Key players in the nation’s tourism industry have observed that the impact of growth in domestic travels in the country can only be felt when certain parameters are set right. These include fixing the forex challenges, business environment, improving infrastructure and government policies on aviation. ANTHONY AWUNOR writes.
Jumia Travels recently came up with a report indicating that Nigeria generated 97 per cent of its tourism revenue from domestic travel in 2016 while foreign travel accounted for an abysmal three per cent.
Despite the recorded growth in domestic spending, stakeholders in the travel and tours sector have argued that such indices have not impacted the economy meaningfully.
President of National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mr Bankole Bernard thinks that the best way to grow tourism in Nigeria is to ensure that forex is available in the aviation industry, put in place tourism-friendly policies and improve social and physical infrastructure.
“I would recommend a revamping of the aviation sector to provide the necessary perception and easy gateway for tourism without a sound aviation industry, the tourism sector cannot grow or live up to expectations,” Bernard said.
According to the NANTA president, government’s endorsement of policies that favour the industry in terms of forex will go a long way to boosting the industry.
The managing director of Melchinny Travels and Tours Limited, Mrs Jane Emokah said that, though bad roads have forced domestic air travel up but that such does not reflect any tourism growth in the real sense of it.
According to Emokah said “It is not tourism per say because local hotels, resorts, tourist site etc, are yet to record such growth. For the foreign trips, China which is our major producer and manufacturer just resumed; foreign exchange Basic Travel Allowance is yet to be made available to the public by the banks.
“The recent changes in importation rules and charges are also affecting domestic tourism. The fact that people are yet to feel the budget is also a major factor. Airlines are also leaving Nigerian airspace and the Abuja Airport closure is there too.”
Travel and Tourism expert, Mohammed Abdullahi pointed out that domestic travels are gradually becoming attractive to Nigerians because travelling abroad is simply too expensive with the bad economic situation of the country.
Abdullahi added that there are relatively improved infrastructure and improved awareness of Nigeria’s tourism potentials particularly by the private sector, stressing that such factors contributed to the increase in domestic tourism.
“Most importantly, Nigerian travel trade have suddenly realised the need to promote Nigeria to Nigerians. This was not the case in subsequent years when 95 per cent of travel packages are all about outbound travels. However, the government can do more by prioritising tourism through improvement in infrastructure and promotion of Nigerian culture domestically and internationally,” Abdullahi said.
The senator representing Osun West Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Isiaka Adeleke rather has admonished Nigerians and the governments at different levels to embrace local tourism to boost the economy of the country.
Senator Adeleke said tourism was a viable sector through which the economy of the country can be revived, charging that every individual should encourage local tourism instead of expending huge resources on foreign ones.
He explained that tourism has huge potentials which have not been fully utilized, noting that some countries in the world have sustained their economy through their investment in the tourism sector.
The chairman, Senate Committee on Capital Market, during a visit to Tinapa Resort, Calabar pointed out that there are so many tourist sites within the country which were not being utilized, stating that local tourists’ centres just lie fallow in their various locations.
According to Senator Adeleke, “It is good that we are diversifying our economy to meet the various challenges we are facing as a country. One of the key sectors we should not neglect is tourism. It is a viable sector if properly tapped and harnessed.
“Some African countries rely on their tourism potentials to boost their economy. People throughout the world spend huge sums of money on tourism because tourism is part of our day to day activities. If we encourage local tourism, it will help with the development of our local content.
“I believe the federal government and some state governments are already working assiduously to tap into the huge tourism potentials. However, I will like to charge them to make our tourist sites more attractive. Tourism is money-spinning and Nigeria should not be left out of the opportunity it provides. Nigerians should also patronize our tourist sites instead of expending on foreign ones,” Adeleke said.
Oyo State commissioner for Information Culture and Tourism, Toye Arulogun said that the Oyo State government will not neglect the economic importance of tourism, saying that the government is targeting the sector to increase its revenue generation.
He assured that the state government will encourage domestic tourism and encourage local tourists to patronize local sites.
Meanwhile, a recent report released by Jumia Travels shows that travel and tourism contributed 1.6 per cent of the total employment in 2015, and was forecast to grow by 1.6 per cent in 2016. Nigeria’s economy over the last five years has been driven by growth in agriculture, telecommunications, and services.
According to the report, even though Nigeria might not be the first choice as a tourist destination in Africa, there was fewer international arrivals in 2016, due largely to the ravaging effect of terrorism in the Northern Nigeria.
“This really impacted negatively on the inbound tourism as a lot of international tourists ticked off Nigeria as a tourist destination. Despite the threat posed by terrorism, the country still managed to generate N85.8 billion (0.7per cent of total exports) in 2015 from international visitors. This was forecast to grow by 2.7 per cent in 2016. By 2017, this figure is expected to fall by 7.3 per cent if the security challenges in the country still persist,” the report added.