Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Bayelsa State Governor on Tourism, Mr. Piriye Kiyaramo says tourism creates opportunity to bring communities together with a view to re-orientating and instilling sense of community pride and knowledge of their history in them. He maintained that the colourful local festivals across Bayelsa State, the peaceful disposition of the people towards visitors and the warm hospitality are part of what make the state a great place to work, live and play.
The governor’s aide who spoke with journalists on the sideline of this year’s Gbarain ‘Uzu’ New Yam Festival of the Ancient Gbarain Kingdom in Yenagoa Local Government Area at Okolobiri at the weekend, noted that the best thing about being involved in local festivals and events is the opportunity it affords the people to help build the host community, while fostering a sense of pride within the community.
Mr. Kiyaramo, who commended Governor Douye Diri for his tourism friendly disposition, said festivals provide free marketing and advertising opportunities for local businesses, reiterating that: “Visitors talk about their fun experiences when they go back home. If visitors post comments and photos about their experiences about the particular festival they witnessed on Facebook or other social media network, it goes a long way to publicise the event which makes their participation much valuable.”
According to the SSA, the economic benefits of successful festivals usually ripple throughout the local economy, affecting both tourism and non-tourism-related businesses alike, pointing out that planning and conducting festivals usually involves many members of the community, which also yield a number of social benefits to the host communities. Mr. Kiyaramo further explained that local festivals promote community pride by celebrating things that make the host town special and evoke good feelings: Those things can be as ‘big’ as ethnic heritage, or as ‘small’ as a piece of pastry, stressing that local festivals attract visitors who in turn spend money in the host community, which boosts as well as stimulate economic growth.
The governor’s aide informed further that: “Off-site spending related to festivals generates revenue for communities, as festival attendees would want to stop at gas stations to refill, patronise souvenir shops and restaurants, while overnight visitors provide another source of off-site revenue to the host communities.”
Also speaking an illustrious son and Permanent Secretary in the state civil service, (Retired) Hon. Prince John D. Egbe, said the New Yam Festival (Uzu Uge) predates the present generation of leaders in Gbarain Kingdom.
According to Prince Egbe, it is one of the oldest cultural festivals in Izon tribe as it heralds the harvesting of new yams in the twelve communities that make up the Gbarain Kingdom, informing that so many cultural activities take place along the length and breadth of the Kingdom.
“It is imperative to know that hosting right of the festival is rotational (one community after the other) and on the last day, being the seventh day, every body will converge at the host community for its grand finale.
“It finally ends with a Thanksgiving Service in any Church so recommended by the planning Committee. So much to say the festival, but time and space will always limit me,” Hon. Egbe said.
Experts agree that hometown pride is a critical factor in the development and improvement of any community. Residents with community pride are more likely to speak positively about their town to others and to volunteer with organizations and activities that support the common good.