NTDC Boss, Folorunsho Coker

Mr Folorunsho Coker, the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), said on Friday that it had concluded plans to partner the multinational technology company, Wikimedia, to boost the tourism sector.

Coker told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that such collaboration would boost the available information on various segments of the country’s tourism sector to attract foreign and domestic patronage.

The director-general said the era of government alone bearing the burden of developing the sector had gone, adding that the way forward was through partnership.

“Recently, Google had an event in Nigeria where our brand, `Tour Nigeria, ’ facilitated the capture of tourism sites around the country with their virtual reality 360 photographing experience.

“We have recently made contact in a conversation with Facebook; we are about to organise a competition about Nigerian images, especially tourism sites with Wikimedia,” he said.

Coker also said that the corporation had reached out to some stakeholders in the travel subsector to assist the agency in the area of training and donation of equipment.

“It is in the partnership that Google can also capture our best tourism sites and put them in space/internet that everybody can go and see the hills, caves and other sites.

“All these partnerships are to let people know globally what is possible in Nigeria,” the director-general said.

On the `Tour Nigeria’ brand, the NTDC boss noted that it was one brand that needed to be marketed, adding that funding, however, remains a challenge.

He said that the corporation was able to keep the brand alive through partnership with global and local companies.

“ I think the knowledge and political will to grow the tourism industry is there; what we lack is the deep pockets to fund it.

“I believe that government is committed to tourism and I believe that it knows that tourism is, globally, the largest employer of labour; strategically employing a lot of women and the youths,’’ he said.

According to Coker, tourism generates $8 trillion dollars globally.

“I look at tourism statistics constantly and see people from Europe and America constantly going over Africa to the Middle East and Asia.

“We need to imagine our life in the future with tourism. Let us do what GSM did to 090. Let us do that in the tourism industry because we have everything.

“We have the hills, caves, waterfalls and rainforests and as if that is not enough, God added fashion, music, food, film, religion, sports and in every four years, it gives us politics,” Coker said.

He canvassed that the country’s large population should be used maximally to develop the tourism industry and to encourage peace and understanding.

“ If we apply these numbers to our tourism, we will become a force to be recognised globally.

“Let us try to start to think of how we will be responsible and move our fatherland forward,’’ he said.

The NTDC chief said that about 42 years ago, South Africans came on a cultural exchange mission to Nigeria and brought Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela among other artistes.

“We went to the National Theatre and watched them perform, and we fell in love with South Africa and we started going to South Africa.

“We have a wonderful relationship but there was a disconnect.

“We did not go back to South Africa to do exactly the same thing so that they know, understand and connect with us, in a manner that allows the growth of that relationship,” he said.

Coker added that the Federal Government through the Office of the Vice-President had set up a committee to look into the multiple taxation of airlines and hotel operators.