Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari said, yesterday, that his administration will grant pioneer status to tourism projects in Nigeria.
He said this while declaring open the 61st Meeting of United Nations World Tourism Organisation Commission for Africa, UNWTO-CAF, themed: Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development in Abuja.
The President, however, used the occasion to call on tourists and investors in the tourism sector across the globe to leverage on the favourable investment climate in Nigeria to invest in the country's tourism sector and benefit from its investment incentives.
President Buhari said: "I am delighted to address this auspicious occasion of the 61st meeting of United Nations World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, Commission for Africa, CAF, holding this year in Abuja, Nigeria.
"The importance of tourism and its potentials to national economies cannot be overemphasized. Tourism, as we all know, contributes to the wealth of nations and the well-being of citizens, largely through foreign exchange earnings, generation of revenue, creation of employment, knowledge, cultural integration as well as increase the GDP of the country.
"I call on tourists and investors in the tourism sector to consider Nigeria as their second home. This government has attractive investment incentives for investors in the tourism sector.
"Government is also deepening the legislative and institutional capacities for the protection of intellectual property rights in Nigeria. This will give all investors the assurance of security of their rights especially in the creative industry.
"Let me use this opportunity to earnestly commend the leadership of the UNWTO, the Commission for Africa, CAF, and, most importantly, the Tourism Ministers from all over Africa for considering Nigeria worthy of hosting this great event this year.
"Nigeria will continue to count on your support to host more international events as we will also support you whenever the opportunity knocks at your door."
Buhari, who described the conference theme as apt and timely, said the event could not have come at a better time than now, considering the significance of Tourism Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account, TSA, in measuring the contribution of the tourism sector to the national economy.
We'll create jobs through tourism-- UNWTO scribe
In his address, Secretary General of UNWTO, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, said: "We will make tourism special and use it to create jobs, alleviate poverty and wealth. But how far we will go will depend on how much we invest in African tourism. We will seek new partnership, engage private sector to develop tourism."
In his remarks, the Chairperson to African Union, Mustapha Mohammed, who was represented by the AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Tourism, urged African nations to prioritise tourism and investment in infrastructure for optimal economic development.
Tourism key to economic diversification agenda--Lai Mohammed
Earlier in his welcome remarks, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the meeting would provide excellent opportunity for participants to discuss ways and means to promote intra-Africa travels and tourism, leveraging on the vast and unique resources and the population, for mutual benefit to all member states.
Mohammed said: "Tourism has become an important sector of the economy for many member states, especially as an important source of foreign exchange earnings, employment generation and income creation, in addition to encouraging infrastructural development and poverty reduction. For us in Nigeria, it is one of the sectors we have identified as very key to our economic diversification agenda."