“Nigeria, no doubt can become the tourism destination in the world if the government could tap into the various tourism potentials that abound in various parts of the country. This is very important at a time like this when oil dependency seems to be leading us to nowhere.”
The statement above was made by Chief Gani Adams, the promoter of Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF) and the Leader of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC).
Tourism sector is one of the viable sectors Nigeria is endowed with and also has the capability to serve as a good alternative source of revenue earnings to oil and gas – an unreliable sector that accounts for more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s foreign revenue earning. However, over-reliance on oil has thrown Nigeria into a precarious state, which the country is still battling with. That is why the Buhari administration has made it as a top priority to diversify the economy from the quagmire of a deep recession caused the Nigeria by the instability of oil price in the international market.
The government has been making relentless efforts to improve other sectors and make them become viable economic gold mines like oil and gas. The sectors are solid minerals, agriculture, manufacturing and the last but not the list, the tourism sector.
Really, the government has been matching its words with actions at least to an appreciable level in ensuring that those sectors are made to contribute visibly to the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP), so that a slight decrease in the global price of crude oil will no longer cause Nigeria avoidable discomfort.
Besides, stakeholders have been clamouring that government should pay more attention to the tourism sector, since it has the potential to attract some foreign direct investment (FDI) to the Nigeria economy. This is freighted on the obvious fact that Nigeria is a country that is greatly endowed with lots of natural sites, historical buildings, historical places and monuments, ancient arts and cultures, amusement parks/places etc. that could easily attract hundreds of thousands to the country to the generation of sorely-needed hard currencies — in billions of dollars, annually, perhaps!
Obioma B.K, in his research article titled “Tourism Potentials and Socio-Economic Development of Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects” said:
“Selected Natural Attractions in Nigeria: Aso Rock, Gurara Falls, Ibeno – Pkerete Beach, Nwanibo Hills, Yankari Games Reserve, Udi Hill, Kwa Falls, Ranch Resort, Oban Hills and Erin – Ijasha Water Falls, Ikogosi Warm Spring, Watse Rock, Owu Water Falls, Lekki Beach, Olumo Rock, Bar Beach, Assopt Water Falls, Wildlife Resort, Mambila Plateau;
(2) Built Attractions: Cross River (Mary Slessor’s House, Marina Resort and Ekpo Ekpo Bassey House in Calabar), Kebbi (Traditional Architecture) and Lagos (First Storey Building, National Museum and Slave House).
(3) Selected Social and Cultural Attraction: Akwa Ibom (Ekpo, Ekpri Akata and Raffia City, Edele Dance – Itigidi, Mary Slessor Play – Akpap Okoyong, Mgbe Cult, Mnikom Dance, Ekeledi Dance and New Yam Festivals), and Vwana Dance and Ngaraguta Leather Work.
“The rest are the Royal Niger Company commodities market building at Kreigiani, near Omoku in Rivers State, Kiri Dam and the Zuig Natural Attraction in Adamawa State, Assop Water Falls in Plateau State, and the Benin Museum, Emotan Statue; the ancient Palace of the Oba of Benin in Edo State, etc.
“The TINAPA (Africa’s premier business resort), Agbokim Water Falls, Obudu Ranch Resort and the Cross River National Park. Other areas are the monoliths of Alok and Nkarassi, Mary Slessor’s Residence in Odukpani, Afi Mountain Nature Reserve, the Drilling Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre CERCOPAN and cultural festivals and carnivals,” the scholar highlighted.
According to Obioma, the factors hampering the development of Nigeria tourism sector are: negative image of Nigeria internationally, lack of awareness among the local communities, threat to extinction of wildlife, inadequate infrastructural bases, financial problems, over-concentration on oil revenue.
In his opinion, the Facility Manager of Ostra Hall and Hotel, Akele Monday Favour said: “Let say it again and again, that there is huge multi-billion business in tourism in Nigeria; a lot of people are making money and once you make the money, the next thing is to spend the money, because working hard without spending it well does not make any sense. People go to Disneyland in Paris and spend millions of dollars and there is no difference between Paris and Nigeria, it is just to conceptualise that. It is possible. Implement it and watch whether people will not come from different countries, because people come from different countries to go to Calabar. So you just do it and watch people’s reaction.”
He further enjoined the government that it should include the tourism sector in national plan with a result-oriented road map that would attract investments into the sector, adding that the business of the government is to provide an enabling environment that would make the business thrive and yield massive income to the government in tax.
According to him “I’m suggesting that in national plan there should be a road map for tourism development in this country and get people on board who will run it like a business. One of the reasons why Nigerians don’t prosper in business is that we don’t run government parastatals as a business venture. You bring in foreign investors to invest and provide them all necessary support like electricity, because it is non-negotiable; security because people have to be secured, the miscreants and kidnappers know that those who go to places to have fun are not poor people, so they are the prime targets.
“Therefore, there must be security around such areas you are designating. Also, there should be infrastructures like good roads, manpower; the people have to be empowered. The issue of orientation that is if the state declares a place for beautification i.e. planting of flowers, as part of the ecosystem. There should be a green area,” Favour noted.
The current contribution of Nigerian tourism sector to the economy is at low ebb as it contributes less than five per cent to the GDP. For instance it contributed 4.8% to Nigeria’s GDP in 2016.
According to the statistics of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, between 2011-2014, about 36 million tourists visited the African continent. However, it is cheerless that Nigeria which prides itself as the giant of Africa is not among the top four countries that attracted international tourists. Egypt ranked highest with 9.9 million tourists, Morocco followed with 9.8 million tourists. South Africa came third on the list with 9.2 million people. Tunisia was fourth with 6.8 million people. The U.N statistics says that these four countries made up for more than 60% of visiting international tourists within this period.
Recently, the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) released a grim report about Nigeria’s tourism sector, stating that less than merely three per cent of tourists visiting Africa annually choose Nigeria as their tourism destinations, which according to them, was low compared to other African countries that recorded higher patronage of international tourists.
The body accused Nigerian travel and tour agencies of being more interested in packaging Nigerian tourists wishing to travel abroad rather than packaging and arranging international tourists to Nigeria.
FTAN president, Karim Rabo said: “We need to get it right by promoting more of domestic tourism asset/potential to the outside world than promoting out-bound tourism,” he said.
Nigeria should adopt the following suggestions released by World Tourism Organisation (WTO) in 1999 for the improvement of tourism with emphasis on the Sub-Saharan Africa:
(1) Improving the conservation and interpretation of natural areas and their associated biodiversity and of palaeontological / archaeological/historic sites in many places;
(2) Giving more emphasis to developing urban tourism;
(3) Improving tourist facilities, services, public health and safety and infrastructure in many places.
(4) Encouraging more involvement and participation in tourism in local communities.
(5) Ensuring that land is available where and when needed in an equitable manner for tourism development.
(6) Providing more education and training of personnel to work effectively in all aspects of tourism and achieving greater public awareness about tourism; and
(7) Improving the institutional framework for financing tourism development and managing the tourism sector.