The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has called on the D-8 Organisation for Economic Development to liberalise the issuance of visas as a deliberate policy to boost tourism among member states.
The Minister made the call on the heels of the resolve by the D-8 to prioritise tourism development among its members as outlined by the Secretary General, Dr. Seyed Mousavi, during a courtesy visit to the Minister in Abuja on Wednesday.
“I think one area that the D-8 must work on and, if they really want to succeed, they must make sure that there is no barrier in terms of visa among these eight countries. You cannot grow trade, talk less of tourism, if there is visa restriction. It’s the free movement of people that will guarantee the free movement of trade,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed observed that it was not by coincidence that the countries with the highest traffic of tourists are those whose visas are least difficult to access.
He told the D-8 Secretary General that the present administration is committed to harnessing the potentials in the tourism sector in the renewed drive to diversify the nation’s economy.
The Minister, however, identified the dearth of infrastructure, access to tourism sites, preservation and conservation of cultural heritages, perception and failure to involve the locals in the tourism economy as some of the challenges confronting the development of tourism in Nigeria.
Alhaji Mohammed therefore stressed the need for D-8 member states with similar challenges to close ranks in order to make the economic bloc a tourist destination.
“Until and when nations with similar histories, problems and identical aspirations start working together, they will not be able to achieve their potentials. That is why I believe that the D-8 is a very good initiative,” he said.
The Minister urged the D-8 to look at tourism beyond sight-seeing and relaxation, but consider it as a veritable tool for political and economic empowerment.
Earlier, the Secretary General said the organization is doing a lot to integrate its people, governments and economies in order to promote the prosperity of member states.
He said the D-8 had been actively involved in the development of agriculture, trade, industry, energy and transportation but it recently resolved to delve into tourism because of its huge potentials for the economic development of member states.
The D-8 member countries are Nigeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey.