In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday in Lagos, the stakeholders said “the government has not lived up to expectations to drive the sector.
They said a lot needed to be learnt from other countries like: South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Turkey among others who had given huge support to their tourism sector and were yeilding bountifully from it.
Uko said that if government must move the industry forward, as the custodian of the nation’s tourism brand with foreign policy instrument and licensing power to create national carriers, it should put such power to work.
He said the cumbersome process of visa acquisition and security challenges should be promptly waded into to upscale the tourism industry.
“Our tourism industry is not doing well, tourism cannot work without the will and policy of the government, just the way the South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Turkish governments support their tourism sector.
“In Nigeria, only the private sector who are mainly business individuals drive the industry, we need more of government presence in tourism,” he said.
Uko while reacting to the World Travel and Tourism Council Economic Impact report which stated that Nigerian tourism industry was expected to create about 2.6 million new jobs over the next decade, said that the industry could even perform better.
He said that considering the enormous tourism potential in Nigeria and with its big population, if the country could get just 30 million of that population to travel every other day, a lot of improvement would be achieved.
“Nigerians love life, we love to see new places, we should leverage this, tourism is the easiest way to get our youths employed and get our economy running as expected,” he said.
Uko advised that to market Nigeria to the world as a destination hub, potential around its waterfront, cultural festivals, movies, entertainment, MICE (meeting, incentives, conferencing and experience), religion and more must be explored.
According to him, these are low-hanging fruits that are not difficult to develop.
He said with premium charges on both out-bound and inbound travels, people were observed to be going out of the country more than the way people come in
He noted that this was a clear indication that the industry had not been thriving well.
“The number of flights being recorded at the airport has dropped significantly, also our tourism sites need lots of help right now, some facelifting works should be done on them,” he said.
Also, Mr Olugbenga Adebayo, Managing Director, Gadeshire Travels and Tours, said that the government must invest in its tourism industry as it remains an industry with the capability to generate huge employment opportunities and upscale nation’s economy.
Adebayo said that the current state of the Tafawa Balewa Square, located on the Island in Lagos, was quite worrisome.
”It is in in shambles and unattractive,” he said.
He said this is a foremost tourist and historical attraction where Nigeria’s independence was celebrated in 1960 and the lowering of the union jack.
He,however, called on the federal government to ensure the site was given some facelift to attract tourists.
According to Adebayo, Nigeria is the most difficult destination to market to tourists due to security challenges and the poor state of most tourist sites.
“We must get things right in this country, government has a lot to do to make tourism right in this nation.
“As a travel and tour operator, Nigeria is the most difficult destination to sell to tourists, we have a lot of bottlenecks everywhere, in the process of packaging tours, from visa acquisition troubles to clearing luggages at the airport,” he said.
Mr Wale Ojo-Lanre, a foremost tourism promoter, advised the federal government to create a sole ministry of tourism which would focus mainly on improving the sector.
He said there was equally need to establish a legal framework for the industry.
This, he said would go a long way in boosting investors’ confidence while the industry remains formidable and organised.