Tourism is a significant economic driver that can boost development from various facets of endeavour. Spain, Italy, Canada, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Seychelles, Egypt, Gambia, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, United States of America, the Bahamas, Canneries Island and many other countries, use tourism as a money spinner to boost their economies.
Where properly developed, tourism tremendously benefits in areas of income generation, foreign exchange generation, economic diversification, employment generation, poverty reduction, grows local economy, recreation, financial support for the conservation of ecosystems and natural resource management, develops new form of income and allows public infrastructure development as modern infrastructure is critical to tourism development.
Tourism, therefore, provides a veritable platform for rebranding and international public relations by way of projecting, showcasing and promoting a people's unique history and rich cultural heritage, economic endowments and natural resources.
Nigeria boasts of tourist sites that abound in every geo-political zone. These include Ibeno Beach in Akwa Ibom; Osun Shrine in Osogbo and Erin-Ijesha Water Falls in Osun; Aso Rock and Zuma Rock in Abuja; Gurara Falls in Niger; Yankari Games Reserve in Bauchi; Udi Hill in Anambra; Obudu Cattle Ranch, Kwa Falls, TINAPA, and Oban Hills in Cross River; Watse Rock, Assop Water Falls and Wildlife Resort in Plateau; Owu-Water Falls in Kwara; Lekki Beach and Bar Beach in Lagos; Olumo Rock in Ogun; Idanre Hills in Ondo; Ikogosi warm and cold spring in Ekiti; Mambila Plateau in Taraba. There is also the Argungu Festival, Calabar Carnival, etc.
Regrettably, not all tourism potentials in the country have been adequately tapped, developed and harnessed. It is estimated that Nigeria loses over $4 billion every year to untapped tourism potentials. The country's vast and rich cultural heritage ought to be strategically repositioned to partner tourism as its driver to lift the nation's economy.
Akwa Ibom is a land blessed with a rich cultural heritage and vast tourism potentials, many of which lie untapped. To harness some of them, the Udom Emmanuel administration has keyed into the Christmas period, a season of celebrations marked by many fun activities, to give fun-loving Akwa Ibom people a place of relaxation, by establishing the Ibom Christmas Village at the Ibibio Museum and Unity Park grounds at the centre of Uyo Capital City.
Since the Village was opened on December 1, 2019 by Gov Udom Emmanuel, Uyo is the place to be this Christmas period as many who used to travel to Calabar find alternative at Ibom Christmas Village. The whole scene is more alluring at night with the 21-storey Intelligent Building in the central business district of Uyo contributing lighting that adds to the beauty of the village, while its beauty also changes the skyline of Uyo for the better.
The Christmas Village has served as a tourism hub with various vendors serving Akwa Ibom delicacies such as nten, nkpirikpu, ekpang nkukwo, afang soup, editan soup, edikang ikong soup, white soup, usung udia, usung ikpong, foo foo, garri, snails, chicken and goat meat pepper soup, chicken and beef suya, etc, served with assorted drinks. The Christmas Village is a beehive and booms every evening with a sea head of individuals who are treated to good music by a live band and presentations by various artistes.
This initiative of the state Ministry of Culture and Tourism, under the leadership of Mr Orman Esin, in partnership with the Hotels and Tourism Management Board will end on January 1, 2020.
Adjudged the best in Nigeria, the village boasts of adequate security, superb entertainment, variety of vendors, hygienic prepared meals and proper waste management. Other initiatives of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, designed to keep the people spellbound in the spirit of the Yuletide in addition to boosting tourism this Season include Ibeno Beach Festival, Miss Akwa Ibom Beauty Pageant, Children Fanfare and Food Festival 2019.
This why the state government's efforts to positively market Akwa Ibom to the nation and world at large to promote its rich tourism potentials is well understood and commendable, as these initiatives have given the state a unique experience, making it a destination this festive season, while also boosting the economy.