• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria at 54: Promoting tourism for economic growth (2)

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There are quite a number of attractive, exciting, exotic and amazing tourist spots and destinations waiting to be explored in various parts of the country, many of which are wonders of nature, spectacles of beauty and entertainment and symbols of monument which depict the rich history and culture of our proud national heritage.

Among these include, but not limited to, the following : OBUDU cattle Ranch/TINAPA (cross River State); GURARA falls (Mina, Niger State); OGBUNIKE cave (ANAMBRA State); OJUKWU Bunker[Enugu], ORANMIYAN forest/ Staff (Ile-Ife, OSUN State); OLUMO Rock (Abeokuta, OGUN State); slave port relics / slave routes , including the “point of no return” (Badagry,Lagos State); Mungo Park Building[Asaba, Delta State] IKOGOSI springs/water falls (OSUN State); IDANRE Hills (ONDO State); YANKARI Games reserve (BAUCHI State); ZUMA Rock (Abuja). We also have designated national museums with ancient, contemporary, quintessential artifacts and monuments in various locations across the Country. Even the Sambisa forest in Borno state which has been made notorious by the violent militant sect, Boko Haram, can be developed and designated a national monument and popular tourist site after the insurgents might have been smoked out of the forest! We also have a number of colourful, fascinating, enticing, entertaining and spectacular socio- cultural Festivals and carnivals, including, OSUN OSOGBO Festival (OSUN State); CALABAR carnival (cross river-state); ARGUNGU international fishing festival (KEBBISTATE); EYO Festival/ Black Heritage carnival (Lagos State); DURBA Festival (Kano); OJUDE Oba Festival (IJEBU Ode, OGUN State); OFALA Festival (ANAMBRA State); Abuja international Carnival; among others, in addition to numerous beaches, natural scenery and beautiful landscapes across the country. These tourism sites/potentials should be vigorously promoted to attract local and global tourists as well as investors, through concerted efforts by governments and relevant agencies at all levels.

In order to enhance the participation of foreign and local tourists, the various cultural festivals and tourist sites should be properly designated, harmonized and classified by way of an omnibus national calendar of cultural festivals and events.[in terms of the scheduled dates/location of events, as well as other relevant details]. These festivals and sites should also be documented and published in form of literature- brochures, flyers, pamphlets e.t.c – and uploaded on the internet/websites/social media to provide necessary information and serve as guide to prospective tourists. In addition, necessary tourism information materials on the country should be made available at our embassies abroad, foreign embassies in Nigeria and immigration desks in all the airports and other points of entry and departure. Furthermore, some of the tourist spots and facilities all over the country, particularly the ancient, historical monuments which are becoming decrepit and derelict should be rehabilitated to enhance their ambience and aesthetics, without necessarily having to alter or distort their originality, in order to boost their tourism value and attraction.

  Finally, and more importantly, in order to enhance the tourism industry, there is need for adequate provision and significant improvement of relevant infrastructure. In this context, the hotel and hospitality sector is central and germane to the growth and development of tourism and should, therefore, not only be given special attention but accorded topmost priority.  The challenge of poor, insufficient and sub-standard hotel facilities of which the tourism industry is primarily dependent upon must be effectively addressed and rapidly tackled. The relevant government authorities (Ministries of Tourism and culture at both the Federal and State levels, as well as relevant tourism agencies, in collaboration with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation), should undertake a proper classification exercise of tourist designated hotels in the country. The Hotels should be classified and rated in the order of merit (from one star to five star ) based on internationally accepted standards and globally recognized criteria, in terms of comfort, location, size, space, serenity, quality of available facilities and services, among others. Such a system of classification and rating will enable a tourist to know in advance the available hotel facilities, the standard of comfort he is likely to enjoy and the margin of the hotel cost and services available in each of the designated or branded hotels.

Another vital and essential component of tourism infrastructure is transportation. In order to effectively stimulate and promote tourism, there is the need for a combined mode, well-integrated, efficient and functional transportation system, through the development, improvement and modernization of roads, railways, waterways, as well as aviation infrastructures, to connect all parts of the country. Presently, the cost of transportation, particularly air travel, is still relatively expensive, while railways and waterways are almost non-existent. Our roads are in deplorable state which constitutes an impediment to tourism business. Efforts should, therefore, be made by the government to fix public transportation infrastructure, while air travel should be made much more accessible, safe and affordable to encourage both local and foreign tourists. Some people have suggested the need for Nigeria to have a national carrier/airline[a revival of the former Nigerian Airways, even if it is to be run and managed this time under private auspices, in a public/private partnership arrangement], in order to further enhance the country’s tourism potentials. The government should utilize part of the proceeds from the recently established tourism development fund to finance the development, improvement, rehabilitation and upgrade of tourism infrastructures.

All said and done, peace and security are critical and fundamental to the promotion and development of tourism. Tourism cannot thrive in an atmosphere of chaos, rancor, violence, turmoil and insecurity, as no visitor or tourist would want to risk his life by coming to a country where he does not feel safe and secured. The present state of insecurity in the country is obviously detrimental and inimical to the promotion and development of tourism as it has the proclivity to crowd out potential tourists and investors. The government should, therefore, put in place efficient, viable, effective and enduring security measures, in order to ensure the safety of lives and property and enhance tourism in particular and economic growth and development in general.

Kayode Oluwa