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West Africa and Sahel

West Africa emerging tourist destination

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says the bloc is now an emerging tourist destination.

Anthony Elumelu, ECOWAS acting Director, Private Sector Investment, communicated said on Saturday In Abuja after a strategic meeting between ECOWAS officials and private sector tourism stakeholders.

The high level dialogue culminated in the signing of agreements to implement a comprehensive regional tourism framework and a communique to that effect.

Elumelu said with the consensus reached between both sides, they had created an enabling environment for member states to implement a robust tourism confederation across West Africa, which would attract tourists globally.

“It is very important for you to know that from the ECOWAS perspective, I mean the commission, our job is to create an enabling environment for member states to churn out legal instruments, adopt them and also implement.

“There are assignments for the ECOWAS Commission; there are also assignments for member states; they need to take ownership, they need to sensitise through advocacy, capacity building and also funding by the private sector, and on the side of the government, tax moratorium, power supply.

“These are all the things that we are here to talk about; and I think we have achieved a level of consensus; we have an association now that will drive this and also key into what they call ECOWAS Business Council; so with these, I think we are moving forward as a tourist destination.

“Tourism is not an internal matter; you need global attraction to have ECOWAS as a tourist destination country; so these are the things and I am positive that in the next few years we will be talking about a robust regional tourism sector,” he said.

Elumelu described ECOWAS as a “partial severance of sovereignty into a collective basket,” stressing that most member states were dependent on tourism, which is capital intensive and high income earner.

According to him, the beauty of it is the enabling text–even the flagship protocol, which also creates room for tourism to thrive– the protocol of free movement of persons, which also gives you the right to stay, enter, stay and establish businesses.

He said it was worthy of note that the bloc had signed into the continental free trade.

“Tourism is a key element in terms of that because it is one of the highest earners.

“I think, like I just mentioned, if we implement the text that we have signed, and with this association, there will be coherence; let us be positive,” he said.

Also speaking, ECOWAS Programme Officer for Tourism, Stella Drabo, said that security was key for tourism to thrive, stressing that people moved a lot when they felt safe and secure.

She said that West Africa’s security challenges occasioned by terrorism and violent extremism was not a hindrance to tourism because in many parts of the world, where tourism was thriving, they were experiencing worse security issues.

“You know, if we go through the report that has been published by the World Tourism Organisation about tourism and security all over the world, they made a very, very detailed research; we are safe to move and travel; we are visiting each other.

“For sure, we have to continue improving on the security level; in terms of infrastructure as well, having good roads to allow me to drive my family car from Lagos to Cotonou, from Cotonou to Niamey, from Niamey to Ouagadougou, from Ouagadougou to Cote D’Ivoire and to Monrovia, Liberia.

“And today it is something we are very proud of as ECOWAS Commission, because we can now say ECOWAS is now a tourist destination because we have the private sector; we have the regional body, ECOWAS, with our private sector being the ones operating on ground.

“We have everything in place; so, now the train is complete; we will now double and even triple the horsepower to go further and further,” Drabo said.

President, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Nkereuwem Onung, also expressed belief that ECOWAS was emerging as a tourist haven with the tourism private sector agreeing to work with the Commission to implement regional tourism policies.

He said that people would henceforth be able to have multi destinations in terms of tourism with ECOWAS increasingly becoming a tourist haven

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