The Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, on Saturday received double honours as Batanba Nigerian Tourism Man of the Year as well as Nigerian Urban Development Governor of the Year.
The Bantaba award was conferred on Imoke by the organizers of the annual travel event, Akwaaba Travel Market, in Abuja.
In his response at the tourism award, Imoke, who thanked the organisers for the recognition, decried the low level of patronage in the hospitality industry in Nigeria.
He said: “One of the great challenges for us as a state is that out of 36 states, Cross River always leads.
“So, I’m not here for the tourism award but I am here to create the needed awareness and sensitize our people about the industry and the potentials it has to grow our economy.”
Imoke observed that with a population of 170 million people, Nigerians can by themselves develop the industry, which needs to be nurtured to render the desired benefits, stressing: “Unless we, as the people, take ownership of this huge industry, we should not expect anyone else from outside to come here and give us the support.
“And that is very critical.
“We must drive the traffic to the economy or else we would not achieve our vision, because this industry would thrive on us.
“The opportunity the industry has is tremendous, phenomenal and the partnership has to be stronger.
“Understanding of the industry has to be shared and those of you who are passionate about it must also continue even in the face of all the challenges to remain committed to the development of the industry.
“Cross River is the third conference destination in Nigeria outside Lagos and Abuja and we need to take that market.
“We are positioning ourselves not just for that alternative economy, but also to attract the huge industry and to be able to attract it, you must understand that you must approach it holistically, not from the point of view of one event but from the point of view of the many offerings that you present, understanding the audience and your market in partnership with the relevance stakeholders.”
Imoke disclosed that the first multi-faceted, purpose-built, 5000 seats Calabar International Convention Centre, which structure is designed in such a way that is flexible enough to host even 10 meetings at the same time, would be ready in December this year and would be opened for business in February 2015.
The governor called on the Federal Government to review its stand on tourism, averring that it must take its key role as the driver of the industry by evolving policies and level playground that would enable states compete favourably with other operators around the world.
Imoke was represented by the Commissioner for Special Projects, Bassey Oqua, at the Urban Development Award.
The award was instituted by Campaign Hype in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Lands and Urban Development and the Federal Capital Territory administration.