The dozy state of the tourism industry again came to the fore yesterday, as the world travel market opened in London, but without Nigerian representatives. Findings showed that there were no Nigerian destination exhibitors or ministerial representatives on the official lists of the yearly international tourism and hospitality forum.
Celebrating its 40th year, the world’s largest travel trade show is expected to see its 51,000 visitors and 5,000 exhibitors from more than 180 countries pack into ExCeL London to conduct some £3.5 billion of deals that will shape the future of travel.Some travel and tourism stakeholders in Nigeria were not surprised that even the Federal or states government are not marketing Nigeria to the world like Egypt, South Africa, Rwanda, and Morocco are doing.
They observed that Nigeria has not developed the tourism sector to rank among top 10 tourism destinations in Africa. More so, there is no clear-cut plan or policy for the development of the industry yet.
The Founder of Akwaaba Travels and Tours, Ikechi Uko, had observed that with about eight different ministries and 30 parastatals managing its segments, the local tourism industry might never get it right.Uko said unlike in other climes, stakeholders in the Nigerian tourism sector work in silos, a situation made worse by competing interests of various federal ministries.
For instance, the Ministry of Environment overseas the environmental aspects of tourism; Aviation manages the air travel area; Works, and Housing is saddled with the road portion; Transport has the water aspects; Interior overseas the immigration part, while Finance handles the monetary aspect.
On the international front, this year’s forum had been adjudged as a far cry from when the show was first opened by the Duke of Kent at Kensington Olympia in December 1980, when just 40 countries were on show and 7,700 visitors crossed the threshold of the inaugural exhibition.Today, the show operates in a world where tourism is the UK’s fastest growing sector accounting for almost 12 per cent of all jobs, generating £232 billion yearly for the economy, and host city London is the third most-visited city in the world with more than 19 million visitors a year.
The world travel market alone is thought to add £160 million to London’s economy, taking into account how much visitors spend on hotels, restaurants and entertainment.Highlights of the last 40 years at the market include the event having been opened by six royals, four British government ministers, seven industry figureheads, four renowned explorers, two London mayors and a Miss World.
In 1985, security had to be increased as record numbers turned up to see Princess Diana open the show.Celebrities who have visited over the years include Michael Douglas, Richard Branson, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve Redgrave, Brazilian footballer Ronaldo, Freddie Flintoff, Viv Richards and Dannii Minogue.
By Wole Oyebade