Tapping Nigeria’s tourism potential



News Today 2

Tapping Nigeria ’s tourism potential

, Nigeria News Agency

Tourism is recognised globally as one of the world’s top revenue generating sector. Successive governments in Nigeria had always put policies in place to boost the revenue generating capacity of the sector.

The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Decree of 1992, now an act of parliament, regulates activities in the tourism sector.

Since it commenced operation, the NTDC has been active in the areas of promoting, coordinating and marketing tourism activities.

This, among other times, manifested in 2010, during the FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa, as NTDC “created a Nigerian village in Cape Town.’’ The village showcased Nigerian culture and lifestyle.

The success of that initiative encouraged the corporation to plan a similar event for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

A state like Lagos State has also made effort to sell its tourism potential to the world through its consistent participation in the annual Noting Hill Carnival in London.

Mr Folorunsho Coker, NTDC Director General, recently advised state governments to collaborate with the Federal Government to boost tourism in states.

Coker made the suggestion while receiving Mrs Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, the Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture.

He said that tourism had huge revenue generating potential, and called on all tiers of government to cooperate to harness gains in the sector.

Akingbile-Yusuf promised that Lagos State would take advantage of the unique opportunity provided by NTDC to reach out to major tourism stakeholders in Africa.

The Lagos commissioner said that the collaboration would further provide the opportunity to market Lagos as a must-visit destination in Africa and globally.

“Lagos is prepared to collaborate with NTDC in areas that will give recognition to creative arts, and tourism development,’’ she assured.

In spite efforts by government, Nigeria is yet to generate the desired revenue from the tourism sector.

In 2016, globally, 7.6trillion dollars, equivalent to 10.2 per cent of global GDP, and 26 million jobs, were generated in the travel and tourism sectors.

Dr Sheriff Ibrahim of the Department of Political Science, University of Abuja, said this was an indication that the tourism sector of the international economy was comparatively doing better than oil.

He said that states need to invest heavily in the tourism sector in order to benefit from the huge economic potential in the sector.

The World Trade and Tourism Council, in 2007 estimated that Nigeria was likely to generate revenue exceeding 10 billion dollars (about 3.5 trillion naira) from travel and tourism related activities.

But that target has not been realised till date.

Mr Oyedeji Oyekunle, former Chief Technical Officer at the National Gallery of Arts, said Nigeria need more tourism sites to generate the deserved revenue.

For now, only two sites, Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa and Osun Oshogbo Sacred Grove in Osun,   are inscribed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

“A country like South Africa has eight sites, Egypt-seven, Ethiopia-seven, Kenya-three, etc.

”The major setbacks are the absence of tourism infrastructure, and manpower deficiency in the tourism sector,” he posited.

He advocated for infrastructural development like roads and accommodation in tourist sites. He cited the example of Aqua Resort near the Calabar River, which has decent accommodation that attracts hordes of tourists.

He equally bemoaned the dearth of tourism experts in the top management of Nigeria’s tourism related institutions.

Keen observers agree that a vibrant aspect of tourism in Nigeria is cultural tourism as seen in events like the Eyo Masquerades, Calabar and Abuja carnivals.

Sports tourism has also led to development of golf courses in several Nigerian towns, but adequate manpower is required to further develop the sector.

Several stakeholders, however, blame the international community for always orchestrating negative happenings in Nigeria and urged Nigerians to reject the ‘campaign of calumny’ and begin to tell the country’s story to the world.

Mrs Bilkis Abdul, the National President of National Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), while urging government to solve the several challenges in the country to encourage tourism, however said that such challenges like insecurity should not discourage investment in tourism.

Abdul, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of BBOOG Travels and Tours,  told NAN that investment in tourism would contribute immensely to improving government revenue.

`Challenges such as insecurity are not enough to discourage us from promoting tourism, and they should not scare tourists from Nigeria.

“Some of those countries that receive huge population of tourists yearly also  grapple with one security challenge or the other, but they still reap optimal benefits from their tourism sectors, due to the level of  commitment, and the investment they make in the sector,’’ she said.

She urged government to encourage tour operators in the country to optimally sell Nigeria’s tourism potential.

“The tour operators are the ones that sell tourism. They know the tourist attractions and they know where exactly to take tourists to.

“Tour operators are ready to sell Nigeria’s tourism potential to the outside world, but government should provide what we can sell. This can be done by developing the tourist sites and providing the necessary infrastructure around them,’’ she advised.

According to Dr Momoh Kabir, Director General of National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), an average Nigerian is hospitable and accommodating to visitors.

“We are aggressive, but very hospitable and kind. We need to showcase those positive aspects of our behavioural patterns to attract tourists to Nigeria,’’ he said.

Kabir described tourism as an activity that enables people leave their abode to other places, depending on the attraction, where they do not have to work but just spend money for leisure.

He said that most of the tourist attractions that propel some Nigerians to travel to some other countries were present across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

He said: “If we have capable hands to drive the tourism industry, it will help a lot in the economic diversification programme of the present dispensation.

“We depend so much on oil, but tourism, either natural or man-made, can give substantial amount of revenue to run the economy.’’

The NIHOTOUR DG said that all the 774 local government areas in Nigeria had tourist sites of different types that can create employment and increase contribution to the GDP.

He cited examples of some smaller African countries that were already reaping huge benefits from the sector.

“Within the West Africa sub region, Gambia is smaller than Nigeria, but `root tourism’ drives their economy today.

“They take tourists to their rural areas where they live among the rural populace. It enables them to have meaningful interaction with the local people, and they have a lot of money to spend,’’ he said.

Former governor Donald Duke of Cross River, described tourism as the most viable sector of global economy.

Thus, while in office, he made it one of the priority areas of his administration.

Duke inaugurated a tourism bureau charged with the task of policy formulation and implementation of tourist sites.

He also initiated the Obudu Ranch Mountain Race as a way of boosting tourism in the state.

The state has continued to build on these initiatives even long after Duke ceased to be governor.

Nigeria can boast of investible tourist sites like the Yankari National Park in Bauchi State; Kainji Lake Park in Niger; Gashaka Games Reserve in Adamawa; Oguta Lake Resort in Imo and Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Ogun .

There are also craft materials like textiles from places like Osogbo and Benue, ceramics, wood carvings, among others.

All these, added to roomy rivers and clean beaches; unique wild life, all suitable for holidaying.

According to John Agbai, a culture and tourism enthusiast, government only needs to show enough commitment for the country to boost its revenue drive from tourism.

‘’Countries like Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia have made conscious effort to develop tourism and have started reaping enormous benefits,” he said.

Agbai said that without the government leading the way, private investors will not show adequate interest in tourism.

He also recommended development of transportation to embrace ‘recreation transportation,’ and extension of rails to tourist attractions like beaches and lakes as some of the measures that will make tourism attractive and boost Nigeria’s revenue drive.

However, the security challenges posed by the Boko Haram insurgency on the one hand, and sundry cases of kidnap on the other hand, further compound the task of projecting tourism.

A more functional approach to tackling such challenges will further boost the sector.

The NIHOTOUR’s DG Kabir, described tourism as a sector that `is shy of insecurity.’ He urged government to tackle security challenges in the country more decisively, so as not to scare potential tourists.

According to him, tourism is a sensitive sector, but insecurity has the tendency to scare visitors that might want to come.

“People want to go to beaches to relax, but they want to visit safe and beautiful beaches.

“There is also the aspect of culture. Cultural tourism is the strength Nigeria and indeed Africa has. We should be able to revive our cultures, nurture them and showcase them to the world,’’ he said.

He added that tourism sites can also attract infrastructural development.

“ If there is a waterfall in a village, for instance, it will encourage government to construct roads to that site.

“Government will also provide hospitals because people can fall sick while visiting the site,’’ he said.

As government intensifies effort to diversify the economy and boost revenue, it should unarguably pay special attention to exploiting the huge potential in the tourism sector. (NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as Nigeria News Agency

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Abdulrahman Kadiri

Abdulrahman Kadiri: NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. We are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and we strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor @ nnn.ng. Disclaimer.

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