Nigeria needs to improve tourism offerings to be competitive – Malaysia tour operator, Loong
Despite vast and rich potential, the task of making Nigeria a thriving tourist destination that attracts the right investment, market and tourist traffic has over the years been challenged.
In a bid to change this narrative, indigenous tour firm Gadeshire Travels and Tours Limited, which was founded by Olugbenga Adebayo brought a group of five tourists and investors from Malaysia and Indonesia to Lagos last weekend.
The group is made up of three men– Lee Sei Loong, Tjeng Tjin Tjung and Wong Chong Wah – and two women– Gan Lay Hong and Ong Bie Lan– with Loong as the leader of the team.
The team was on a long haul tour of Africa, visiting nine countries –Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria– in the last leg of the long haul tour.
The group spent one night and two days in Lagos where they visited some tourist sites such as Nike Art Gallery, Freedom Park, Terra Kulture, Makoko, Lekki-Ikoyi Long Bridge. They also made a drive through the Cathedral Church/Tinubu Square/Central Mosque, Lagos and Lekki Market and had a time out at Elegushi Beach.
Loong, who is from Malaysian Harmony Tour and Travel, is a thoroughbred travel professional and a tested tour operator with flair for exploring different cities to sample their culture and people, landscapes, history, arts and crafts, natural and cultural heritage, infrastructure and facilities, among others.
These were some of the things that his group sought to explore in their first ever trip to Nigeria, which, according to him, is the beginning of a long romance with Nigeria and enduring relationship with Gahdeshire Travels and Tours.
Loong, however, noted that the procedure to embark on the tour to Nigeria was quite challenging, as visa procurement was a major drawback. He said this resulted in many of the tourists, who had earlier signed on for the trip, to back out.
He disclosed that the first challenge was that before COVID-19, Nigeria embassy in Malaysia was not granting tourist visa but that has changed as it now grants it since the return of travel, but the process, he said was harrowing.
Loong faulted the procedure requiring you to apply online and at the same time submit a hardcopy application at the embassy, which again entails the tedious process of filling out several papers.
He also noted the issue of the tardiness of the officials and the fact that there is no specific duration for collection of visa after submission, although he said it took about 16 days for the visa to be issued.
He decried having to visit the embassy and make phone calls on many occasions without positive response, just as he condemned lack of detailed information on the embassy’s website.
Furthermore, Loong decried the high visa fees, which he puts at $116, an equivalent of 450 Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). This, he said, was on a very high side while also questioning the rationale behind requesting applicants to attach the statement of credit card while making payment online.
Loong said the news of insecurity in Nigeria was another challenge before embarking on the trip. He noted that traffic gridlock and overcrowding are major challenges in Lagos. He lamented the long hours of passing through immigration and waiting for luggage at the airport on arrival, urging the Nigeria government to address the situation.
While commending the sites visited as good and attractive, he, however, advised that Nigeria needs to improve a lot on its tourism offerings, facilities and infrastructure if it wants to be competitive as a tourist destination as some of the sites lack detailed information, promotional materials and travel guides.
‘‘The sites are good but there is no detailed information about the works on display. There should be information to tell the visitors what the objects are about and the places in Nigeria that they are from.”
The international tourism expert, who disclosed that he would be visiting Nigeria again next year with another team, said one of the things he missed on this trip but looked forward to is Eyo Masquerade. ‘‘I will be here next year, hopefully and I look forward to seeing the Eyo Masquerade.’’
In comparison with other Africa destinations, he scored countries such as South Africa, Morocco and Algeria as better and well organised than Nigeria. ‘‘They are more organised and they provide detailed information and direction to the tourists. Even at the airport, we had a big problem with the immigration, but Ghana and South Africa were not like this. Nigeria seems not to have any recognisable national landmark or symbol that sells the country globally and what should be a source for driving traffic to the country. We also encountered challenges in Burundi, Mali, Guinea and Guinea Conakry.’’