NIGERIA is endowed with so many amazing tourism assets that asking whether her destinations inspire travel is an affront.
From the beautiful Ikogosi warm spring in Ekiti state to the Osun-Osogbo grove in Osun, Kano city wall in Kano, and Ogbunike cave in Anambra state, these enchanting destinations litter different parts of the country, beckoning on Nigerians and foreigners to visit.
The uncomfortable fact is that few Nigerians check out these sites. They prefer to visit cities like Dubai, London, Paris, New York, and Johannesburg for their vacation, wedding and shopping.
This is not a fault of theirs. After all, governments at both the federal and state level have over the years neglected these sites while herding all the resource sheep to one stream to gulp crude oil, thus, fashioning the economy to become one that is solely dependent on oil.
For example, Kenya’s economy is virtually reliant on tourism. It contributes a large chunk of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
The growth of the Kenyan economy has, however, been reviewed several times due to intermittent attacks by al-Shabaab militants. This has discouraged tourists from visiting the country. Despite this, tourists have not abandoned Kenya.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, government and stakeholders are yet to recognize that tourism is a goldmine which can boost the GDP of any county. This is a recipe for disaster.
Now, the bubble has burst because there has been a drastic fall in the price of crude oil. The ripple effect is that many states are unable to pay salaries despite the federal government cutting down allocations to them.
Aside from the reduced allocation, youth unemployment, poverty and insecurity are among many issues the government is presently grappling with as a result of Nigeria’s mono-economy.
The youth make up 70% of Nigeria’s population and as much as 56% of them are unemployed. Youth joblessness has led to engagement in nefarious and dastardly acts like suicide attacks in North East Nigeria, the agitation for Biafra by disgruntled South-Easterners and other social vices perpetrated by the youths.
The solution to this is to diversify the economy before it becomes an unbridled crises. Tourism cannot rescue Nigeria alone but it can significantly contribute to the diversification of the economy.
Tourism is a multibillion dollar industry. For government to profit bountifully from it, it has to invest heavily in revamping many of these tourist destinations. This is because of their dilapidated state, a major reason why tourists and Nigerians do not visit these destinations. The direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was 1.56 billion (1.7% of total GDP) in 2014 according to the World Travel Tourism Council. According to the council, direct travel and tourism contribution include accommodation, transportation, entertainment and attractions.
Interestingly, Calabar in south-south Nigeria is a model for other states. The Obudu Mountain Resort, cable car transport, and Calabar carnival are some of the attractions awaiting visitors.
Unsurprisingly, Nigerians and tourists from across the world troop to Calabar during the festive period to savour the pomp and pageantry of Calabar carnival tagged ‘Africa’s biggest street party’. According to statistics over two million visitors grace the Calabar carnival.
The government’s investment in the carnival is monolithic and the sterling partnership with corporate organizations have made it the most anticipated celebration in December. The returns on investment are accrued from booking of hotels, visit to tourist destinations, sales of souvenirs and the engagement of youths.
Commendably, organizing festivals is a strength that many states are taking advantage of and it attracts visitors from far and wide. The Osun/Osogbo festival, the Ofala festival, the Lagos carnival, Mare festival, Durbar festival, Lisabi festival, Ojude-Oba festival, and Argungun festival are among the long list of festivals organized in different parts of Nigeria.
Unfortunately, these festivals are not complemented by the various charming destinations domiciled in these states to drive these sites. In otherwords, its marketing and promotion is dreadful.
For example, the Lisabi Festival in Abeokuta is one of the biggest festivals in the ancient town of Ogun state and, few miles away, the historical and magnificent Olumo Rock is a popular tourist destination, seats.
Despite this masterpiece and revenue generator sitting comfortably within the grasp of the festival, little or no effort is made to synergise both tourism assets to the advantage of the Ogun state. Then, how do Nigerians know these destinations exist?
Apparently, it is a widely held perception that Nigerians do not go on vacation. This is arguably an incorrect opinion. Nigerians go on vacation. Sadly, they prefer the foreign destinations rather than visiting the indigenous ones. Nigeria is losing much-needed capital to other countries because of the country’s deficiency in developing the tourism destinations.
This trend will not be halted in the nigh future as the new government is yet to find its rhythm economically and otherwise. However, the undeniable fact is that government must diversify the economy to accommodate other dormant sectors in which tourism is a key feature of. This will no doubt encourage Nigerians to explore her tourism qualities.