What do the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, and Egypt have in common? Tourism contributes more that $11 billion to their gross domestic product. Like Nigeria, all three aforementioned territories have/had decent reserves of oil, but they’ve managed to rebrand themselves as viable tourist destinations.
The promise of oil wealth has blinded many of us to the benefits that other sectors can have in our economy, in particular, the promise of tourism.
Every time we hear about natural resources in Nigeria, the conversation always centers on the fossil fuel kind. Rarely do we step back and appreciate the natural wonders of our local landscape, variety in wildlife, and overall scenic beauty. We are sitting on a proverbial goldmine. Our seven national parks (Chad Basin, Cross River, Gashaka Gumti, Kainji Lake, Kamuku, Okomu, Old Oyo ) and numerous state parks are currently underused and underfunded . Despite this, they still offer some of the variety and adventure that one finds in the safaris of eastern and western Africa, yet no one goes. A large problem is that of awareness or rather a lack thereof. The other is simply a lack infrastructure. Of all of our national parks, only one boasts of accommodation decent enough to attract tourists. This is something that urgently needs to be addressed if we are to move away from our over reliance on oil wealth.
As a domestic hotel brand, we believe more needs to be done, as such we are attempting to develop a luxury resort about an hour and a half away from Abuja at Gurara Waterfalls.
For tourism to derive the same sort of patronage as mentioned earlier in this article, as a Nigerian hotel developers, we need to do more to develop world class facilities as that in Gurara in order to bring visitors. As the old adage goes: ‘if you build it, they shall come’.
Faruk Aliyu is managing director, Shelter Suites & Hotels Operators of Hawthorn Suites