By Emmanuel Ikechukwu-Jonathan, JP.
Tourism is described as the act and process of spending time away from home in pursuit of recreation, relaxation and pleasure, while making use of the commercial provision of its services. It is a product of modern social arrangement, beginning in Western Europe in the 17th century, although it has antecedents in classical antiquity. Modern tourism has taken a new dimension with an increasing intensive, commercially organized, business oriented set of activities, whose roots can be found in the industrial and post individual western world.
The importance of tourism cannot be over emphasized as many countries of the world like Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Dubai, United Arab Emirates to mention but a few have made fortunes in religious, medical, business and leisure tourism.
It may be, in realization of these very important roles in human and socio-economic lives of any nation that the United Nations in its wisdom declared September 27th of every year as World Tourism Day. The theme of year 2020 World Tourism Day is “Tourism and Rural Development”. This year’s international day of observation comes at a critical moment, as countries around the world look to tourism to drive recovery, including in rural communities where the sector is a leading employer and economic pillar.
According to the United Nations, the 2020 edition also comes as governments look to the sector to drive recovery from the effects of the pandemic and with the enhanced recognition of tourism at the highest United Nations level. This was most notably illustrated with the recent release of a landmark Policy Brief on tourism from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in which he explained that “for rural communities, indigenous peoples and many other historically marginalized populations, tourism has been a vehicle for integration, empowerment and generating income.”
The adoption of the World Tourism date has been described as a major mile stone in global tourism and it is being celebrated/ commemorated world-wide over the years. In Nigeria, commentators in the Tourism Industry and Observers have maintained that Enugu is a choice destination point and tourist delight with many natural tourist sites. They also ranked Enugu as one of the most peaceful, tourists and business friendly states in Nigeria going by what Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration has achieved in security of lives and property and development of tourism in the state.
There is no gain saying the fact that Enugu State has always been noted for its abundant natural splendour and recreational sites. It is not surprising that Governor Ugwuanyi in line with his administrations four point agenda and in an effort to explore all the huge Tourism potentials is currently creating a new tourist site at the heart of Enugu the state capital aptly named “Enugu Unity Park”, the first of its kind in the South East of this country in addition to the numerous infrastructural development being experienced in all the sectors of the state economy.
In line with the theme of the year 2020 World Tourism Day, the Enugu State Tourism Board has unveiled plans of the state government to resuscitate Enugu State’s Tourism School in collaboration with the Institute For Management and Technology IMT and a host of other programmes which would create wealth for the people of the state through the unlimited employment opportunities inherent in the tourism sector.
The Enugu State Tourism Board headed by a newly appointed General Manager/ Chief Executive Officer, Hon. Steve Odo, upon assumption of office shortly after his appointment on the September 7, 2020, has held several meetings with the different departments of the board with a view to actualizing her duties and objectives of promotion of Tourism education and development of tourism industry in the state.
The General Manager, who spoke in commemoration of the World Tourism Day, said that the only way he could reward the governor’s gesture of appointing him to head the state tourism board was to lead a total rebranding of the tourism sector in line with 21st century models and demands.
He explained that in a bid to ensure that the tourism sector in the state is filled with internationally best standard trained staff that will work in hotels, highbrow restaurants, entertainment parks etc, the board will partner with IMT to offer short-term courses to be run for six months, adding, “Enugu is the center of South East and we need qualified hands to be serving in different tourism based outfits. We need to take tourism very seriously because it will pay more than the oil sector in the nearest future.
He also disclosed that the Board plans to further develop and utilize, manage Parks and Open Spaces, natural beauty spots, holiday resorts, museums and historical sites and enumeration of hotels, restaurants across the state.
For effective coordination and actualization of the programmes of Tourism by Enugu State Tourism Board, Odo said that plans are also under way to establish zonal tourism offices across the state for the strengthening of the tourism sector which would create an environment of wealth generation for the people and revenue generation for the state.
According to the General Manager, “We have a lot of hotels and entertainment arenas in the state but we have limited staff in the board to help us drive the process of revenue collection that are supposed to go into the coffers of the state. If we are given the adequate support by both the state government and the LGAs, we will be able to generate the funds that we will be used to run the tourism board and also help in finding developmental projects across the state.
“In our long term plan as a board, we are going to propose a Tourism Development Levy bill to the House of Assembly to be paid by all those lodging in different hotels situated in the state. The levy will be so insignificant that the lodgers will not feel it but when we pull it together it will be huge revenue for the state to use in providing more developmental projects that will continue to make Enugu state a place to be and the most peaceful state in the country.
“Many countries are surviving from the tourism sector as a result of little deductions under the tourism development levy paid by guests lodging in hotels situated in their countries. Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in the past five years has consciously and unconsciously made the state tourism friendly through the peace and infrastructural development we enjoy.”
Appreciating Governor Ugwuanyi’s special interest and strides in the development of the Tourism sector of the state economy, Odo thanked the Governor for providing the enabling environment for tourism to thrive in the state adding, “the improved security of lives and property in the state, provision of massive roads and physical infrastructure, clean environment and promotion of political harmony in the state among others are factors that boost tourism.
In line with the purpose of this year’s commemoration which is to create awareness among the committee of nations on the importance of tourism and its socio, cultural, political and economic values, the General Manager Enugu State Tourism Board also said that they are committed to helping the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration develop and harness the tourists potentials the state is blessed with and by extension create jobs in the state.
“It is on record that Enugu state is a tourist’s delight with ancient historical relics, several tourists’ sites and recreational spots. Some of the several tourist sites Enugu State is blessed with includes but not limited to the Ezeagu Tourist Complex (Heneke Lake a tropical lake with maximum density during the warmest season Lake) which is located in Ezeagu Local Government Area. Awhum Water Fall and Cave situated at Amaugwe village of Awhum town in Udi Local Government Area. Akwuke-Attakwu Beach in Nkanu West Local Government Area is the best place for beach tourism in south-east Nigeria, where tourists feel the breath of nature.
“Others include the Ngwo Cave, Pine and Waterfall which requires navigational activities due to the large cluster of trees at the beautiful Ngwo Pine Forest, sharp twists and turns along the stone-paved track, as the route slants downward. The Ugwueme/Udi Hills are hills of about hundreds of meters above sea level located in Udi Local Government Area while Ogelube Lake is a tropical oligotrophic lake having desmids dominated by phytoplankton with maximum density during the warmest season. Ani Ozalla Lake and Shrine is a natural lake located at Ozalla in Nkanu West LGA near Enugu where crocodiles which are regarded as goddesses appear from the lake at the command of the chief priest to take offerings from supplicants.
“Milliken Hills are located at Ngwo in Enugu North LGA; they are 100 meter above sea level, offering beautiful standpoint for a panoramic view of Enugu metropolis, especially at dawn and dusk. The hill was named after one of the earliest colonial administrators in Enugu. The first road into Enugu city winds through the foot of the hill bounded by a deep gully. Also, we have the Silicon hill located near the Nkalagu campus of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) and it has a very important mineral deposit called “silicon”. The hill which is more than 300m above sea level and almost half a kilometre long has strong “silica” an important raw material for glass manufacturing. The Opi Lake and Adada Beach are also beautiful tourists’ sites to behold.
“As we know Tourism can only thrive in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Happily, our amiable Governor has provided right environment for tourism to blossom. However, the question begging for answer is; is the state really reaping the fruit of her tourism potentials? The answer is yes and no. That is why this year’s theme, “Tourism And Rural Development” is very apt especially in our dear state.
“It is no longer news that due to the dwindling oil revenue occasioned by the global Coronavirus pandemic, the Federation Allocation to States has continued to decrease. Therefore, every state of the Federation today is developing the available potentials within their environment to increase their revenue base. A well harnessed Tourism economy can catapult Enugu State to an enviable height in terms of revenue generation and facilitation of rural development of the state.” Odo explained.
He said that in line with the vision of the World Tourism Organization, the Enugu State Tourism Board is undergoing rebranding with the view of marketing the enormous Tourism potentials inherent in the state and make them attractive for both national and international investment.
The General Manager used the opportunity to invite Tourism stakeholders, investors, Tourism Students and the entire people of the state to support the board’s efforts in regenerating Tourism in Enugu State.
There is no doubt the Unity Park will spice up the receptive nature Enugu is known for in the area tourism, leisure and recreational facilities. The park which is being developed at the former Forest Reserve adjacent to the popular Michael Okpara Square in the state’s Three Arms Zone, Independence Layout, Enugu will boost the revival and resuscitation of many other parks hitherto abandoned or not in use.
The state-of-the-art Unity Park Tourists Site located at the heart of the ancient Enugu town is very close to Enugu Government House, Enugu State House of Assembly, Enugu State High Court and other Court Complexes. There are also many beautiful 3-star hotels, the SPAR shopping mall which will complement the services and patronage of this tourists centre. The modern relaxation and recreation centre is also highly beautified with artworks such as an artificial water pond and a sculpted roaring lion of about 30ft height and 60ft length, among other numerous artefacts.
The park is well secured with well-designed metal railings in line with state government’s urban renewal drive which will also ensure orderliness at the tourist site to control human and vehicular movements into the complex. The large clusters of pine trees are an added beauty to the Park and create ample walking room and movements to give tourists a sense of fun while exploring the facilities.
Ikechukwu-Jonathan, JP, writes from Alor-Agu in Igbo-Eze South LGA.