Welcome to an enlightening conversation on the vibrant future of tourism in Enugu State. Today, we are privileged to engage in a dialogue with Lady Rita Mbah, the esteemed Chairman of the Board of Tourism in Enugu.
In this interview, we delve into her vision, strategies, and aspirations as she spearheads initiatives to position Enugu as a premier destination for business, investment, and tourism.
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Join us as we explore the dynamic landscape of Enugu’s tourism sector and gain insights into the transformative journey led by Lady Rita Mbah.
According to Steve Jobs, innovation distinguishes the leader from the follower. How does your appointment as Chairman Board of Tourism, Enugu State, make you feel?
Uh, I feel so good about the appointment because it is a field that I know quite a bit about. So I feel very comfortable as the executive Chairman of the Tourism Board Enugu.
What steps have you taken so far to make Enugu the dream hub of tourism?
Well, there is a whole lot to be done, my appointment is barely a month plus, it’s not even up to two months but we have set out very well, we have started by taking the stock of all the things we have in Enugu as tourist sites and destinations and at the moment, we are doing ‘’Destination Enugu’’ brand logo and there is a competition ongoing on that. When we establish the logo and someone wins the competition and we choose a logo for Destination Enugu, then we use that Logo to market Enugu. In Enugu state, you are going to see a whole lot of difference in tourism. You will see tourism when you land at the airport, because the airport and aviation have a lot to do with tourism. You know that whenever somebody lands in a destination, the first thing you notice is the ambience of the airport, and how the people behave. When you leave the airport, you talk about the airport taxis, you talk about the serenity of the city and the different locations you have; So we want to actually work in the minds of the people, give them a new Enugu city like his Excellency the governor said, and then change the reality on ground when you enter Enugu. At the moment, we are doing a pre-feasibility study, a bankable feasibility study on all our cultural and tourist sites. For example, you have the Akwuke beach, which has been moribund for quite some time, People still go there but nothing is really happening their like you would see in other beaches in other parts of the world and in other parts of Nigeria. We have the Ezeagu complex which has a cave, a waterfall and a lake all in one complex. You must have also heard that we are doing something about Hotel presidential, we are looking for investors who have the money to invest in these places. It will be concessioned to them. The International Conference Centre will be concessioned as well to anybody who is ready to do business. His Excellency the governor has made sure its very easy for investors to come in here. You know there are couple of things that we have put in place so that whoever wants bring his funds to Enugu state to invest on the tourism would not have difficulties in getting his company registered, getting due diligence done, setting up the system. And the most important thing we are doing at the moment is that we are making sure that we put the infrastructure down to the tourist site that we are trying to develop. Because if you develop this tourist sites and the infrastructures are not in place I mean it wouldn’t make any sense. We are also at moment doing the infrastructures leading to those tourist sites. So, I think in a nutshell this is what we are doing at the moment.
In the issue of tourism, security plays a vital role. How do you think tourism can thrive with the level of insecurity in the southeast?
People keep talking about the level of insecurity in the southeast but I don’t think it’s still the same at the moment. The reality on ground has changed; yes we had some security issues a couple of months and a couple of years back. But since his excellency the governor, Dr. Bar. Peter Mbah took over government, you would notice that he’s been very particularly about the sit-at-home, the Monday sit-at-home, immediately he came in he made sure that he stopped people from sitting at home on Mondays and I think that has really helped the business in Enugu, because before now, the banks were not open, the markets too were not open, and the offices were also not open. But at the moment, you see that on Monday sit-at-home people come out and go about their normal businesses; the flights come in and go and i would want to believe that people have gotten so used to this sit-at-home that they don’t even want to go anywhere on Mondays and I don’t think it is a security issue keeping them on Monday I think it’s just that they don’t want to go out on Monday, that’s basically it. So, the tourism industry is not affected by insecurity in the southeast. It’s not at all because we still get a lot of people coming in. Almost all the hotels in Enugu are fully booked on Weekends, if insecurity was that bad I don’t think people will be flying into town and stay in hotels and there are still night flights in Enugu, although not as much as they used to, but people will get back to what it used to be. And you will agree with me that since his Excellency came in we have not had casualty on any of the sit-at-home Mondays, so he’s actually succeeded in stopping the chaos that comes with the sit-at-home So I don’t think we have any issue on that.
What excites you about the future of tourism in Enugu state?
Yes, I am excited about the future of tourism because a lot of people don’t know that tourism is the second biggest global business and global sector, it’s the second biggest in the world. And if that is true, it’s nice that we are creating awareness about tourism at the moment. You would see that all of a sudden, people are paying attention to tourism because everybody knows that we are not going to live for the rest of our lives depending on the oil, and his excellency the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for the first time, instituted the Ministry of Tourism. We didn’t have a ministry of tourism before now, this shows that he understands the enormous power and enormous resources that we have in tourism and don’t forget, for any country to grow its GDP, the country must be doing very well in the tourism sector. So I am excited about this, because his Excellency our Governor has told us and he keeps mentioning it anytime you listen to him talked that he wants to make Enugu state a preferred destination for business leading investment and tourism. So if that is so, it means he is going to do a lot to rejuvenate the tourism industry. He’s already told us he wants to bring Afro Disney, the first African Disney amusement park to Enugu state and I believe that would work in Enugu state. It’s about time we stopped traveling out of Nigeria on vacations because Nigerians travel a lot. I think the money should stay in here as much as we could get to stay in here. You would also notice that a country like Rwanda people keep going there these days to enjoy themselves. I mean we can also do that, we might also start by making sure flights go from Enugu state to Rwanda and from Rwanda to Enugu, that will be an exchange of tourist ideas. So I am really excited about it and because of the excitement, there is something in the oven in Enugu state at the moment, we are doing the first unity Christmas Park and it is going to be a Christmas village in a Park. We are going to install millions and millions of lights. We are going to bring in a lot of vendors, we have a lot of sponsors for the program as well and it will be a one stop shop for anybody in the southeast not just Enugu, to come in, relax and enjoy. We will have our cultural section, we will have our kiddies section, we will have all those entertainment sections and all that, so it’s going to be quite huge, and that is how we want to start the tourism, that’s hash tag destination Enugu, so from next year we will start reeling out our other activities and in our calenders.
So what are the things you hope to achieve in your tenure in office?
My main objective is to make Enugu state the preferred tourist destination in Africa. Presenter: A hub? Well I will prefer to call it a Destination, because when you talked about a destination, it means it’s a place to be, do you understand, it’s a destination, it’s a hub. But i prefer to call it destination Enugu because that will sit in people’s mind that this is where we need to be. That is my dream, and with all the support from his Excellency the governor, I think we should be able to reach there. We also have the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, so it’s a whole total package that we are all working together to see that we move the tourism in Enugu state forward.
What advice will give to your younger self?
To my younger self, okay, to be more focused and more prayerful. Yes, I think if I was more focused while I was a lot younger I would have achieved more than I have achieved today. And not allow any form of distractions stop me from getting to my destination, yes and be more prayerful that’s all.
So what would you like to point out to conclude this interview?
In conclusion, I would like to say that I am indeed very happy that you found the state worthy for this interview, that means you are interested in what we are doing here and you have seen that we are trying to make things happen and you are supporting us by talking to us so we really do appreciate that, thank you very much.
You are welcome!