The total contribution of travel and tourism to Nigerian economy has been estimated to be $1.1 billion.
According to a report of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the total contribution of travel and tourism to the global economy hit $7.6 trillion in 2016, about 10 per cent of the global GDP of $75.6 trillion.
Tourism seems to be the way following the dwindling fortunes of oil and gas.
The contribution of the tourism industry to Nation’s economy is not only a tiny fraction of the global industry but also shows the gulf between the present reality and the potential of tourism for Nigeria.
The potential of tourism could be further enhanced with deliberate focus and more attention to turn around most of the nation’s tourist sites and turning them into wealth.
Mrs Sally Mbanefo, immediate past Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), said the sector generated the revenue from the more than 6.01 million tourists that visited the country in 2015.
“In 2014, about 4.8 million people arrived and the related expenditure was $853 million.
“In 2016, about 6.01 million came into Nigeria and the sector generated over $1.1 billion as the expenditure related to their arrival in this country.’’
Mbanefo explained that the situation was an economic indication of the value that tourism could add to an economy where the government and the private sector spur tourism.
She said that Nollywood alone, created job opportunities for more than two million persons, 30,000 work in restaurants and over 11,000 in the hotel business.
Mbanefo said that in spite of this more needed to be done to improve the sector to further compete globally.
She said that challenges limiting the growth of the sector should be address.
She listed them to include access to gathering statistics, epileptic power supply, inadequate infrastructure, poor access to visa, as well as absence of uniformed standardisation and classification for hotels nationwide.
Mr Ganiyu Tarzan, the President, Association of Tourists Boats Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATN), added that tourism had a link with all other sectors of economy whether religious, education, sport, business, agriculture and medicine.
Tarzan, therefore, urged the Federal Government, especially, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, to channel the allocation meant for the sector to rehabilitating of tourism projects across the country.
“I am very positive that if we have a functional heritage site and other attractions, they will boost the nation’s revenue and boost activities within other sectors of the economy as international tourists will be trooping into the country.
“Tourism is very important to all sectors and its budgetary allocation and implementation should be given adequate attention,” he said.
Tayo Ogunbiyi who works with the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy said vital infrastructures essential to the growth of tourism must be developed as any visible defect in infrastructure will surely dissuade tourists.
He said it is pertinent to provide the supporting infrastructures for leisure and business travel for the industry to really grow.
“For instance, a poorly managed public transportation constitutes a serious disservice to tourism.
“Equally, our hospitality industry has to be top notched by every world standard. Additionally, we need to put in place a clear cut strategy to professionally manage all attractive festivals and carnivals in the country,’’ Ogunbiyi said.
Similarly, Mrs Margret Fabiyi, the President of Webisco International Federation of Women Entrepreneurs and Tourism of Nigeria, tasked the Federal Government on the full implementation of Tourism Master Plan.
She said that this should be captured in the budget because it would serve as a guideline to tourism developmental projects.
Fabiyi commended the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) for its support to the development of the nation’s tourism sector.
She added that the government should consider building new tourism structures to attract national and international tourists.
Also Mr Ini Akpabio, the Group Managing Director of NANET Hotel and Suit in Abuja, said the current status of the tourism sector in the country was very dissatisfactory as well as the poor conditions of the nation’s monuments and heritage sites.
He alleged that when funds had been allocated to the sector in past budgets’ presentation, those in charge had not been using it to upgrade the nation’s heritage sites and develop the sector.
“Unfortunately in our country today, we continue to make the clarion call for the promotion of domestic’s tourism and the development of our tourist sites.
“The heritage sites which are the Nigerian tourism prides are going moribund, most of the sites are fading off and losing their natural state, “he said.
Akpabio, therefore, urged the government to dedicate full attention to tourism sector and ensure that funds allocated to the sector were used for the right purposes.
Jumia Travel, Nigeria’s leading online travel agency at its recent summit on tourism solicited the support of stakeholders to assist government in building the sector saying that government cannot do it alone.
The managing director of Jumia Travel Nigeria, Kushal Dutta speaking on the potentials of the country’s tourism, pointed out that there are lots of tourist destinations that people are choosing to spend their holiday in the country.
He encouraged Nigerians to travel within the country and explore the amazing tourist attractions abound.
“80% of the travels within Nigeria is to Lagos and people are visiting places like Epe Resort, La Campagne, Whispering Palms; in Calabar, Obudu Mountain Resort is also a good tourism attraction but gets seasonal patronage.
Outside Nigeria, people visit places in Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, and Zanzibar,” he said.
Ikechi Uko, CEO of Akwaaba International Trade Fair Market said government cannot single-handedly develop the multi-billion dollars industry.
He therefore made a call to all stakeholders within the industry to collaborate for the country to attain its goal.
A renowned landscape photographer, Dayo Adedayo, who has toured the country for 11 years taking pictures of historic sites, describe Nigeria as a gold mine waiting to be tapped.
Adedayo said, “Nigeria is the world’s best kept secret; unfortunately, most of us don’t see it.
“When you are playing a game of draught for example, it is people who are outside that will be seeing your best moves, and will say move this way or that way.’’
“That is why the foreigners are coming here and making huge amounts of money, while we keep on lamenting every day.
“The Made in Nigeria campaign should actually begin from the tourism sector,” he said.
Award winning actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde (Omo Sexy), on her recent visit to Olumirin Water Falls in Erin Ijesha, Osun State raised concern over poor maintenance of tourist sites in the country.
Jalade-Ekeinde, one of the 2013 Time Magazine 100 most influential people in the world, raised the concerns while on the set of a movie production, `Shadowparties,’ at Olumirin Water Falls in Erin Ijesha, Osun State.
She wrote on her instagram @realomosexy, “such a breathtaking #tourist destination that needs maintenance and promotion!
“I’ve paid to visit less awesome places in the world,” Jalade-Ekeinde said.
The actress who described herself as an ‘intense tourist’ said, “I look forward to a time when tourism and entertainment would take their pride of place for Nigeria.”
“We need to preserve and commercialise these opportunities with private investors. This will boost income, travel, peace, employment and decrease crime.”
She also suggested positive steps that could be taken to revamp the sector.
She such steps to include change current management of the sector and “unselfishly lease out these sites to private investors.
“Regulate pricing so it does not become unaffordable to the masses, create competition between states to see which would bring in more, and get worthy and passionate faces/ambassadors to attract interests.
“Compete internationally, brutally and stop the mediocrity,’’
Meanwhile, The National Commission for Museum and Monuments (NCMM), says it is exploring ways to rebuild Sukur Cultural Landscape in Madagali in Adamawa, one of the UNESCO listed world heritage sites, destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents in 2014.
The Director-General of the commission, Malam Yusuf Usman, said that efforts were also on to address conservation challenges at Osun-Osogbo Grove in Osun State, the second site listed on the World Heritage site by UNESCO.
“Provisions were made in the 2017 budget to address the conservation challenges of the Sukur site and Osun-Oshogbo sacred grove. These are both national monuments.
“Secondly, UNESCO has also made provisions for assistance to Nigeria to address these challenges.
“Soon, you will see lot of activities around Sukur Cultural Landscape that will address those conservation challenges following the attack of Boko Haram insurgents,’’ he said.
The NCMM boss added that the target was to restore the conservation status of the sites, ensure they attain cresting stage and become well maintained enough to attract tourists.
The director general said he expects other agencies to popularise the Sukur site to attract tourists from across the world.
“Our major concern is maintaining the conservation status of the sites and that is what we want to address.
“We also have plans for tourism development and tourists in case of disaster and so on at the sites,’’ Usman said.
Other tourist sites listed for approval by UNESCO, which also have huge potential to attract tourists into the country to boost revenue generation both at states and federal levels include Oke Idanre Hill, Ondo State, Tarebu Chappai-Waddi Hill, Taraba, Ogbunike Caves- Anambra.
Ancient Kano City Walls, Kano State, Oban Hills, Cross River, Ogba Ukwu Cave and Waterfalls, Anambra.
Others are Erin Ijesha Waterfalls, Osun State (Oriade LG), Ikogosi Warm Spring, Ekiti, Benin Iya/Sungbo’s Eredo, Edo, Arochukwu Long Juju Slave Route/Shrine, Abia.