Tourism a silent nudge – wake up call.
The Nigeria’s visit of Ban Kim Moon and the talks of Sustaining Development Goals, is a reason for the Nigerian Tourism sector and stakeholders to key into the trend and ensure we, as a Nation, have an optimal market share of the benefits.
With the World Bank forecasting a tourism business of more than $2 trillion by the year 2020, which is not up to half a decade from now, how much can we as Nigeria say, will be generated by or for us? Senegal and Ghana are said to be for runners in West African Tourism harvest of revenue. Ghana with a size not up to the South West Region of Nigeria, is said to have harvested over US$3.6 Billion between 2010 and 2013; while Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia made US$26.3, US$42.7 and US$11.8 respectively. Unfortunately Nigeria saw a down trend since 2011 it is reported. Irrespective of whatever the causative factors were, there is need to really wake this sleeping giant up.
I became a convert of Nigeria’s Tourism Potentials, When during the short tenure of President Ernest Shonekan, Alhaji Lawan Marguba, the Conservator General of the National Parks Board, allowed me to do a voluntary look into the hospitality prospects of the then Yankari National Park (Yankari Games Reserves). I saw a Nigeria’s version of America’s Camp David laid to waste. The then Secretary of Agriculture commended the work, Alhaji Lawan Marguba informed me after. My request to continue the work on the potentials of the West African (ECOWAS) Coastal states, was beautifully discouraged, when an official of the then Ministry of Tourism and Culture, opined that they have all the data I will need and I should forget any assistance from the ministry for the study.
Years later, on a self-study trip to Ghana by road, thanks to Retired Major David Johnson and the Nigerian Amateur Boxing Association, who gave me a ride on their bus and allowed me the privileges of the Spots team on the Lagos – Accra route. My return, alone gave me opportunity to have a personal unfettered experience of the low budget travellers challenges and thrills. Again as a staff of Abuja Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Sales and Marketing Department (in the 90’s), I am grateful to Mr Morrison Grant, who granted me amazing first hand insights to the Republic of Niger’s potentials, on my return from Niamey on a self-search trip. (Thanks to my Brother and In-law E. Namah and his diplomatic colleague and friend Silas, whose guide opened a higher vista for a young seeker).
The LogosRhema Ministry, Accra and my Mentor’s Adenta home embalmed me for a Christmas and New Year with an ever enlightening beam of the amazing wealth laying waste in this sub region untapped. ABC transport alone was ferrying between 7 to 10 buses daily to Accra, no counts of the small cars, buses and personal vehicles traversing the route.
Do not get me wrong, kindly follow my drift. When Abacha, halted British Airways from Nigeria, do a little search of the economic history of the airline. They almost went bankrupt, irrespective of the Accra London route, having more Nigerians on board. During the time of Obasanjo, the Nigerian Western Border was closed for a while to arrest an international criminal menace. We learnt the economic ripples were felt as far as Senegal and Gambia. Nigeria is a very rich mine still untapped.
South Africa, after the Apartheid regime, became a most go place for especially Nigerians. The South African Tourism industry studied Nigeria so well and developed different tourism marketing strategies to capture the Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt target sources (well researched, you will say). Yes, they are not alone. I heard live on TV, during the 2015 NBA Annual Conference recently held, that the Ghana Bar came to study Nigeria’s legal system to enable them get some leverage in Ghana; it is same for Oil &Gas, Education, Health, Religion and so many other sectors, they study our strengths and weaknesses and maximise their profits.
As at today, Nigeria feeds Ghana, Benin, Togo, Sao Tome, Cameroon, Gambia, Niger, Chad, America, Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Dubai, Turkey, UK, France, Brussels, Greece, Canada, Singapore, China, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Israel, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago amongst so many others, with different spectra of tourism revenues, that the Nigeria so direly needs. It is only in Nigeria we bleed ourselves to feed/keep others alive. Ghana closes it’s borders at the slight breeze of uncertainty to cater for it’s citizens first, you may call that selfish. I call it a responsible government. If you cannot stay afloat, you are an added risk trying to save a drowning mate.
What is tourism doing in Nigeria? Sleeping and dreaming of the Government sending huge resources for wastages on global tourism fares, exhibitions, carnivals and outdated economically unviable escapades in the name of tourism. They have further injured the hitherto bad dented image of tourism in and for Nigerians. When you say tourism, people think of Culture or Traditional very myopic.
How can we benefit from the huge tourism potentials of Nigeria? First and foremost, the Government of the Federal Republic must remove political stuges, whose bags are for looting national funds and not developing tourism. Secondly have a relook at the National Tourism Master Plan, which to me, is a good attempt, but a Nigerian National Tourism Master Plan, that does not have a mention of Yankari Games Reserve (or National Park as before the state collected it and are ill managing it), it could be a cultural or any other Master plan and not Tourism. There is need to revisit the Master Plan and make it a Responsible Nigerian Tourism Master plan and not a borrowed plan/template (with searched and replaced words). Thirdly have every local Government Area and State key into the spirit of Responsible Tourism, as the ‘Charity that does not begin at home’ will go no where. Then only, can we, within the shortest possible time, see the groundnut sellers of Kano, Zaria, Zuru, Zungeru, Saminaka and the North, branding their products as Nigerian. the Acara Sellers of Ilesha, branding their Acara as Nigerian. The Ijebu / Bendel Gari producers raising the Nigerian Brand. The Palm Oil, Bleached and natural red, branded Nigerian and not Malaysian or as Virgin Olive Oil.
I believe and dream (they are are almost real), that the time to synerge energies to remove Government fully financing Tourism Boards is almost here. Because, from food, sports, ICT, religion, travels, accommodation, business, entertainments, Conference/Events, Festivals and Education, Nigerian Tourism can compete favourably with any National Revenue Generator in this Country. For God’s sake we are nearing 200 Million people, even that is tourism revenue.
Seriously there is the need for all stakeholders in the Tourism Sector to come together and do the needed for a Nigeria as a ‘Responsible Tourism Destination of repute’.
Consultant – (Marketing – Fariah Suites Bauchi Nigeria)