It was all colourful at the unveiling of Epe tourism potentials as the people joined the world to celebrate World Tourism Day on Monday, September 27, 2021.
The moments were beautiful and full of glamour as government officials, investors, bankers, tour operators and tourists, entertainers, sons and daughters of the land, as well as invited guests stormed the historic waterside venue known as Oju Alaro at Epe Marina area in grand style to witness the unveiling of Epe tourism potentials.
The carnival-like one-day event held in commemoration of this year’s World Tourism Day sought to raise awareness of the social and economic significance of tourism and its socio-political, cultural and economic value within local and international communities.
Championing the move to attract strategic collaboration to the tourist potentials of the rich aquatic splendour of the Lagos community is the Executive Chairman, Epe Local Government, Hon. (Princess) Surah Olayemi Animashaun, gleaned of culture as she exhumes grace befitting of the day in her colourful Ankara dress adorned with cowries.
In her welcome address, the Executive Chairman, serving as the first female chairperson of the Epe Division, stated that her mission was to foster collaboration that will attract meaningful development through tourism.
“Our country is blessed with rich cultural attractions and if properly harnessed will not only impact positively on the IGR of the nation by increasing international and local trade within different sectors but will also create employment opportunities for a cross-section of people in various areas of specialisations,” she said.
“When tourism development is done right, it can foster the growth of productive opportunities for income generation and provide equal access to these opportunities for all. Everyone, from the tour guide to the artisans and fishermen, the investors to t farmers and the petty traders will benefit from it.
“Our end goal here in Epe Local government is to create a tourism ecosystem that is inclusive; where every single individual plays a part in promoting the community and its potentials and also benefits from the income generation in equal measures,” she stated buttressing the economic impact of tourism on job creation.”
The chairman called for a need to shift from total reliance on the oil sector and identifying other more inclusive non-oil sectors that can be equally beneficial to the Nigerian economy and its people.
Speaking on the theme for the year’s occasion she said, “The theme for this year tagged: Tourism for inclusive Growth, is timely as it follows a global recovery from the negative economic and social compact that Covid-19 has on the world at large.
“As we gradually ease out of the restrictions and containment measures of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to have conversations around the diversification of the economy, shifting from total reliance on the oil sector and identifying other more inclusive non-oil sectors that can be equally beneficial to the Nigerian economy and its people.”
Addressing the exciting gathering, Hon Quadri Adu Kehinde, the Head of Culture and Tourism, African Union, Economic Social and Cultural Council, ECOSOCC, Nigeria, revealed that the group would work with the Epe Local Government towards achieving this goal.
Hon Kehinde, also a son of Epe who stressed the African Union Agenda 2063 and its readiness to work with the government of Epe local government to harness showcased potentials said that tourism is a window through which the showcased potentials of the people of Epe could be harnessed.
He said, “We are going to bring people from the 56 African countries to Epe next year. The next one, we will not leave to the Local Government alone. We are going to set up a committee with the Chairman to begin the planning for the next edition,” he stated.
“Tourism is virgin land. It is an avenue where you can become whatever you want to become. It doesn’t stop you from becoming whatever you want to become. I want to call upon you to cooperate with the present administration of Epe Local Government. Our tourism potential is enormous and must be strategically harnessed for the benefit of the people of Epe and Lagos State at large. We will empower more of youths this year through tourism as we did 2 years ago.”
Quadri further emphasised the need for Africa to be self-reliant in order to save its indigenous cultures and norms from extinction.
“They (The African Union) came up with agenda 2063 and aspiration number 5 (Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics), is what we are experiencing today. Africa should be for Africans. By 2063, we should wear what we produce, we should eat what we produce and we should speak our language, most especially Yoruba language,” he said.
Hotelier and tourism investor Dr Joe Owie, the Managing Director of Villa Rica Beach Resort, Eloko, disclosed said that tourism is the future of this country and an easy way to increase our Foreign Direct Income (FDI).
Harping on the fact that local tourism needs to be promoted as a better alternative said, “Epe land needs at least 500 hotel rooms over the next five years. Imagine if we have to invite Davido here. Where will they stay? Do we have the Hotels? If WizKid was to come together with Davido, do we have enough rooms for them? They are not just going to come and go the next they, they are supposed to come and stay.
“As soon as this celebration is over, am going to go look at an inspection site for the setting up of Villa Rica beach resort marina, Epe Land. And by the special grace of God by this time next year, we should have our presence in Epe land.”
Dr Owie, who agreed with the chief host that tourism has a capacity to help the people of Epe leverage its untapped natural endowments, said, “As I look around here, I see money.”
“Tourism is the highest return on investment in the whole wide world. Like they say in business, to set up a business, you have to be close to your location of raw material. Here, the water is here, the culture is here, and the Kabiyesi is quite hospitable. Here are the advantages to the community.
“The youths will be trained; everybody in Epe land can be employed in the tourism industry as we speak. Naturally, we have the water, so lifeguards can be trained. That’s just one area. Services to the hospitality industry. We have the hotel managers, receptionists, cleaners–everything, name it, they can be trained.
“The best of it all is what I call tour operators and tourist guides. If you watch movies, you find out that tour guides accompany tourists and they are well paid. They will show the tourists the beauty of what we have here.
“In tourism, when you stay in a location for over 24 hours, you become a tourist. In the economy, it means a lot,” he said, stressing that tourism development will not be possible without good infrastructures.
Speaking about key attractions in Epe, Honourable Apata Samson Olatunji Olayan, Managing Director, Eko Destination Limited said, “One key feature that draws people to Epe is its vast resources of fishes which make people call it the ‘fish basket’ of Lagos and indeed, Nigeria. People come even from outside the shores of Nigeria to buy fish at our famous Oluwo Market.”
“Another attraction is the site of today’s event called ‘Oju Alaro’ with its own shrine and a tour guide to tell people about its significance.
“One key attraction about Epe is that it is blessed with a beautiful waterfront and this attracts many people regularly.
“This ceremony is held to draw attraction to all these vast resources which are untapped. Rome was not built in a day and we believe that with strategic partnerships, we can together turn Epe into one of the choicest travel destinations in Africa.”
The event also thrilled the guests with cultural performances, boat regatta, mini-exhibition, live band and a grand unveiling of a new visual identity for Epe Tourism.
The Oko Eshi or Boat Regatta, as it is popularly known which was one highlight of the day, was a spectacle to behold. Decorated fully in colourful fabrics, three boats simultaneously manoeuvred beautifully on the Lagoon to the gyrations of its own cultural troupes.
Also to add glamour to the event was the Agira Dance performance delivered by colourfully arrayed Agira Magbo Masquerade of Epe land which was accompanied by songs in Epe dialect and backed local drums.
Other performing groups include an all-white female Woro Dance Group and the Aziza Cultural Troupe with their beautiful Agehun dance, symbolizing aquatic culture.
The ceremony attracted dignitaries such as the Oloja and Paramount ruler of Epe Land, Oba Kamorudeen Ishola Animashaun, The Olu Epe of Epe Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Oba (Dr) Shefiu Olatunji Adewale (Bamgbopa Esinlokun 1), title chiefs, traditionalists, Local Government counsellors, among others. Others include representatives of Mrs Uzamat Akinbile Yussuf, Commissioner for Tourism, Dr Joe Owie, Managing Director, Villa Rica Beach Resort, Eleko among others.
See photos from the event:
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