

But that's not all Lagos state is interested in revamping towards its new drive, other sites and monuments which might be rehabilitated include the Popular Tinubu Square, The Glover Hall, Old Daily Times office at Kakawa Street, the First Mosque in the State, site where the Pipe borne water was first commissioned in Nigeria at Enuowa, First Public Toilet in Nigeria situated at Isale Eko, and the Freedom Park Lagos among others.

The Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations has commenced inspection of monuments and sites in the State with a view of making relevant recommendations to the State Government. The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, Mrs. Morounrant Alebiosu disclosed that the inspection was designed to enable the Ministry make recommendations on ways and possibilities of retuning the glory of such monuments in the State.

Alebiosu further explained that while government intends to look at ways of rehabilitating the monuments, she however assured that the originality and content of the monuments and sites will be retained.

But they're not stopping with monuments and sites alone, government's drive towards hosting mega sports and entertainment functions have not gone unnoticed. From SoccerFest in October to National sports Festival holding now till beginning of December, the multiplying effects of tourism can be felt. These mega events attract tourists from all over the country and beyond resulting in economic emancipation for hotels, cabs, leisure spots and the government as a whole.

National Sports Festival holding in different venues such as Teslim Elias stadium, Surulere, University of Lagos, Akoka and Yaba College of Technology, Yaba offers a variety of experience for competing athletes, tourists and residents of the state.

Festivals such as Eyo, Black Heritage Festival, Lagos Carnival, Water Regatta, Fanti and others are also tourism boosts for the state. The Marina water Front opened at the Oyinkan Abayomi driveway during last year's water regatta is another key tourist attraction. A kilometer long and sand filled, it should be a a Mecca for private boat and yacht clubs but response has been low. A visit there on a weekend showed little or no activity . Considering that there is no place where individuals can hire boating facilities for visitors or residents of Lagos, this is one amenity boat and sea lovers should troop to

However, tourism without infrastructure is no tourism. In this context Lagos state though still grappling with security issues in some areas of the state is working on a good blueprint transport wise. The BRT buses has helped ease movement across the state, the new metro cabs provide a cleaner and more urban option for the tourist that might not find the older cabs attractive.

Also the light rail system being presently worked on will definitely be an added resource to the tourism boost especially to axis where it will pass but the waterways still needs to be improved upon.

Also the film city in the works will be another great attraction that will drive-in tourists.

Even in this stage where most of the facilities to be revamped to bring back old Lagos has not been done, Lagos is not lacking in terms of social and leisure spots. Eateries, Cinemas, Shopping Malls like Shoprite all started springing up in Lagos bringing a new twist to the way we were antertained before.

However, feuds such as registration of hotels in Lagos state between the Lagos state government and Nigerian Tourist Development Corporation will hamper Lagos tourist haven drive as hotels are key components of tourism. Finding a middle ground with both parties is key in the drive towards Lagos state tourist haven attainment.

5 Reasons to hang out at DEJAVU Nite club

Dejavu Club and Restaurant is tucked in the serene part of Victoria Island. Just over a year in existence, it's fast becoming the new mecca for night crawlers and guests craving a great time. The 2-storey building boasts of a bar and lounge, VIP room and lodging (2 executive and 2 standard rooms). No gate fee is necessary, just be decently dressed. Opened all week, good security and dearth of area boys means you can have a good time without thinking of the safety of your car

1) Its VIP lounge with its roman-influenced theme is a mix of comfort and sheer opulence.

2) It affords you the opportunity to gaze at bare-chested females on canvas, a common theme running through the 2-storey building.

3) Indulge in their house special from cocktails to continental or African dishes. Last Man Standing cocktails and the grand T-bone steak is a favorite with guests

4) Unlike other nite clubs, lodgers up stairs need not fear disturbances, the bar and lounge situated on the 1st floor is sound proof

5) It's unlimited fun with Tuesday's Jazz Nite, Wednesday's Ladies nite, Thursday's Live Band, Friday's Party Time Clubbing, Saturday's Old Skool nite and Sunday's Karoke/Comedy nite .

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