The World over, tourism is recognized as the engine of growth and a huge foreign exchange earner. Tourism is a very potent force in the world. As a foreign exchange earner, it accounts for over 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This marks tourism out as a major player and catalyst for sustainable development. Most countries make huge investments in the tourism industry because of its potential to create job opportunities, improve local livelihoods, encourage economic growth and alleviate poverty. Tourism is most advantageous because it is a renewable source of revenue, and is capable of generating incentives for conservation of natural and cultural assets.

The news that Bayelsa State will develop the long awaited ox-bow lake resort and other major tourist destinations has come as a relief to tourism watchers. It is coming at a time when the President has no choice but to get involved in the development of the tourism environment in his home State.
Tourism was the key development strategy adopted by the Goodluck Jonathan dispensation as Governor of Bayelsa State in 2006. Today, with this announcement, tourism resurfaces as the most urgent direction for present and coming dispensations in the State. We can begin to appreciate the foresight of the then Governor Goodluck Jonathan in adopting the tourism strategy, for the development of State.
The following strongly reawakens the long standing debate as to what exactly would amount to the best strategy for diversifying the Bayelsa mono- product economy.
Economically, tourism is labour intensive, offering many opportunities for both skilled and semi-skilled. In Ghana, for instance, tourism provides direct employment in accommodation, restaurant, tour and travel operations. It also provides indirect employment in the tourism supplying sector such as agriculture, craft production and transport. Also additional employment is induced through local spending. Apart from contributions to government revenue fees and levies, licensed fees paid by hotels, restaurant, tour and travel operations, casinos tourism brings in general development in the area of accommodation, transportation, telecommunication and road network. A range of other activities are stimulated by tourism development, such as agriculture, manufacturing, high technology and communication. Tourism encourages small and medium-sized businesses which in turn help to generate service and entrepreneurial skills.

Socially, tourism improves the living standards of the local people and helps in the improvement of the community's facilities and services. It also helps to conserve the cultural heritage of an area which otherwise might be lost as a result of the urban-industrial complex. Tourism contributes immensely to the development and maintains museums, theatres and other cultural facilities. In a global scale, tourism provides the opportunity for cross-cultural exchange between tourists and residence that learn about and come to respect one another's culture.
Eco- tourism can mix well with cultural tourism to transform Bayelsa State into a built up economy. The Governor Dickson regime is determined to make converted efforts to transform the multiple Rivers, streams, beaches and mangrove swamp of Bayelsa State into tourism sites.
This vision propelled the formation of the Ministry of Tourism Development which has put together a stakeholder’s conference to dialogue on best practices to enhance tourism development. The ministry is also exploring possible bilateral relations and partnerships with Ghana, Malaysia and Austria. Team members of the Ministry of Tourism & Development will after the stakeholders conference is off to Ghana on a tour and capacity building retreat.

According to the World Conservation Union; “Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature and cultural features both past and present, that promotes conservation, has low negative visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations”. The WTO estimates that cultural tourism has been growing at a rate of 15% annually and that 37% of all international travel includes a cultural component. Some authorities believe that cultural tourism is the fastest growing and most lucrative segment of the North American travel industry.

While there is no one standard definition of cultural tourism that has been adopted globally, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) defined it thus: Cultural and heritage tourism occurs when participation in a cultural, educational, or heritage experience is a significant factor in a trip. This could involve: Museums and Galleries; performing, literary and visual arts; festivals and events; historic sites and heritage attractions, local customs and cuisines etc.

Ten key principles for tourism development

1. Sustainable tourism development largely depends upon well defined national tourism strategies and tourism development plans at the national and local levels.

2. The tourism industry must endeavour to develop tourism in an environmentally responsible manner recognizing that the maintenance of the natural resource base which supports the industry is the ultimate responsibility of the industry.

3. The integration of tourism development into Programmes ensures that development is within the environmental carrying capacity of the area and conflicts with other coastal activities are minimized.

4. Environmental assessment provides a structured approach to predicting potential impacts and incorporating mitigation measures during design, construction and operation phases.

5. Tourism developers and national and local authorities must cooperate in developing and implementing measures to minimize physical alteration and its impacts during the construction phase.

6. A range of management measures and technologies should be utilized to limit the negative impacts of coastal tourism during the operational phase.

7. Long-term monitoring and assessment provide a mechanism for detecting adverse environmental and social effects that may arise, and facilitate appropriate mitigation measures in a timely manner.

8. Effective consultation with all primary stakeholders including the local community contributes significantly to the long-term success of coastal tourism projects.

9. Sustainable tourism development requires the strengthening of human resources, and institutional capacities amongst all sectors involved at several levels.

10. Governments, international and regional organizations, industry and tourism-related NGOs should cooperate on development and the transfer of environmentally-sustainable tourism methodologies and technologies.

Bayelsa State is blessed with immense tourist attractions, which unfortunately have not been fully developed. Below is a list of Eco/Tourism sites in Bayelsa that could turn around the fortunes of Bayelsa State if invested in and developed.

1. Lake Efi tourist attraction Sabagreia, in Kolokuma/Opokuma local government A natural lake where the popular fishing festival Lake-Efi Fishing festival takes place.
Lake Amassoma Which is 3km long and 500m in width, with a peculiar curving course. It is the site for the popular Seigben Ogugu Fishing and Feasting Festival, itself a popular tourist attraction
Akassa Slave Tunnel Ogbokiri, Akassa, Bayelsa State Standing grim-looking houses where slaves were chained as they awaited shipment to the Americas.
The Akassa Lighthouse Standing approximately 60m tall by the seaside in Akassa, this structure is reputed to be the tallest lighthouse in West Africa. Originally built in 1910, but relocated to its present site in 1912. Its purpose was to help ships coming into the inland sea ports navigate their way through shallow waters. The lighting system was facilitated by solar energy.
The British Consulate Building
-Brass, In from where they administered the area during the era of ‘legitimate trade'. The consulate buildings were still in use till the end of the colonial period in 1960.
Whiteman Graveyard
NEMBE This is a cemetery containing the graves of Europeans who died in Anglo-Nembe War popularly called the Akassa war of 1895. This was sparked by the way the local palm oil trade was coming under the increasing control of the Royal Niger Company at the expense of indigenous traders. The dawn attack of more than a thousand Nembe warriors on the company's headquarters was led by King William Koko. The graveyard tells a vivid story of the raid and its bloody aftermath. It is located at Twon-Brass, Brass Island and can be easily reached from the Brass jetty.
7. Glory Land Castle Yenagoa
8. Peace Park “
9. Oxbow lake Yenagoa
10. The national oil museum Oloibiri, ogbia LGA
First oil well drilled in 1956
11. Late Fredrick William Koko
Kg. Fredrick led the Akassa raid in 1868
12. Isaac Adaka Boro memorial monument
Reminiscent of Niger Delta Struggle
13. Bronze heads Opume ogbia LGA Mysterious Antiques
14. The okpoma Beach Twon Brass Recreational site
15. The olodiama Museum
Museum of ancient story
16. The Agriculture palmbeach
Farm settlement
17. Ancient War Boat Regatta Nembe 1500 – 1850 reminiscence
18. Achiever Farm Igbogene Recreational site
19. The mangrove museum
Tourist attraction
20. King ockiya mauseleum
Nembe King Josiah Constantine ockiya who invited gospel into the country in 1868
21. Ogidigan Deity Nembe Bassambiri Sacred Diety
22. The Odi holiday resort
Recreational centre
23. Neighbourhood aquatic resort Yenagoa Aqua culture

Potential Benefits of Tourism Planning in Bayelsa State:
Establishing the overall tourism development objectives and policies, namely, what is tourism aiming to accomplish and how these aims can be achieved;
Developing tourism so that its natural and cultural resources are indefinitely maintained and conserved for future, as well as present, use;
Integrating tourism into the overall development policies and patterns of the country or region, and establishing those linkages between tourism and other economic sectors;
Providing a rational basis for decision-making by both the public and private sectors on tourism development;
Enabling the coordinated development of all the many elements of the tourism sector. This includes interrelating tourist attractions, activities, facilities and services and the various and increasingly fragmented tourist markets;
Optimizing and balancing the economic, environmental and social benefits of tourism, with the equitable distribution of these benefits to the society, while minimizing the possible problems of tourism;
Providing a physical structure which guides the location, types and extent of tourism development of attractions, facilities, services and infrastructure;
Establishing the guidelines and standards for preparing detailed plans of specific tourism development areas that are consistent with, and reinforce, one another, and for the appropriate design of tourist facilities;
Laying the foundation for effective implementation of the tourism development policy and planning and continuous management of the tourism sector, by providing the necessary organizational and other institutional framework;

Providing the framework for effective coordination of public and private sector efforts and investment in developing tourism;

Offering a baseline for the continuous monitoring of the progress of tourism development and keeping it on track.
Bayelsa is rich in tourism destinations. All that is required is its development and come 2013-2014, Bayelsa should be able to host international events. With this insight, the State government is determined to partner with investors in the sector to implement a sustainable tourism policy.

For the Tourism industry to flourish, Bayelsa State provide hospitality training,, businesses that will provide business skills training within a legal framework that promotes investment. The State Government must also increase and refine marketing strategies and skills and encourage inclusion of value-added products facilitate regional networking and make the business of develop capacity in ideally situated communities. If the Restoration government follows the Tourism Master Plan laid out to boost the sector, the assertion that Bayelsa State is well on her way to become the hub of Tourism in the West African Sub-region can only be germane.

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