Since 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization [UNWTO] has celebrated World Tourism Day on September 27. This date was chosen as on that day in 1970, the Statutes of the UNWTO were adopted. The adoption of these Statutes is considered a milestone in global tourism.
The purpose of this day is to raise awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.
At its 12th Session in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 1997, the UNWTO General Assembly decided to designate a host country each year to act as the Organization’s partner in the celebration of World Tourism Day.
At its 15th Session in Beijing, China, in October 2003, the Assembly decided the following geographic order to be followed for World Tourism Day celebrations: 2006 in Europe; 2007 in South Asia; 2008 in the Americas; 2009 in Africa and 2011 in the Middle East.
The late Ignatius Amaduwa Atigbi, a Nigerian national, was the one who proposed the idea of marking September 27 of every year as World Tourism Day.
Following a final push by a letter written by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, orchestrated by a Nigerian travel and tourism journalist, Lucky Onoriode George to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation [UNWTO], on the need to honour late Ignatius Amaduwa Atigbi, a Nigerian who proposed the idea of marking September 27 of every year as World Tourism Day, the UNWTO has finally honoured Atigbi.
The ministry in a letter dated August 11, 2009, read, “I write to remind the authority of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation [UNWTO], under the leadership of Mr. Taleb Rifai of its earlier promise to honour the late Nigerian tourism czar “.
Following this persistent, Atigbi was finally honoured through the federal government, of which the plague was eventually passed on to Late Ignatius Amaduwa Atigbi.
Meanwhile, the finding and the letter came as a result of this writer then with a Nigeria based media, BusinessDay Newspaper who travelled to Madrid where his investigations brought out Atigbi’s contributions to the notice of the UNWTO.
The man Atigbi Ignatius Amaduwa was born on May 24, 1930 in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria. After his primary and post-primary education, he preceded to the Literary then the Ibadan campus of the University of London, now fully University of Ibadan, where he graduated in Applied Mathematics and English Language in 1955.
Shortly after graduation, his first formal job was teaching at Ibadan Grammar School from where he played a part in the formation of lives of distinguished Nigerians.
It was from this bus that he later moved to become the pioneer Lagos Desk Head of the French News Agency, Reuters.
While in England, he was quite a sight on Fleet Street, and once told of how the cream of English and international journalists, mostly white, would come to the bar, an afterhour’s tradition on Fleet Street.
He was a marvel. And he took himself seriously. He was to become the first African manager and editor at Reuters and the youngest all over the world at that time. In fact, Atigbi’s role as West African manager for Reuters enabled him to cover and report the constitutional conference in London in 1958 leading to Nigeria’s independence constitution.
His role will only be left to historians. Atigbi participated in the making of history, and in the typical form of his career, was a magnificent chronicler of events of that moment. As a young intern with Reuters in 1958, his unmistakable excellent streak manifested only weeks into his employment when he was quickly seconded to cover the then on-going constitutional talks on Nigeria in Lancaster House, London.
From here it was a quick rise with the Reuters Organization as at the end of the conference, the barely 29-year-old Atigbi had his responsibilities expanded to over-all of West Africa.
Success in journalism for the young Atigbi was not with his Parisian bosses, he was also esteemed among his Nigerian colleagues. At the formation of the Nigeria pioneer press organization, the precursor of today’s Nigeria Union of Journalists [NUJ] in 1960. He was unanimously elected secretary general of that body.
One final example of his resourcefulness and excellence came in a 1964 letter from the then president of Nigeria, the late Nnamdi Azikwe, to the Nigerian High Commission in Sierra Leone where he was then serving as head of the chancery.
In an apparent reference to Atigbi’s brilliant effort at inviting major players [government and opposition alike] to regular informal lunch sessions, as part of a strategy to foster good neighbourliness and international concord between both nations and people, the Great Zik of Africa had written a public commendation, praying that Nigeria would have more of the likes of “our own Atigbi.”
With the Theme “Tourism For All” In his 2016 message, UNWTO Secretary-General Rifai noted that tourism has experienced a revolution in the past 50 years.
“In 1950 there were 25 million international tourists; today there are around 1.2 billion people travelling the world. Travelling has become a huge part of many lives”, he noted.
According to the message, he stated that when travelling “they come across new people, new sights, and new ideas. Often our perception of the world changes as we see more of it”.
Taleb also noted that 15 per cent of the world’s population is estimated to live with some form of disability, and that one billion people around the world who are unable to enjoy the privilege of knowing other cultures, experience nature at its fullest and experience the thrill of embarking on a journey to explore new sights.
The message further stated that accessibility for all should be at the centre of tourism policies and business strategies not only as a human right, but also as a great market.
“We thus urge all countries and destinations, as well as the industry, to promote accessibility for all in the physical environment, in transport systems, in public facilities and services and in information and communications channels”, he added.