The benefits to Nigeria’s tourism sector would be enormous if it could get its tourism potentials on track.
A major reason for the neglect was Nigeria’s heavy reliance on the mono product. Despite its huge potentials, tourism as an alternative source of revenue to crude oil has been neglected for many years. And whereas in many other countries tourism is the main stay of their economy, the case is not the same in Nigeria.
According to businessday.ng, aside lack of commitment and political will, insecurity and infrastructure deficit are other issues bedeviling the development of our tourism potentials.
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There cannot be tourism if the country lacks peace, security and basic infrastructure. Bad media also makes positioning the country as tourism destination difficult. Where a country lacks internal resilience, all the gains from attracting tourists will come to naught.
As a tourist haven, Nigeria has enormous economic potentials. The country is home to about 250 ethnic groups and 500 distinct languages. From north to south, the country is endowed with a plethora of historical sites, monuments, and richly diverse cultural heritages.
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Some historical sites in Nigeria include the Slave Museum, the Miracle Well, and the country’s first storey building in Badagry. Other notable sites are the mystic warm spring in Ikogosi, Obudu mountain resort, Osun-Osogbo grove, Idanre hills, ancient Kano walls, Yankari games reserve in Bauchi, and many more. There are traditional festivals that attract huge local and foreign guests such as the Argungu fishing festival, the royal Durbar, Iriji Mbaise, Oji Ezinihitte and several others.
Akwa Ibom and Cross-River states are homes to a rare species of chimpanzees and gorillas. Yet, with this wealth of resources, the country’s tourism industry remains stunted. Although Nigeria received 1.2 million tourists in 2017, the famed ‘African Giant’ was behind South Africa and Morocco which had 9 and 10 million visitors, respectively, during the same period.
The country ranked 129th out of 136 countries in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2019 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, far behind other African countries such as Mauritius, South Africa, Seychelles, and Egypt, which were ranked 54th, 61st, 62nd, and 65th, respectively.
Indeed, tourism is vital for the success of many economies around the world. There are several benefits of tourism on host destinations. Tourism boosts the revenue of the economy, creates thousands of jobs, develops the infrastructures of a country, and plants a sense of cultural exchange between foreigners and citizens.
The number of jobs created by tourism in many different areas is significant. These jobs are not only a part of the tourism sector but also include the agricultural sector, communication sector, health sector, and the educational sector. Many tourists travel to experience the hosting destination’s culture, different traditions, and gastronomy. This is very profitable to local restaurants, shopping centers, and stores. Melbourne, Australia’s population is greatly affected by tourism. It has a population of around 4 million people and around 22,000 citizens are employed by the tourism sector only.
Governments that rely on tourism for a big percentage of their revenue invest a lot in the infrastructure of the country. They want more and more tourists to visit their country which means that safe and advanced facilities are necessary. This leads to new roads and highways, developed parks, improved public spaces, new airports, and possibly better schools and hospitals. Safe and innovative infrastructures allow for a smooth flow of goods and services. Moreover, the citizens experience an opportunity for economic and educational growth.
That is not all. Tourism creates a cultural exchange between tourists and local citizens. Exhibitions, conferences, and events usually attract foreigners. Organizing authorities usually gain profits from registration fees, gift sales, exhibition spaces, and sales of media copyright. Furthermore, foreign tourists bring diversity and cultural enrichment to the hosting country.
Tourism is also a potential source of foreign direct investment and a source of foreign exchange earnings. It is a catalyst for development and rapid urbanization, not to mention its impact on environmental conservation.
Regrettably, most of Nigeria’s key tourist sites are located in rural areas typically characterized by lack of basic infrastructure such as bad road network, potable water supply, dilapidated healthcare centres, and epileptic power supply.
For us as a nation to benefit from tourism, governments at all levels- Federal, state and local-should play active roles in developing tourist sites throughout the country by providing adequate facilities and cutting-edge infrastructure. They also need to support the manufacturing of goods as tourists would need to eat, drink and relax while in the country.
The government should make the best use of the media for public awareness and high-quality publicity campaigns.
Suffice it to say that travel and tourism are built on peace and comfort. People go on vacation to escape from hectic lifestyles. Hence, if a tourist’s destination isn’t promising, he moves on to a more pleasant location/country.
This underscores the need for adequate security in the country. No tourist would want to go where his safety would not be guaranteed. However, despite the huge and material gains from Tourism we should guard against the downsides of this Industry. These include cultural pollution and malformation which have occurred in some popular tourist destinations in the African continent.