New York (Reuters) – Nigeria Tourism on Monday opened its doors to the world by opening its doors for visitors from the rest and beyond, in what is an unprecedented move by a Muslim country.
In what was billed as the world’s largest tourism exhibition, the largest ever held by a country, hundreds of people were given free tickets and food at a luxury hotel in Manhattan to enjoy the city’s cultural attractions and experience new ways of visiting.
“We are opening the doors of this country to the whole world and opening up our culture, our history and our traditions to the masses,” said Nigeria’s prime minister, Abdullahi Yusuf, in a statement.
The country’s tourism ministry said the move was part of efforts to open up a new way of life for Muslims.
“We want to show the world that the world is ready for Muslim culture,” said Yusuf.
Nigeria, which has been a target of Islamist militants for decades, is among the world ailing tourist markets, having lost millions of dollars of business in tourism in recent years.
But this is a major step in Nigeria’s efforts to attract tourists from the Middle East and Africa, where more than one million Muslims live.
Islamic groups have long complained that many of the countries that host their annual pilgrimages are not welcoming of their guests.
The move by the Nigerian government was one of several recent developments that have boosted the country’s reputation as a destination for tourists.
Last year, a government-run tourism agency in the country said it would launch a “new generation” of tourist attractions.
Its aim is to bring more tourists to the country and boost the economy, the agency said.
Analysts say the move will help lure more people back to Nigeria, where tourism accounts for more than half of gross domestic product.
As a result, it could also help Nigeria’s economy expand.