Stakeholders have advocated creating more awareness on tourism transformative impact on rural communities for better livelihood, culture preservation and harmony.
The stakeholders made the advocacy on the backdrop of the 2020 World Tourism Day with the theme: “Tourism and Rural Development.”
The World Toursim Day is celebrated on Sept. 27 annually.
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, providing jobs and opportunities for women and the youth, especially.
The Managing Director of DVine Travels Tours Bureau Ltd., Ibadan, Mr Olumuyiwa Salami, said tourism could hugely impact economies and livelihood of rural dwellers in Nigeria.
Salami, also the Chief Executive Officer of DVine Tour Brokers Ltd., Ibadan, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday that the awareness could be created by taking the campaign to all local government areas.
He said the theme of the 2020 World Tourism Day highlighted the unique role tourism played in providing opportunities outside of big cities, and preserving cultural and natural heritage worldwide.
“As we re-imagine our tourism product in these uncertain times, the focus on rural development seems quite timely.
“Tourism in rural areas will provide important opportunities for recovery, as these communities seek to recuperate from the harsh economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These communities are at the heart of our tourism product, providing the authentic, unique experiences and local lifestyles that provide our visitors with more enriching experiences,” he said.
Salami remarked that the role of the federal, state and local government ministries in using tourism as a tool to drive rural development had not been fulfilled.
According to him, governments do not have a strong commitment to rural communities in backing up policies and initiatives that will promote sustainable economic growth and social inclusiveness.
He listed some of the initiatives to include the Agri-linkages Exchange (ALEX) platform aimed to facilitate the purchase and exchange of goods between farmers and buyers within the hotel industry.
“This will aim at increasing the use of local produce in tourism enterprises and supporting the national thrust to reduce imports.
“As a destination, Nigeria has to encourage rural development through the state, to the community-based tourism; community involvement is the cornerstone of sustainable tourism development.
“Furthermore, community-based tourism is the only sector accessible to states to provide jobs and allow more revenues to remain in rural communities,” he said.
Also, the Acting Curator, National Museum of Unity, Ibadan, Mrs Comfort Akinmeji, said tourism had positive economic and social impacts which provided funds and connections for sustainability and continuity.
“The economic and social impacts of tourism in rural communities bring increase in incomes from tourism businesses and supporting businesses; this creates increase in local production as tourism activities are strongly connected with other branches of the economy.
“As cultural tourism is employment demanding, there is increase in employment in the area; as guests participate and appreciate local culture, this helps keep people in the region, which is a positive catalyst for regional development.
“It, thus, improves the demographic situation in regional areas by giving a perspective to the youth; tourism helps to establish and reinforce a cultural identity.
“It makes an important contribution to culture and historical heritage by providing means for keeping the traditions alive, and finances the protection of heritage as well as increases visitor appreciation of that heritage,” she said.
She also said that well-managed tourism could encourage the revival of traditions and restoration of sites and monuments.
“In a world that is troubled by conflicts-often-based misunderstandings, tourism can facilitate cultural harmony and understanding among people, it promotes communication and integration,” she added.
The acting curator explained that arts and crafts were symbols of Nigeria’s material and spiritual heritage.
“They are objects appreciated for the promotion and conservation of tourism.
“After 60 years, I will say that the state of arts and craft is not too bad but we can do better; on the colonial overload, I will say a lot valuables were salvaged.
“The influences of colonialism on our traditional arts are both positive and negative.
“ It is positive in the area of technological advancement and but negative in the areas of looting and thefts, neglect due to available alternative substitutes as well as other negative impacts,” she said.