Nigeria and the World Tourism Day

Today is being observed by the global community as the World Tourism Day. The day was set aside by the United Nations Tourism Organisation in 1980. The cardinal objective of the celebration is to sensitise the entire world to long-term planning and development, as well as harnessing the multiple benefits from tourism.

The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Tourism and Jobs: A Better Future For All.” September 27 is celebrated as World Tourism Day across the world. Since the 1980’s, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation( UNWTO) has observed the day to raise awareness on the role of tourism in the global community and how it affects social, political and cultural values worldwide.

Available statistics have shown the tremendous dividends accruing from tourism in the spheres of economic, social, global peace and amity among others. The experiences of Kenya, The Gambia, Egypt and South Africa illustrate how countries have derived economic growth and development from tourism.

Over the past six decades, tourism destination countries and sites have witnessed a progressive growth from 25m sightseers to well over 1.4bn. Similarly, earnings from tourism operations have also leapt from $2bn in 1950 to $1,260trn as at 2015, roughly representing 10% of the world’s GDP and one in every 10 jobs.

Tourism has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy. There is no gainsaying the fact that it is in the best interest of tourism destination countries to develop the sector on a sustainable basis to enable them progressively enhance their capacity to reap maximum benefits from the money spinning sector.

Government at the state and federal levels in the country caught the global fever when a Day was set aside to mark tourism. Its seriousness was demonstrated by the establishment of ministries of tourism. Endowed with breathtaking and sprawling geography, cultural heterogeneity and a plethora of historical sites and monuments, the Nigerian landscape undoubtedly holds great promises for a sector that can compete favourably with the black gold in terms of foreign exchange earnings.

However, owing to the easy and quick bucks that flow from the oil sector, tourism has suffered terrible neglect like the other sectors of our economy such as agriculture and solid minerals. For example, it has been more essentially as a result of patriotic efforts of private sector participants that the annual Osun Osogbo Festival has continued to survive. The same goes for the Calabar Carnival which came into being a few years ago and has shot the ‘Canaan City’ into global limelight.

On the other hand, the once vibrant Argungu Fishing Festival alongside the famous Argungu Motor Rally, the Yankari Game Reserve, the Jos Wildlife Park, the Olumo Rock, the Asop Falls as well as the boat regatta in the littoral parts of the country have all but gone under… whereas the Elmina Slave Castle in Ghana has continued to attract tourists desiring glimpses into the horrendous experience of victims of the trans-Atlantic slavery; Nigeria’s similar monuments at Calabar, Lagos and Badagry are today receding into insignificance on the world tourism chart.

Other potential tourism destinations across the country include the Mambilla Plateau whose potential revenue could very well have hugely competed with the nation’s earnings from the oil sector. There are the Gashaka-Gumti Gane Reserve, the Ngel-Nyaki Forest Reserve and the numerous pure, indigenous festivals in the Taraba axis which, if fully packaged, would have freed the state from being considered as one of the poorest states in Nigeria today. Yobe and Borno states have between them the world’s celebrated Dagona Birds Sanctuary which phenomenally attracts different species of birds from Europe, North America, Australia and Asia fleeing from the harsh effects of the winter in those continents.

There is also the 8,000-year-old Dafuna Canoe, the Tulo-Tulowa, also known as a ‘Desert Land of Hope’ and, of course, the sadly receding Lake Chad, which in another clime would have been sustained and developed as a huge tourist and economic hub. These few are some of the instances we believe that government should have done much more towards their sustenance and growth.

At a time Nigeria is committed to divesting its economy away from oil, and given the growing projected economic and other benefits from tourism, Nigeria must wake up and look towards the tourism industry among other strategies and options in line with the dictates of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We recommend that only qualified people are appointed to supervise agencies and other related departments. Tourism is a specialised industry and those appointed to superintend it must be those with relevant qualifications and not on the basis of political patronage.

Government should also increase its funding to the sector for infrastructure development. The need to showcase Nigerian tourism attractions to the world on international mass media platforms, our embassies and others forums to further enhance patronage from the world over cannot be over-emphasised. Efforts must also be geared towards encouraging and attracting private sector involvement. We also charge the government to intensify its efforts at tackling security challenges in parts of the country which are capable of throwing wet blanket on the sector. No tourists would look in the direction of a country seething with terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping and other allied crimes no matter how attractive its tourism destinations are. These are the critical issues Nigeria should address as we join the global community in celebrating the annual ritual.

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