For the love of their country and contribution to a robust domestic tourism, Americans will have visited Orlando or Miami before they go to see the Eiffel Tower in France or Buckingham Place in London. If they want to ski, they will go to Colorado before going to Switzerland.
You can imagine the multimillion dollar investment the tourism sector has become in the ‘God’s Own Country’ through huge patronage by its people let alone foreigners who come in their droves.
Of course, it is no longer news that a total of 73,282 Nigerian tourists visited South Africa last year, contributing almost R800 million ($88.6m) to the country’s economy.
But the news is that more than that number will stay back in their next holiday on destinations across the country to visit the rains forests and rarest wildlife species that are almost extinct, to relax at the likes of Obudu Mountain Resort and Yankari Games Reserve that seem empty, and the sprawling beaches that wish all Nigerians will frolic and cool off the intensity of the sun at their refreshing coolness.
Saddened by the little or no patronage of Nigerian destinations, Sally Mbanefo, the new director general of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), insists it is time “holiday begins at home” in Nigeria by encouraging domestic tourism.
The new DG with her private sector background is assuring a commitment to pushing a transformation agenda for Nigerian of tourism starting with wooing every Nigerian to embrace domestic tourism to sustain the industry and also to enable it develop to attract tourist dollar.
She is starting with the development of local content, because she believes that before Nigerian tourism brand can be successfully sold to the outside world, the country must address the domestic market potentials, secure the buy-in and confidence of Nigerians in the sector and get Nigerians to be proud of their tourism heritage and industry.
The Corporation, according to her, is developing Tourism Value Chain across the country to enable NTDC realise the objectives for which it was set up as well as meeting the core mandate of the supervising ministry of tourism.
The development of the domestic tourism would also entail other core mandates, which includes job creation, poverty alleviation and revenue generation.
To achieve results, Mbanefo notes that the programmes of the new NTDC shall be determined and executed in line with the mission of the Tourism Ministry which is engaging with stakeholders to reinvent and reposition Nigerian Tourism sector for the emergence of an integrated, globally competitive, professional, private sector-driven industry through strategic international corporation, investment promotion and a strong regulation.
In this connection the new DG indicates that NTDC, working in close partnership with other parastatals shall be implementing the Tourism Master Plan geared towards the promotion of Nigeria’s rich tourism potentials through identification, development and marketing of the diverse tourism opportunities.
In addition and in line with the core-mandate of the supervising Ministry, the new NTDC shall be active in promoting tourism as a foreign exchange earner, income re-distributor, major revenue earner to the federal government, major employer of labour as well as a catalyst for rural development and poverty reduction.
She is also engaging poverty alleviation and job creation through the activities of the new NTDC such as encouraging the establishment and running of tourism enterprises by the poor and ensuring that proceeds and profits from tourism benefits the poor.
Her pro-poor programmes would also ensure that investments in tourism infrastructure benefit the poor in the locality where they are sited while empowerment of women, youths and the underprivileged through tourism entrepreneurship would receive high priority.
All boils down to encouraging more Nigerians to visit at least a destination in a month and help in realising her ultimate goal of making tourism count in the Nigerian economy with at least 10 percent contribution to Gross Domestic Product.
So, why wait, call your tour operator to get going!