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Tourism as part of the new agenda

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Travel and TourismFOR President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, failure is absolutely unacceptable because the expectations of Nigerians are over-the-roof! However, one sector of the economy that has probably not been given enough attention is tourism and hospitality.

This sector is a multi-billion-dollar industry that can become a major revenue earner for government. That is, if government could re-examine its reliance on oil and gas, while diversifying the economy.

It is sad that successive governments have neglected this sector. In countries, like Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zanzibar, Cape Verde, Nepal and Egypt; the tourism and hospitality industry is a crucial contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of these countries.

However, in Nigeria, the tourism industry contributes less than four per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council report on Travel and Tourism Economic Impact in Nigeria 2014, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to the GDP in 2013 was N757.3 billion (1.6%),

Total contributions of travel and tourism to GDP were N1,559.5 billion (3.2%) in 2013, total contribution of travel and tourism, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry, was 1,837,000 jobs (2.8%) and in terms of investment in the industry inn 2013, it was N264.2 billion (4.8%).

Imagine if more efforts are invested in the industry, the figures will be more mouth-watering! The country’s reliance on the petroleum sector is obvious as it contributes a staggering 90% to the GDP.

This is not sustainable. The diversification of the economy is ever more important because crude oil will soon become a less sought-after commodity because many countries are investing in finding alternatives to the commodity. Therefore, Nigeria shouldn’t be caught unawares. Unfortunately that is the current situation because the fall in international oil prices has adversely affected us.

Many state governments cannot pay salaries because allocations from the Federal Government have been cut; the budget, which is financed with revenue from the oil sector, is in shreds.

So, there is no gainsaying that Nigeria needs economic diversification now and the tourism sector is strategically placed to lead in providing the much-needed revenue for the government.

There is no doubt that Nigeria is blessed with a plethora of tourist sites, colourful festivals and hotels. From North to South, East to West, there are uncountable attractions. We have the Osun Osogbo Groove (A UNESCO World Heritage site), Olumo Rock, Ogbunike Cave in Anambra State, the Ikom Monoliths in Cross River, the Lagos Carnival, Obudu Ranch, Calabar Street Carnival, Reminiscences of Slave Trade in Badagry.

There are also fantastic five-star hotels and businesses using the Internet for booking on behalf of Nigerians as well as visitors. Appallingly, the questions that actually pop up in the minds of many Nigerians are, what are the conditions of these tourist destinations and how well-organized are these festivals? Can these festivals and destinations attract tourists from different parts of the world? Brazil is known as the home of Samba football. When it organized the World Cup in 2014, tourism contributed so much to generated revenue.

There were 30 billion dollars added to the economy and the event supported 700,000 new permanent and temporary jobs simply because the government invested in tourism.

Also, Brazil is home to one of the most vibrant carnivals in the world, which is the Rio de Janeiro carnival. Tourists and visitors from all over the world visit Brazil just to witness the carnival.

You can only imagine how much is earned from hosting the carnival. Government has to revive and promote the sector to the world in other to attract tourists.

In doing this, it will encourage Nigerians to have their vacations at home rather than spending hard-earned money travelling to Dubai, France, London and other destinations in different parts of the world.

With this, the country will be able to retain money rather than enriching other nations. Most importantly, the Nigerian Tourism and Development Corporation (NTDC) must begin to reform and intensify the promotion and development of the sector. Their roles can’t be downplayed. It is no longer news that Nigeria doesn’t have a tourism policy.

This simply means that there is actually no plan for the industry whether on short or long term basis. Stakeholders have been agitating for a tourism policy in vain.

However, with the incoming government, there must be a roadmap for the country. The policy can adequately regulate the industry, spell out the rules of engagement for players and evolve a very pragmatic tourism and festival calendar for Nigeria. It is shocking that the nation doesn’t have a reliable and workable tourism calendar.

Having one will help tourists in determining where and when to visit Nigeria. Also, this policy can assist in defining the modus operandi for Public Private Partnership (PPP) to develop tourism as well as how it can blend with sports (and other sectors) when hosting international sports events. What this policy can do for the tourism sector is inexhaustible.

The tourism policy would be the guiding principle for the industry. Therefore, all stakeholders must be involved in drawing up a generally acceptable policy for the tourism in Nigeria.

The potentials in the sector, if well tapped like the oil sector, could immensely contribute to the GDP, provide employment and boost Nigeria’s image in the international community. •Ogunfowoke contributed the piece from Lagos.


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