Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says culture and tourism in the new world order are referred to as soft power because of their influence in economic and international relations.
Osinbajo said this on Friday at the Grand Opening Ceremony of the Conference Hotel and Suites, Abeokuta, Ogun State, as the Special Guest of Honour.
He said that the location of the facility in Abeokuta would attract international conferences organisers desirous of serenity and tourism potentials.
“Indeed, many tourist sites are here in Ogun State including the Olumo Rock, all of the places we have around us today; I don’t want to go through the long list, the Presidential Library and Wole Soyinka Foundation Writers Retreat, and so many other tourist attractions.
“I doubt whether there is a need today to make a business or economic case for tourism.
“In fact, in the new world order, culture and tourism are not merely economic gold mines; they are often referred to as the soft power. In the years ahead, there is no doubt that tourism will increasingly become the driver of economic well-being and job-creator.
“According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), tourism and hospitality industry in Africa as a whole has a potential of 203.7 billion dollars, out of which only 50 billion dollars is developed due to poor infrastructure.
“UNWTO projects that international tourist arrivals to Africa in 2020 will be 77.3 million, representing an annual growth rate of 5.5 per cent.’’
He said that the government was investing massively in critical infrastructure such as railway and road construction to ease human traffic and movement of goods and position the country for a bigger share of the global tourism market.
The vice president said that President Muhammadu Buhari had set up the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) to drive the Ease of Doing Business Reforms.
“Our simple mandate is to do everything to make sure that Nigeria becomes an easier place to do business.
“We are pushing the necessary reforms, cleaning up our airports, introduced visa on arrival, freeing up licenses and approval processes, among others and focusing on key infrastructural projects.
“For instance, earlier this year, I had the pleasure of commissioning the Lagos-Abeokuta railway. In fulfilment of the promise we made then, I am now pleased to announce that we have added the Lagos-Ibadan service; starting with free rides through the Christmas season– therefore linking Ogun, Lagos and Oyo States by modern railway.
“Our administration is fully committed to the promotion of culture and tourism.
“Only last month, President Buhari approved the hosting of the International Arts and Crafts (INAC) Expo in Abuja,” he said.
On his part, Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, thanked Osinbajo for gracing the occasion.
He also congratulated the proprietor, Gbenga Daniel, for the successful completion of the project.
Abiodun said he was delighted to note that each time the vice president came to his home state, it was always for a positive landmark, progress and development of the state and the nation at large.
“The last time you came was to turn the sod at Kajola where we are meant to have a workshop for trains that will be going from Ibadan to Lagos.
“ I wish to particularly congratulate the vice president for the completion of this facility; as our state continues to rise in the ladder as an industrial economy, as we continue to expand our economic base being the overflow of the fifth largest economy in Africa, more people will be coming to the state.
“Therefore, there will be a need for comfort; that itself justifies a facility like this.
“On one hand, this beautiful facility will contribute in no small measure towards providing conducive and standard hospitality to our guests, and even most of us residing in the state who needs a home away from home,’’ he said.
He said the strategic location of the facility would not only add to the aesthetics of the area but would significantly contribute to employment generation initiatives of the state government.
In a remark, Daniel said that he was overwhelmed by the strength and quality of turnout at the ceremony.
The former governor of Ogun State said the project was a contribution towards the growth of the tourism industry.