By AYO OMOTOSO
Tourism is universal. It is a tool to create wealth; to contribute to any serious national gross domestic product (GDP) if the potentials are harnessed and developed. Tourism is part of us. Places like Malaysia, Jordan, Scandinavian countries, South Africa, Jerusalem, Mecca, and Dubai earn huge income from tourism. People flock in millions to these destinations annually. These tourism spots are deliberate developmental response of responsive government or private initiatives and which in return turned to huge income earning and employment generation in addition to the primary reason of giving satisfaction to man’s physical, spiritual and emotional needs.
Tourism is all about travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. This viable sector has become a popular global reference. It is a big industry worldwide engaging billions of international tourists from 2011-till date.
In Ondo State, a state blessed with many tourist sites and mineral resources but these potentials are yet to be properly harnessed into economic benefits for her people.
The major tourism signature among them is Idanre Hills, which is 3,000 ft above the sea level. This is listed on UNESCO heritage site, though not yet approved; however, it has not been properly marketed and explored in order to generate mind blowing revenue to the government. Although attraction has been created around the scenic beauty of the hilly town of Idanre, celebrating nature’s gift and providing a viable destination for tourist while showcasing to the universe the culture and heritage of Ondo State. The Mare attraction to Idanre Hills is not sufficient to generate billions of proposed plan.
In real value, the tourism template of Ondo State is worth 29billion dollars if the government in power is ready and willing to embrace this gold mine in ensuring that tourism is a vision to solve the unemployment menace in any society.
There are many tourist sites scattered around the Sunshine state. In truth, I make bold to say that the sun can only shine better if there is a serious approach to culture and tourism activities, geared towards human development.
Oke Maria is a religion destination, but nothing is being done about it. The site is waiting for branding and other tourism embellishments to make it attractive. This is a product that could generate Millions of Naira to both the state and the local government, including the Akoko people.
Israel sells majorly religion tourism to the rest of the world. People flock in droves to Jerusalem to catch the beauty and the emotional site.
Tourism is like honey; in which it attracts people to have a taste of the product. Like carcass, the vultures will gather, where there are eagles. People go to where they can recreate, and wet their appetite. Destination Jerusalem is an adventure package generating billions of dollars to the Israeli government, hoteliers, tour operators, tour guide, and everyone involved. It is a chain for prosperity and development.
The cultural attraction of Ondo State is colorful like Igogo festival which already is on the world’s tourism map including the Eginmogun Festival etc. These are cultural products that should be better packaged to attract intentional tourists.
The eco-tourism potential of Ondo State is huge in cash. It ranges from the minerals resources, to the beach coast line. The coastal area is waiting for serious development too in order to generate funds. Florida in United State flourishes through tourism. They take the advantage of the climate condition and thereby creating attractions around it. I expect government to tap into these tourism potentials for maximum benefits.
Tourism is a flame, the moment you light it, it brings development to the whole geographical Ondo State to civilization, suffice to say that it is time for Ondo State government to look at tourism potentials with a visionary plan and begin to project and create enabling environment for key players to partner with government in ensuring the state is positioned as a tourist destination.
The tourism potentials of Ondo State can generate over 1 million jobs for her teeming youth if the government makes tourism a priority. Ondo State is also known for agricultural destination as part of its heritage among other states in Nigeria. Thanks to the idea of Ile-Oluji Cocoa powder. Ile-Oluji Cocoa powder is a tea with good natural taste. But they can mix it with tourism concept called Agric-tourism. This concept is already known in Kenya and many Eastern countries. This writer has seen the cocoa seed before, but not many younger generations have the privilege to do so. In view of this, Ondo State should be in partnership with tour operators, destination planners to sell Agric-tourism to millions of students within Nigeria.
The concept of agric-tourism, is a direct expansion of eco-tourism, which encourages visitors to experience agricultural life at first hand. Agric-tourism is gathering strong support from small communities as rural people have realized the benefit of sustainable development brought about by similar funds of nature travels.
This is a trip with a feeling to see cocoa seed, to relate with farmers. This also gives tourists the opportunity to view the growing, harvesting and processing of locally grown foods, such as corn, coconuts, sugarcane and pineapple. Farmers and ranchers use this interest to develop traffic at their farm or ranch and interest in the quality of their products.