The Senate on Wednesday urged relevant ministries and agencies of governments at all levels to urgently revamp the various tourist attraction sites across the country.
The upper chamber also urged the Budget Office of the Federation to increase budgetary allocation to the culture arm of the Ministry of Information and Culture towards the promotion of tourism.
It called on the Ministries of Environment at various levels of government to create incentives to promote eco-friendly waterfronts to make beaches more tourist-friendly.
The red chamber also mandated its Committees on Foreign Affairs and Information and Culture, in collaboration with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Information and Culture, “to organize a stakeholders’ meeting, to ensure dialogue and discussion of the issues of promoting tourism in the country and the way forward.”
These resolutions of the Senate followed a motion titled: “Need to promote tourism to further diversify the Nigerian economy,” moved by Senator Oluremi Tinubu and co-sponsored by 22 other Senators.
Senator Oluremi, who represents Lagos Central, in her lead debate, urged the Senate to be aware that Nigeria depends on crude oil revenues for bulk of its foreign exchange, “to the detriment of other critical sectors.”
She insisted that there is need to diversify the Nigerian economy to reduce dependence on oil revenues through creating new streams of income which has been “a core agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.”
She called on his colleagues to be sad that the country seemed to be doing everything to ensure that tourism development is hampered.
She said: “Also saddened that Nigeria has hundreds of kilometres of coastal waters which stretch into beaches, and are in other climes major tourist attractions.
“It is sad, however, that our beaches are packed with filth and pose environmental hazards,” she said.
She urged her colleagues to note that there are several other sectors including but not limited to agriculture, mining, tourism and that with adequate investment and reforms, are capable of being major contributors to Nigeria’s GDP.
According to her, the Senate: “Further notes that tourism is a global industry that contributes hugely to economies around the world, constituting almost 10 per cent of the global GDP at $8trillion in 2016, 8.8 per cent of the world’s jobs, and 5.8 per cent of the world’s total exports valued at $1.1 trillion.
“Further aware that countries who have gone on to improve tourism revenues achieved same by putting in place, measures to encourage and boost tourism.
“Aware of research findings that show that visa restrictions are a major hindrance to full bloom tourism sector in developing countries; and visa liberalization increases substantially, the volume of arrivals.
“Also aware that the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates the tourism industry in Sub-Saharan Africa to pull in as much as 4 million jobs in the next couple of years.
“Aware that many Countries have taken heed of the travellers’ plight and simplified their visa processes with Countries like Seychelles and Mauritius offering visa free entry and visa on arrival,” she added.
She noted that Nigeria has an online visa application/visa on arrival system which is only open to persons coming into the country to conduct business.
Tinubu, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Communications, further lamented that negative reports of bureaucracy and stringent conditions for Issuance of Nigerian visas greatly affect economic receipts.
She also insisted that improved tourism in the country would also create employment opportunities, market for cultural goods, boost the hospitality industry, and Increase demand for airport services.
She urged her colleagues to be further aware that neighbouring Ghana, had been touted as the next big tourist destination, with her 15-year-long tourism plan and emphasis on slave trade relics and ports, and the afro nation festival and could be a gateway to promoting tourism in the rest of Africa.
She expressed sadness that the country has all the “trappings of huge tourism potential, rich cultural heritage, tropical weather, great array of wildlife and vegetation etc that are not being maximized to our advantage.
She noted that the Nigerian Fashion Industry, having garnered global recognition is capable of providing a platform to boost tourism.
She further expressed concern that India, the leading consumer of Nigeria’s oil, is set to switch its buses to alternative sources of energy in two years.
“Also worried, in light of OPEC’s world outlook, published in 2016, indicating that a global decline in demand for oil is expected from year 2030, about the glee with which we are still focusing on exploration of crude”, she added.
Most Senators in their contributions supported the motion.
By Sanni Onogu