• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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BusinessDay

Between the two big brothers

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A sprawling landscape lies ahead as the plane touched down at the O.R Tambo International Airport. The aerial view of the city of Johannesburg is a taste of what South Africa has to offer in terms of tourism. From Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, every city, town and village has one or two breathing scenic beauty that has been the toast of tourists.

Since hosting the World Cup in 2010, South Africa has embarked on ambitious plans to increase the number of overseas visitors to the country to 15 million by 2020, in line with its National Tourism Sector Strategy targets.

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s minister of tourism, explains the ambitious plan aimed to increase the number of foreign tourist arrivals from over 8 million to 15 million, the number of domestic trips to 50 million, increase tourism’s contribution to the gross domestics product (GDP) from an estimated R189.4 billion in 2009 to R499 billion (over $300bn), and also create about 225, 000 new tourism jobs by 2020.

It is not a surprise that Nigeria has top the lists of arrivals to South Africa for many years. The number of arrivals from Nigeria to South Africa has doubled since 2010, Phumi Dhlomo, South African Tourism director for Africa, says.

According to him, the figures were obtained from passport records. Nigerians who visit South Africa have topped the number of arrivals of foreign nationals into the country. There was a 20.9 percent increase for the 2010 arrivals to South Africa.

“Nigeria recorded an increase of 8.8 percent of tourist arrivals in 2010,” he says, “with our records showing that 49, 520 Nigerians visited South Africa for leisure and business purposes. This figure of visitors pushed Nigeria right to the top of our tourists’ arrivals table from Africa. The January 2011 figures are no less impressive with 4,220 Nigerians visiting South Africa compared to the 3,491 in 2009 – a 20.9 percent increase.”

Like South Africa, Nigeria has started taking tourism seriously as part of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Vision 20:20 plans. In its First National Implementation Plan (FNIP) outlining the priorities of Vision 20:2020 for 2010-2013, the Federal Government states its ambition to make tourism one of the five major income earners by 2020. Nigeria estimates an annual rise of 10 percent per year in tourism arrivals and projects that the sector’s contribution to GDP will stand at 2.7 percent by the end of this year.

An additional 10, 000 tourism and hospitality workers are to be trained by year end. To make this possible, there are reforms to make immigration procedures limit the duration of tourism visa application to two days. The FNIP announced investments of up to N27.91 billion to be made in the sector by the end of this year. Allocations will go into the development of resorts clusters, including the Shara Gateway around the Northern city of Kano, the Conference Cluster in the Federal Capital Territory, the scenic cluster in the highlands of the Plateau region, the Atlantic Gateway along the Lagos Badagry corridor and the Tropical Rain forest Cluster in the South East.

Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage is being explored more effectively through the success of festivals and carnivals, for example, the Lagos Black Heritage Festival, the Calabar Carnival, the Argungun Fishing Festival in Kebbi, the Durbar Festival in Kano, the Mare Festival in Ondo State, Osun Osogbo Festival, among others. Funds have also been made available to open the National Arts Theatre through a public private partnership arrangement. There is also a culture and tourism fund to promote cultural tourism at home and abroad.

In addition, tourism officers are being posted to Nigerian embassies and foreign missions for the promotion of tourism outside the country. Each states in the country is also embarking on developing their tourism sites by creating festivals around them in other to develop domestic tourism. For instance, Ondo State’s annual Mare Festival attracts more than 2, 000 visitors annually the same could be said of the Osun Osogbo Festival, Calabar Carnival, Lagos Black Heritage Festival, Argungun amongst others.

There has been a positive sign in tourism development in Nigeria since the Tourism Development Fund was launched in 2012. Once the N5 billion fund has been made available for disbursement, it would be used to aid funding and capacity building in the tourism industry.

President Jonathan’s visit to South Africa will definitely cement the relationship with the rainbow country. It will also open up emerging markets for the promotion of tourism, arts, culture and fashion. It will be a great opportunity for Nigeria and South Africa to exploit the tourism potentials of both countries for tourism exchange. The two countries decide on the best ways to market Nigeria as a destination in line with President Jonathan’s Vision 20:20.

Edem Duke, minister of culture, tourism and national orientation, told the Oxford Business Group in its Nigeria 2012 Report, that the fund would be financed by private sector contributions and supported by a percentage from sales of airline tickets and hotel rooms.

“Our vision is that 70 percent of the tourism fund,” he explained, “will go to visual art, some towards tourism infrastructure, while a certain percentage will be set aside for the development of tourism products as well as training. The training includes the establishment of tourism education programmes throughout the country, and it is providing new opportunities for more than 20 million unemployed people.”

Both Nigeria and South Africa have been making efforts to develop a mutually beneficial relationship in order to develop their tourism potential. For instance, in the past year, South African Tourism has empowered tour operators by training them on how to market destinations for tourism locally. In addition, tour operators and media have been taken on familiarisation tour to better educate them about South Africa’s tourism offerings. Some of the knowledge gained from these trips has been adapted locally.

Also, Nigeria has been marketing itself internationally through the establishment of Nigerian cultural centres in Brazil and China. It has just planned to open a similar Culture and Information Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2013. According to Duke, it is the first to be opened by Nigeria in Africa. It will be used to strengthen cultural relations, not only with the government and people of South Africa, but also with other countries in the Southern part of the continent.

“We recall the very elaborate and robust relations between Nigeria and South Africa, especially in the years of struggle against apartheid as well as the leadership role the two countries are playing in the advancement of the cause of Africa globally. This choice is also in recognition of the role Nigeria played and continues to play in the history of Southern African countries,” the minister explained.

No doubt, many Nigerians living legitimately in South Africa have been contributing to its socio-economic development as well as the maintenance of bilateral relations. Having a Nigerian Culture and Information Centre around them will enhance their activities and also complement the operations of the Nigerian High Commission.

In the same vein, Nigeria is also working with South Africa to facilitate the opening of a South African Tourism office in Nigeria.

 

FUNKE OSAE-BROWN