It is no longer news that there is a new helmsman at the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture. He is Mr. Steve Ayorinde who until his appointment was the Lagos State Information Commissioner. Right now, he is bubbling with ideas and he is ready to turn that sector around. In fact, his boss Gov. Ambode has given him marching orders to give the Tourism, Arts and Culture Sector a new lease of life. In this special interview, with City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE, he talks about the new Tourism Master plan which the LASG is working on which will be unveiled in a few months time. Below are excerpts of the interview.
As you settle down as Commissioner in the Tourism Ministry what are we to expect?
As far as Tourism Arts & Culture is concerned it is going to be a year-long roller coaster. You will see in the next 7 to 9 months that Tourism has come to change for good in Lagos State. Our keyword from now on is Sustainable Tourism. That is what we want to deliver.
What does this mean?
It means a lot. It means that Tourism will no longer be something that your mouth, something that you name drop. Tourism will be a business. It will have a set of rules. It will be properly regulated and it will have its own deliverables and you can harvest good returns from Tourism. And therefore there will be 4 key things that we will show to the whole world this year to show that we mean business. What we would do is that we have drawn up a calender of events of activities from January the 1st to 31st of December, which will mean that we have a sort of Calender that we can publish for the whole world to see and say, if you going to Lagos for any reason whatsoever, either you are coming in as a Lagosian from other parts of Lagos like Epe, Badagry, coming into mainstream Lagos metropolis, or you are coming from mainstream Lagos metropolis, meaning Lagos Island or Lagos Mainland and you are going to either Ikeja, Epe or Ikorodu, there will be a reason to want to move around. Beyond that, if you are a Nigerian coming from other West African or African countries or those coming from Diaspora, or business travellers who come to Lagos. We expect that the Calender will give you a reason to want to explore Lagos beyond the primary reason that must have brought you into the State. If the primary reason that you are coming into lagos is to go for a wedding in Abeokuta, or Benin or a Burial in Abuja or for a meeting in Kaduna and you are coming into Lagos as your point of entry, we are saying that from this year we are going to give you a reason why you need to come in a day or two earlier, as we do else where abroad, for additional one or two days in lagos, so that you can see other sides of Lagos which they’ve never heard of before or they never had time to discover. Now, we will show you and demonstrate the reasons why you need to be in Lagos.
So, we will give you 4 things this year. First, is the Calendar of events. See what the Governor has done from the 1st of January, the Alli Baba Concert. I do not know of any other country in the world where not just a popular artiste but the biggest name in the comedy world say I want to create a reason why people should come out on Jan. 1st after all the crossover night, with countdown, that in the evening of the 1st day of the year, you will come out and have fun. that is the 1st Concert/Comedy show of the year. Guess what Gov. Ambode was there. He became the 1st sitting governor that will attend that show. That to us shows commitment. It shows that he identifies with an important event in the Calender of activities of Tourism in the state. Last year, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode became the 1st sitting governor to go to the African Shrine Felas shrine, Femi Kuti and Seun Shrine to celebrate Fela. Those things are necessary in selling your state and in showing to the world that you have a Governor who is committed to things of the art. It is commendable when a sitting Governor goes to Alli Baba Show first of the year, in the evening and spends 2 hours there and he goes to African Shrine and spends 2 hours there and dances to Femi, there is a message being sent. We have a Governor, an Accountant, a cerebral one for that matter, an astute manager of men and resources, who says I want to identify with things of the Art. So, there would be a Calender, for the year, that will set the stage on a yearly basis for things that you will see happen in January, April, May, August, till December when you will see street carnival, Lagos fiesta. And we thought we should do that in a manner that people will get a new feel of Tourism in a manner that people will get used to the Calendar and start looking forward to the events. That is the only way you can sell your creative content, your activity content, as far as Arts and Culture is concerned. But more importantly, for the 1st time this year, we would have a Tourism Summit where you will have everybody involved in the business of Tourism, Creative economy, entertainers, tour operators, chefs, hotelier, people in the traveling business, security business, airport business, etc everybody involved, coming under one roof for 2 days to talk about the things that they need, their concerns. It’s going to be almost like a town hall meeting with Tourism professionals, tourism operators, etc. It is important for us to have that in April which will come midway, just before we conclude our plans on delivering for the first time ever, a Tourism Masterplan for Lagos State which will come as part of our activities for the 3rd year anniversary. That is important to us.
When people say that Lagos has a direction, part of the direction that Lagos State has, has to do with the Lagos State Development Plan (2012-2025) that was handed over to Gov. Ambode by his predecessor, ex-Gov. Fashola and the foundation was laid by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. You cannot feign ignorance as a Governor, or as members of his team or cabinet working with the Governor as far as the direction of development in Lagos State is concerned. Which includes, sustainable environment, security, economic development, etc I am talking of the 4 key pillars that make up developments in Lagos State. It is the same template that we want to use in giving Lagos State a Tourism Masterplan, that will now from June 1st, 2018 after it would have been presented. So from June 1st we would have a documented, for the 1st time ever, anywhere in Nigeria, that will show the direction of what we are capable of, of what the city and state in its entirety is capable of, what is available, what are the derivatives or deliverables as far as Tourism, Entertainment, Arts and Culture are concerned. So, we would have that. So, how many tour operators do we have?
Ideally, how many tour operators should we have? How are tour operators trained and certified? We have been told 60% of the Chefs in Grade A, B and C hotels and Restaurants in Lagos and Nigeria totally, as at today, are from outside, from Lome, Republic of Benin, Ghana. Just like you have, when it comes to Builders, Plumbers, and Artisans. So, we need to start asking questions – what is it that we are doing wrong that we cannot produce good cooks, in hotels and restaurants? How are they certified? When you watch them on TV abroad, on CNN or BBC and other cable channels, Chefs are treated as celebrities because people acknowledge what they do.
Even in the homes of upwardly mobile guys, you will find chefs who are not Nigerians. Now, to get a good chef you have to go to Lome, which is the entire size of the economy of Togo. The country of Togo is barely 20% of the economy of Lagos, not even of Nigeria.
So, our master plan will look at all these things, so that we would now say for the next 15 to 20 years this is the direction we want to take. It won’t matter who is coming in as Governor or as Commissioner or as Directors. There will be a document, the same way that the Lagos State Economic Development Plan is assisting anybody who comes in. Once you fall below the prescription of that master plan, you will know that there is trouble.
– Watch out for the details of the Master Plan here.