If Nigeria intends to regain the lost terrain caused by the fallout from the global drop in oil prices, this is the time to pay attention to tourism. ELEOJO IDACHABA collects the opinions of industry experts.
Nigeria, like other countries in the world whose economies are largely fueled by petroleum, could find it difficult to run government in the years to come unless they look beyond oil to other thriving sectors such as tourism.
This follows Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed’s recent announcement that government revenues are steadily declining.
This is because Nigeria, among other countries, is often affected by the unstable global oil price regime; and therefore a reassessment of the nation’s revenue stream apart from taxes is required. It is no longer news that Nigeria has a highly marketable but undeveloped tourism sector. Available statistics show that the sector has tremendous benefits when looking at the experiences of African countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, Gambia, Egypt and South Africa.
For example, over the past six decades, one report indicates that destination countries and locations have experienced progressive growth from 25 million viewers to well over 1.4 billion. Similarly, revenues from the sector have grown from $2 billion in 1950 to $1,260 trillion in 2015, which is approximately 10% of global GDP and one in 10 jobs.
Tourism has therefore become one of the fastest growing sectors driving the economy of the entire globe. It is therefore undeniable that it is in the best interest of tourism destination countries like Nigeria to develop the sector in a sustainable way so that they can gradually improve their capacities to get the maximum benefit from this profitable sector.
Paradoxically, in Nigeria, particularly under the current government, the sector is not on its scorecards, raising concern.
Recently tourism companies, under the aegis of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), protested against the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture’s plan to host the first United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference on cultural tourism and creative industries.
They said if the government hosted the fiesta, the tourism governing body would boycott the conference because, according to the association through its president Nkwereuwem Onung, “it is not beneficial to either the Nigerian tourism industry or operators”.
It is recalled that the Minister of Information and National Guidance, Lai Mohammed, recently set up a central planning committee to organize the UNWTO conference to be held between November 14 and 17 as part of the events planned for the reopening of the National Art Theater are planned.
However, Onung said private operators in the sector have decided to boycott the conference because of the neglect they have suffered at the minister’s hands over the past seven years.
According to him, despite writing over six letters to him, all efforts to arrange a meeting with the minister had always failed. He said that instead of meeting with them or attending one of the local tourism events, the minister prefers the UNWTO conference, where he only presents himself as the country’s tourism minister but neglects domestic tourism.
“Hosting the UNWTO conference in November is not what the country needs to help the country recover from its current economic woes, as it is just a way to enrich the few and waste taxpayers’ money in a mere bonanza squandering that, contrary to what the minister has, is of no use led the presidency and the nation to believe.”
While everyone is putting their heads together to create a safe haven for tourism businesses, a tourism consultant, Dr. Paul Adalikwu that one of the areas the government needs to investigate if practitioners can achieve anything is the insecurity, which he says has turned many tourist spots into battle zones.
“At the moment I am not aware of any tourism location that is currently at 100 percent capacity due to the uncertain environment in the country. We don’t even need to talk about the north of the country, which is ruled by bandits and terrorists. Right now all the forests in the south are overrun by kidnappers. How can tourism develop in such an atmosphere? Neglect aside, uncertainty is the industry’s biggest killer and the government needs to deal with it seriously,” he said.
Imoke’s wise advice
Probably considering complaints from private operators, who informed former Cross River State Governor Senator Liyel Imoke to mandate governments at all levels to make incentives a key factor that can boost the sector, which he believes is the only one The way is to let the sector grow so that it contributes to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
He recently spoke at the 25th FTAN Annual General Meeting and Tourism Conference in Abuja.
Imoke said, “Tourism needs to be driven by the private sector, with the government being the enabler, but sometimes the government becomes the mover; The government must create incentives as one of the mandatory roles, otherwise we would not let the industry grow.
“I see the greatest challenge in the insecurity and access to tourism, which the state has to provide, and if the state fails, then the investors and operators fail too.
“These are critical issues that we need to address. Why is the tourism budget shrinking when we have a sector we want to expand? How and when do we create capital for industry? Is tourism a luxury or a necessity? All of these are part of the challenges we have to face.”
Lessons from Arab Nations
A tourism expert, Mr Mosun Debo, also lamented the state of the sector. He said: “Nigeria has what it takes to weather the vicissitudes of an uncertain oil climate. He said the country is endowed with stunning and vast geography, cultural heterogeneity and a wealth of historical sites that would be a tourist delight any day.
“The Nigerian landscape is undoubtedly promising for a sector that can compete with black gold in terms of foreign exchange earnings.
“However, due to the easy and quick money flowing out of the oil sector, tourism has suffered terrible neglect, as have the other sectors of our economy such as agriculture and solid minerals.
“Everyone knows that the Arab nations are oil-endowed, but of all these countries, only the United Arab Emirates saw the need to diversify its economy, using the oil windfall to develop a robust tourism sector, which today draws worldwide attention. Today everyone wants to see the wonders of Dubai and the surrounding cities because of the tourist attractions there.”
Any conscious attention to the sector?
dr For his part, Obinna Ugochukwu Onyeocha, associate professor in the Department of Hotel Management and Applied Sciences at Dorben Polytechnic Abuja, said tourism in Nigeria “was not considered as part of the country’s economic development plan as it was relegated to the background.”
It is also managed by non-experts and those who have ventured into tourism and activities through investments.
“When looking at the challenges of tourism in Nigeria, not only is it the government’s duty to keep an eye on tourism development, but professionals in the field have expressed great reservations about tourism management in Nigeria.
“The merger of tourism with another ministry comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed trends in the industry over the past 15 years. Tourism has been relegated to the third or fourth tier of the nation’s economic generation.
“The government’s tourism policies in Nigeria have not been reflected in this nation’s prospects and the reasons for this are very obvious, albeit discreet. The people who manage the tourism affairs in Nigeria have nothing to do with tourism and in many cases are just investors or walk-ins through politics. Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) has those who read geography, sociology and anthropology, public administration or other arts courses. If politics is sick, why not the national tourism decision as well?”
More expert advice
According to Tours experts, Ogechi and Kennedy Ezenwafor, while writing The Hospitality Business in Nigeria, Issues and Challenges, the operating environment of the hospitality industry in Nigeria affects the skill supply and financial performance of restaurants and similar hospitality businesses.
“To improve overall industry performance, private-public partnerships between government agencies, hospitality schools and hospitality companies, strategic partnerships between experienced hospitality institutions and business schools, collaboration between hospitality entrepreneurs, and improving management practices could be strategic moves for an industry operating under severe institutional barriers , which typify Nigeria, while working on conscious measures to end insecurity. You cannot quantify the number of jobs that the sector can create if it is well developed.”