It s obvious that those in the helms of affairs in Lagos State are deliberately playing down the role of the Synagogue Church of All Nations [SCOAN] and the General Overseer, Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua contributions to the nascent tourism industry in the state.
It is true that the tourism industry is mainly hospitality based and business arrivals have also doubled over the years, the leisure aspect [mass tourism] remains largely insignificant.
Whilst the state has shown tremendous desire to actually expand the nature, scope of the sector of the industry, the attendant and necessary manpower to achieve the aforementioned remained debatable.
With the recently held Tourism Summit, under the theme, Destination Lagos: Towards A Sustainable Tourism-Driven Economy, that brought together some experts and stakeholders in the sector to make input into the proposed Lagos State Tourism Master Plan, that is being prepared to drive tourism development in the state, as well as set the tone for repositioning Lagos as a major destination is a step in the right direction.
Aside from the main theme for discourse, the summit, which featured paper presentations by stakeholders in the tourism business, panel discussions involving heads of tourism agencies and players in the sector, also touched topics such as Exploring the Lagos Tourism Eco-system for Economic and Social Benefits; Financing tourism: the path and possibilities for Lagos State, and M.I.C.E, Creative Content as Tourism Industry panacea.
Speaking at that august summit, Akinwunmi Ambode , Lagos State governor said that the summit further demonstrates the government’s commitment to finding alternative platforms that can enrich Lagos and propel its prosperity continuously.
According to him, “this tourism summit furthers demonstrates our commitment to find alternative platforms that can enrich our state. We are very proud of our culture and heritage; there’s nobody that is going to tell the story of the black people if Lagos doesn’t stand up to tell that story,” he said.
Gov. Ambode noted that Lagos State Tourism Master Plan is one of the legacies his administration is determined to bequeath to Lagosians and coming generations.
“We’ve put tourism at the core of our growth strategy at this point in the development of this state, laying a solid foundation for a continued prosperity of Lagos and Lagosians.
The governor noted that the plan is focused on key sectors of culture and heritage, film, art and entertainment, business tourism, nature and adventure, medical and wellness, beach and leisure.
For many of us that attended and read the details of what to be carried out by ERNST & YOUNG [EY], an accounting firm that has been engaged to do a job they are not qualified to do is a major worry.
At a press conference recently, African Travel Times Magazine editor who was in attendance asked the question as to what parameter the state used to appoint EY as the most qualified firm to prepare a master plan for Lagos State, Steve Ayorinde, Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture said, “the state followed due process by advertising the project and of all the company that indicated interest, EY was the state’s preferred choice”.
He stressed further that EY in their letter of intent, wrote that they were involved and have produced tourism master plan for the Gambia and Morocco which fact-check by this publication is untrue.
Without doubt, EY is a global integrated company that can deploy capacity from their various offices around the world, but the unfortunate thing is that, there are few people or expertise out there that can produce a thorough master plan in a year, much-more a non industry player asked to do so in two months.
Besides, it would be more expensive to do because EY will now be paying people with the expertise to do the job on adhoc basis and thereby denying Lagos State the benefit of a thorough job.
Without Lagos State and the Federal Government assistance over the years, Synagogue Church of All Nations and the General Overseer have single handedly put Lagos and Nigeria on global religious tourism destination.
Headquartered at Ikotun, Alimosho Local Government Area of the state and the largest population wise has attracted and activated economic ingenuity of Nigerians.
Despite all the church has done for Lagos state economically and public relations wise, the state and its officials have continually downplayed SCOAN contribution to Lagos economy.
Also when this magazine asked Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture as to why religious tourism omission was an oversight when the state was giving out brief to EY and as to why is it taking government long time to collaborate with SCOAN which is the only way the communities around the church will really benefit maximally from tourism, he said, It is true that Synagogue has contributed to faith tourism like he put it, but he also said that church like Christ Embassy also filled hotels in Ikeja during their annual convention which no doubt shows some levels of downplay and ingratitude to SCOAN efforts.
Showing understanding and maturity on the parts governments and its officials at the federal and state levels can only lead to collaboration with SCOAN that can also pull several thousands more visitors to the church and Lagos montly.
Currently, the visitors or pilgrims to SCOAN only remain within their hotels and the church environment and return home with their cash.
Lagos State can encourage Synagogue to give them list of visitable attractions after their religion activities.
This is what Saudi Arabia and Israel have both done and built into the visitors’ itinerary.
Synagogue Chrch has nothing to lose, but Lagos and Lagosians have so much to lose.
The revelation that the tourism sector in Lagos State contributed about N800 billion to the Lagos GDP in 2017 is a positive news that must encourage the state to milk out all benefits it can from every subsector of the industry.
Like Ikechi Uko, of Akwaaba Africa Travel Market noted in his presentation, at the just concluded Lagos State Tourism Summit that was centered on M.I.C.E [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences/Conventions and Exhibitions/Events], “M.I.C.E is driving Tourism growth in Africa, with Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda crediting the industry for the growth of tourism in 2017”.
Ikechi reminded us that most events are heading to Kigali and Accra; and with the new Airport in Victoria Falls and the exit of Mugabe, Zimbabwe will be one of the big players along with its neighbour Zambia.
He concluded by saying that while the scramble for meetings are going on in Africa, Lagos has to take advantage of its natural assets to play in the coming years.”
Not mentioning any area, he called on Lagos State to play its card where it has comparative advantage which without mincing words, is Synagogue Church of All Nations.