With Mike Adeyemi
Considering Kwara State’s comparative advantage in terms of its tourism endowments and clement weather, the only challenge for government in making the state a tourism haven, is the non existent of stringent policy. This no doubt has posed a problem for the sector to thrive, over the years.
The state is blessed with various tourists attraction, rich cultural heritages and festivals that can be explored for economic gains.
There abound tourists centres such as the Esie Museum, Owu Falls, Ogunjokoro and the Imoleboja Rock Shelter. The Pategi Regatta is also a popular attraction. The Esie stone images are tourists attractions and the Awon and Egungun festivals are just two examples of festivals that can be of fascinating attraction to people visiting the state. The Mungo Park monument is also a site many visitors will want to see, among others.
What is required is for all these tourism attractions as well as potentials and cultural heritages to be properly harnessed to become viable revenue earners.
The desire to position culture and tourism as the pivot of Kwara’s economic growth and development rests in the purview of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
It is worthy of note that tourism cannot effectively flourish without the cultural components. Therefore the ministry must mainstream both elements into a monolithic entity to galvanize economic development.
The vast and rich cultural heritage of the state has to be strategically repositioned to complement tourism as its driver to lift the Kwara economy.
Kwara stands a great chance of surviving the current economic downtown facing the entire globe, if the government can focus more on cultural tourism.
To this end, Kwara can forge a solid partnership with foreign countries in developing and marketing tourism. By so doing patronage of local and foreign tourists will be enhanced.
Kwara government needs to identify tourism potentials and stop paying lip service to development of the sector.
Going forward, these tourist sites can be documented online so that those who are far away can explore the tourist resources in Kwara virtually. The state can earn revenue through subscription to the online sites.
In addition, there is need for a state of emergency to be declared on the sector for government to pay deserved attention to tourism towards developing it.
The state government can also can also organise a parley with stakeholders from the tourism and hospitality industry with the aim of unlocking the vast potentials of tourism as a financial option for sustainable socio-economic development.
Culture and tourism, when promoted would increase revenue and make the state to be less dependant on the dwindling federal allocation.
It is unfortunate that successive administration in the state have not paid premium attention to the sector that can make the state great. Tourism is a sector that can provide large volume of employment and consequently reduce crime.
For emphasis, both tourism and culture are foreign exchange earners for several states and countries in the world.
It is high time Kwara State joined the league of countries that have made tourism and culture their economic mainstay. Many of these potentials have remained largely untapped.
In this regard, Kwara must encourage the production, organisation and vibrant marketing of its creative enterprises in arts and crafts industry and make them a major player in the national economy of the country.
As the world economy is receding, there is the urgent need for Kwara, indeed, Nigeria to pay greater attention to the development and creation of new markets for its culture and creative enterprises.
Cultural industry is people-oriented, as it includes the making of handicrafts by the rural dwellers.
Hence, Kwara state government should support and encourage the programmes and activities of this industry as it boosts the economic base of rural dwellers and discourages rural-urban drift.
The private sector too should diversify its strategies and invest in the state ‘s creative industry, not only to provide a vibrant market for our cultural enterprises, but also to confirm Kwara ‘s creative and cultural leadership on the Nigerian nation.
The art and craft market will contribute significantly to Kwara ‘s quest to tap from the abundant resources from cultural industries for use in addressing some of the state ‘s challenges, especially in the area of wealth creation, poverty alleviation and employment-generation for youths in rural populations.
The creative enterprise can aid development, if the Kwara Government utilizes the creative industry of the economy in order to boost the state ‘s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
For example, in Britain, the creative industry gives 40 per cent to the government because the British Government invested in them.
If the Kwara Government could do the same here, in the next few years, the creative industry would do much better than the pantry federal allocation to the state.
In securing our future, Kwara should harness her cultural resources and revitalise them and teach them to children in schools because our education curriculum does not teach, promote or sustain our cultural heritage.
We should develop a sense of pride in ourselves and in our culture as a people, and become self-sufficient.
We should learn from the Asian Tiger countries that, in spite of modernisation and Christianity and Islam stucck to their culture and traditions and, therefore, are advancing faster than African nations.
For example, this country were at par with some of these Asian Tiger nation in the 60s, but now they have outstripped us and we have become consumers of their products.
We pride ourselves in wearing their lace and silk products while our own textile factories are grinding to a halt.
No state can really develop without drawing from its culture and traditions. Our cultural socialization must be emphasized for our future development.
Cultural tourism calendar of events across the state should be developed to serve as a guide to both local and foreign tourists.
A State arts competition among secondary school students should be instituted soon.
As a matter of urgency, we should revive and speak our native languages to our children because our languages embody our culture.
If our native languages die, our culture will die a natural death.