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Africa: Nigeria to grow tourists receipt, arrivals with new visa regime

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With the commencement of visa-on-arrival policy by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), the country’s tourism industry is set to boom with increase in tourist arrivals and spending by the visitors.

Tourist arrivals, which stagger between two to three million visitors annually, including the 1.7 million international air passengers in 2017, is expected to reach five million international visitors in the first year of the implementation of the new visa policy.
Also, revenue from tourists spending in the country is expected to cross the $1 billion mark in the first year of the implementation.

The boom is expected from the many foreigners who could not visit the country before now due to the challenge of visa procurement, and who now take advantage of the simplified visa process to visit.

Explaining the process of getting the new visa, the NIS noted that with the visa-on-arrival, which takes 48 hours to process, would-be visitors no longer need to queue at Nigerian embassies in their respective countries, rather apply online, get Visa Approval Letter with which to visit and get their passports stamped on arrival in any of the entry points in the country.

The new visa regime, according to the NIS, is on reciprocity basis and is available to frequently travelled high net worth investors and intending visitors who may not be able to obtain visa at the Nigerian missions/embassies in their countries of residence due to the absence of a Nigerian mission in those countries or exigencies of urgent business travels.
Speaking on the impact of the development on tourism, Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, noted that the country test ran the new policy with the 26 tourism ministers and 166 delegates from 52 Africa countries that were in the country for the 61st meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Commission for Africa in Abuja, last week.

For him, the delegates were impressed with the simplicity of the process and would be ambassadors of Nigeria in their countries, especially to would-be investors who faced challenges in their last visits or could not visit.

Also speaking on her impression on the visa-on-arrival, Betty Radier, CEO, Kenya Tourism Board, who was in the country for the first time, commended the easy visa process on her arrival at Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, and was happy to pay $25, cost of the visa.

As well, investments in the Nigerian travel and tourism industry is set to improve from about N1.12 trillion ($4.5bn) in 2016 to almost N2 trillion by the end of 2018, on the account of the new visa regime that fast-tracks easy visa processing amid other incentives introduced by the Federal Government to woo both local and foreign direct investments.

Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general, UNWTO, who was in Nigeria and Africa for the first time for the UNWTO CAF meeting, also spoke favourably on the easy visa policy, but urged Nigeria to use the policy to attract the right investors that would partner in the development of the country’s tourism.

In line with the UNWTO secretary-general, some tourism stakeholders noted that the easy visa would help, but would not bring all the tourists if there were no attractions and world-class infrastructure to support tourism across the country.

Okedira Omogho, a tourism consultant and university don, tasked tourism agencies and private sector on developing and repackaging tourism products across the country to appeal to global tourists.

For him, Nigerian tour operators should start to play global, selling the country to tourists in their respective countries like South Africa Tourism, Kenya Tourism Board and Dubai Tourism, which have offices in Nigeria and partner indigenous tour operator in selling their attractions in the country.

While the visa-on-arrival is commendable, some stakeholders observed that its reciprocity still hamper visitations as countries with high visa fees for Nigerians also attract high visa fees for their citizens visiting Nigeria.

by OBINNA EMELIKE
Source: businessdayonline.com

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