By Idris Olukoya
Stakeholders in the tourism sector on Friday urged the Federal Government to ensure that allocations meant for the tourism sector in the 2017 budget proposal were properly utilized when eventually passed into law.
They told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that this would afford the sector to fulfill its mandate of contributing to the country’s internally generated revenue (IGR).
It would also assist the Federal Government to achieve its paradigm shift of diversifying its income generation from the oil sector to other sectors.
They also advised that those in charge of the sector and other sectors must be transparent and be judicious in the spending of funds allocated to each sector.
NAN reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had on Wednesday laid a N7.297 trillion budget proposal for 2017 fiscal year before the National Assembly.
Mr Wale Olowoporoku, the Group Managing Director, Hotel Support Group, said the people’s expectations were always high whenever the budgets were presented in the past.
“It is not about the high expectations now; but the proper utilization of votes allocated to the sector matters most to the people.
“It is not a matter of saying the President had presented the budget, but the result of the budget is always the paramount issue to work upon.
“In the 2017 budget estimates, the tourism sector needed to be adequately funded as we are looking up to it as an alternative source of revenue to the oil sector,’’ he said.
Olowoporoku advised the government to ensure that professionals in the sector were appointed to administer its key areas.
Also, Mr Ganiyu Tarzan, the President, Association of Tourists Boats Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATN) said that tourism should be one of the sectors given priority attention by the government.
He said that tourism had a link with all other sectors of economy whether religious, education, sport, business, agriculture and medicine.
Tarzan, therefore, urged the Federal Government, especially, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, to channel the allocation meant for the sector to rehabilitating of tourism projects across the country.
He added that it should be used to rehabilitate structures such as health centres, farm settlements, sport centres like old stadium , heritage sites, monuments, museums, game reserves and national festivals across the country.
“I am very positive that if we have a functional heritage site and other attractions, they will boost the nation’s revenue and boost activities within other sectors of the economy as international tourists will be trooping into the country.
“Tourism is very important to all sectors and its budgetary allocation and implementation should be given adequate attention,” he said.
Similarly, Mrs Margret Fabiyi, the President of Webisco International Federation of Women Entrepreneurs and Tourism of Nigeria, tasked the Federal Government on the full implementation of Tourism Master Plan.
She said that this should be captured in the 2017 budget proposal because it would serve as a guideline to tourism developmental projects.
Fabiyi commended the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) for its support to the development of the nation’s tourism sector.
She added that the government should consider building new tourism structures to attract national and international tourists.
However, Mr Ini Akpabio, the Group Managing Director of NANET Hotel and Suit, expressed his dissatisfaction with the current status of the tourism sector in the country as well as the poor conditions of the nation’s monuments and heritage sites.
He alleged that when funds had been allocated to the sector in past budgets’ presentation, those in charge had not been using it to upgrade the nation’s heritage sites and develop the sector.
“Unfortunately in our country today, we continue to make the clarion call foe the promotion of domestic’s tourism and the development of our tourist sites.
“The heritage sites which are the Nigerian tourism prides are going moribund, most of the sites are fading off and losing their natural state, “he said.
Akpabio, therefore, urged the government to dedicate full attention to tourism sector and ensure that funds allocated to the sector were used for the right purposes.