Travel & Tourism

WORLD TOURISM DAY 2020: Tourism and rural development on focus

As the yearly celebration of the World Tourism Day holds tomorrow across the world, especially in countries where tourism is taken as serious business, four countries will be of major interest to many people. These countries are: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay as well as Chile, which has an observer status at the UNWTO. According to the UNWTO: ‘‘For the first time in the history of World Tourism Day, the 2020 official celebration will be hosted by a group of countries and not a single UNWTO member state.

‘‘The cross-border cooperation of the Mercosur nations (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, plus Chile who has observer status) reflects the current need for international solidarity and cooperation. This is especially true for tourism, working together towards a common goal.’’

The reason for this is historical because it is the first time that the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), organisers of the annual celebration will be ceding the hosting right of the global celebration to four countries, which is a clear departure for the usual tradition.

Besides, this year’s celebration will also not be witnessing the colours and high octave celebrations that normally associated with the celebration due to the impact of COVID – 19, which has necessitated the ‘new normal,’ resulting in things be done in a low keyed manner with high regard to health protocols and social distancing. Therefore, this historic celebration this year would not be heralded with the expected fun fair.

This celebration too would not have come at any other better time but this period when the world is witnessing restart of businesses with tourism business staging a comeback following the lifting of restrictions and bans on travels and destinations by most countries.

What perhaps will be most auspicious for most countries that the day would be used to re-launch tourism and for the UNWTO, it is most certainly a celebration of the resilience nature of tourism because despite it be the most hit across the world by the impact of the pandemic, tourism has remained resilience and is expected to be rebound in the coming days even though the growth and revenue projections for this year has been made nonsense of by the pandemic. Last year the theme of the celebration was: Tourism and Job creations: A better future for all while this year’s theme is: Tourism and Rural Development.

As stated by the UNWTO: ‘‘Tourism and Rural Development celebrates the sector’s unique ability to drive economic development and provide opportunities outside of big cities, including in those communities that would otherwise be left behind.

World Tourism Day 2020 also highlights the important role tourism plays in preserving and promoting cultural and heritage all around the world. It further said that: UNWTO has designated 2020 as the year of tourism and rural development. This Year is an opportunity to promote the potential of tourism to create jobs and opportunities.

It can also advance inclusion and highlight the unique role tourism can play in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage and curbing urban migration.’’ It will be recalled that the celebration of the World Tourism Day as an annual event was officially adopted in 1979 following a motion moved at the UNWTO general assembly by the late Dr. Ignatius Atigbi, a Nigerian who represented Nigeria on UNWTO. Following this, the first WTD was held in September 27, 1980, as the date marks the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes in 1970. UNWTO was established on January 2, 1975 on the entry into force of statutes adopted on September 27, 1970 in Mexico City. Zurab Pololikashvili: Tourism is a lifeline for many rural communities In his goodwill message, the Secretary General of UNWTO, Zurab Polokashvili, has charged countries of the world to see the potential of tourism in rural development and latch unto it to transform their localities and people in order to enrich the global communities. For the past 40 years, World Tourism Day has highlighted the power of tourism to touch on almost every part of our societies. Right now, this message is more important than ever.

The theme of World Tourism Day 2020 – Tourism and Rural Development – is particularly relevant as we face up to an unprecedented crisis. Tourism has proven to be a lifeline for many rural communities. However, its true force still needs to be fully deployed. The sector is not just a leading source of employment, particularly for women and youth.

It also provides opportunities for territorial cohesion and socio-economic inclusion for the most vulnerable regions. Tourism helps rural communities hold onto their unique natural and cultural heritage, supporting conservation projects, including those safeguarding endangered species, lost traditions or flavours.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. Our sector is among the hardest hit with millions of jobs at risk. As we join forces to restart tourism, we must live up to our responsibility to ensure that tourism’s benefits are shared by all. This crisis is an opportunity to rethink the tourism sector and its contribution to the people and planet; an opportunity to build back better towards a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient tourism.

Placing rural development at the heart of tourism policies through education, investment, innovation and technology can transform the livelihoods of millions, preserve our environment and our culture. As the ultimate cross-cutting sector, tourism contributes directly or indirectly to all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Harnessing tourism as a driver of rural development will keep the global community on track to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our ambitious plan for people and planet. As we mark the 75 years of the United Nations, it is time to really fulfill tourism’s massive potential, including its unique ability to drive development for rural communities, backing up our pledge to leave nobody behind. Lagos State government set to host celebrations in five centres While the drum will be louder, however, in a most subdued and measured manner in many cities and rural communities across the world, in Nigeria, the unfolding scene tomorrow may be different as not many of the state governments and local communities, including the federal government, are rolling out the drums in celebration of this special global day.

The reason for this disdain and quiet disposition towards tourism is obvious in the country, and that is because tourism is not yet seen as a serious business but rather as a social event, running contrary to the principle of UNWTO. However, for states like Lagos, Ogun, and Oyo, which acknowledged the economic importance of tourism, plans have been made to celebrate the World Tourism Day in a grand style. According to the Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, the state government has concluded plans to host the event in a new fashion, with celebration slated to hold in the five divisions of the state simultaneously. According to her, the events at the five centres will be in conformity with Covid19 safety protocols as plans have been concluded to restrict physical participation by the public during the celebration.

Many of the participants are expected to join the celebration through zoom platform, facebook live stream and from the five respective divisions of the state, while a smaller number of persons will join some high profile guests at the physical event taking place in Ikeja.

Some of the slated discussants at the event include: Past permanent secretaries and commissioners of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture while the Oniru of Iruland, Oba Gbolahan Lawal, will deliver a Goodwill message during the event. In Ogun State, the celebration will be observed through a virtual event, with the state governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun as the guest of honour while the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is the special guest of honour as well as the keynote speaker. With the state Commissioner for Tourism and Culture, Oluwatoyin Emmanuel Taiwo, as the host, the guest speakers for the day are: Yusuf Temitope Adejojo, chairman of Ogun State House of Assembly Committee on Information, Culture and Tourism; Taiwo Oludotun, Ogun State Commissioner for Rural Development; Aare Kola Oyefeso, president, Kotco Group; Ola Wright, CEO of West Africa Tourism Organisation (WATO); Professor Anthony Ijeola Asiwaju, Emeritus Professor of History and president of African Regional Institute. A press conference will also be addressed by the minister and Ogun State governor as part of the events slated for the celebration. Idere Hills to host Oyo State event In Oyo State the visibility of Idere Hills in on the ascendancy with the Oyo State government settling for it as the venue of its World Tourism Day celebration. This development was made known in a letter written to that effect by the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr. Wasiu Olatunbosun, to the initiator of Ibarapa Tourism Agenda (ITA), Mr. Olugbenga Sunday. It would be recalled that since Sunday drew attention to the hills, which is one of the hitherto unknown tourist attractions in Ibarapaland, it has become an instant hint for tour operators and domestic tourists who have continued to visit the natural enchanting site in droves. A delegation from the state government also recently visited to list it as one of the tourist attractions of the state for development and promotion.

The choice of the site as host of this year’s WTD event is a further acknowledgement by the state government of the importance and popularity of the site as it has placed the state on the global tourism map. It is hoped that the government will seize the moment to move quickly to the community to develop it into a thriving destination and not just a tourist attraction as that is the only way the people, including the state government, can benefit from its economic elements.

 

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