World Tourism Day: Making Nigeria attractive for tourists

0

Tourism is a business of 365 days of the year. But, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has chosen September 27 for World Tourism Day to be celebrated. This day is for global observance,  fostering awareness of tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value and the contribution that the sector can make towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

This year’s edition officially hosted in Bali, Indonesia has “Rethinking Tourism” as its theme. The whole idea is basically to celebrate the opportunity to rethink on how we can use tourism for a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient sector. It is believed that if we fully showcase the potentials of tourism, millions of jobs will be created and will ultimately bring communities together for world peace.

A lot of people hardly think of Africa when planning fun and exotic vacations. But the truth of the matter is that there are many interesting, fun natural reserves that abound on the continent.

As a matter of fact, Nigeria as a nation is richly blessed with an abundance of sites and sounds to make one’s vacation truly an experience worth repeating. These sites range from the natural beaches along the sea coast from Lagos to Port Harcourt, unique hills at the Inland, waterfalls, springs, caves, to lakes.

Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River is a place you would want to visit again and again. It is a good place for nature lovers, eco-tourists, bird watchers and hikers. It has hosted several intercontinental long distance races in the past, fetching the authorities in charge huge income. Today, the place has become a shadow of itself.

Worthy of note are Yankari Games Reserve in Bauchi State and Komu National Park in Edo State, to mention but a few. These are natural homes for birds and animals of different kinds. The Oba Rigwa Village is another must be spot for fun seekers.

Sadly, most of these supposed centres of attractions are now shadows of themselves owing to lack of maintenance and outright neglect in some other cases.

Regrettably, our elites patronise Dubai (UAE) in their quest to catch cruise. Public office holders go to either the UK or US for holidays and tourism, when that can be achieved here. Billions of naira that would have gone to the national treasury are being expended to grow external economies.

UNWTO defines Tourism as “a social, cultural and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes.

Going by this definition, tourism involves movement from one’s locality to another. This becomes a challenge in Nigeria because of insecurity. NOI POLL in a recent report said 74% of Nigerians affirmed that Nigeria is no longer safe to live in.

If Nigerians are afraid to stay in Nigeria, how then do we expect foreigners to come here for tourism. So, again, this brings us to the issue of fighting insecurity. We should make Nigeria safe for free movement. Apart from this, to enable tourism thrive, we must address our infrastructures, knowing fully well that tourism involves doing business as we can deduce from the definition.

The sector is a good employer of labour. If all these centres across the length and breadth of the country are put to use, you will begin to imagine the number of jobless people that would have been engaged. Personnel would be employed directly while some other ones would get involved in several other businesses, servicing the tourists.

There are some countries that derive as much as 40% of their income from tourism. Even if we cannot achieve that, we can have 20% from it, and that can only be achieved if we create an enabling environment.

Nigeria has the capacity to become world tourist centre. Naturally, we have more than enough tourist centres, those in use, the ones out of use and those that are yet to be harnessed. Tourists must feel safe in their hotel rooms, having their mind at rest while moving from one point of the country to another. Good roads, access to good water supply and uninterrupted power supply are all factors to put in place to create a conducive environment for our tourists. Imagine the embarrassment when the U-20 World Cup tournament was hosted in Nigeria in 1999 and the light went off for almost 15 minutes at the National Stadium in Lagos when two teams were playing. Such things will ordinarily push people away.

Apart from the monetary gains, tourism is another good avenue to sell the image of Nigeria. When foreigners come, they come in contact with our culture, traditions and values. By the time they go back, our values are exported. The benefits derivable from tourism cannot be overemphasized. But, these are only achievable if we put the right peg in the right hole.