All over the world, tourism earnings and expenditures are high. A country that has primed itself as a world d destination rakes in huge income from tourism revenue. However, in Africa, most of tourism revenues are made by countries in East, South and North Africa. In West Africa, the Gambia and Ghana are assiduously working to improve their tourism receipt. Nigeria so far is yet to have a clear cut plan on how to grow tourism in the country.
In the United Kingdom, before the ravage of COVID-19, tourism’s direct and indirect receipt contributes £106 billion to the British economy (GDP) and supports 2.6 million jobs. Considering direct impacts only, tourism still contributes £48 billion, supporting 1.4 million jobs.
Nigeria’s total budget for 2021 is about $35.66 billion; this means that direct tourism generation in the United Kingdom is almost twice the budget of Nigeria.
According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria sold $2.89 billion worth of oil and gas between November 2019 and November 2020. The United Kingdom generates up to 20 times that amount from tourism alone in a year.
While there are huge figures for tourism expenditure, income is poor. Bismarck Rewane, an economist and Managing Director of Financial Derivatives Company Limited, recently on Channels Television said Nigeria spent over $400m for outbound tourism in the last quarter of last year.
That Nigeria’s tourism figures are always in the negative is not for lack of natural and man-made tourists assets to sell the country’s tourism to the world , but due to lack of clear blueprint on how to move the industry from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.
The dismal performance of the country in generating inbound tourism traffic has triggered a call for Nigeria to shift focus towards tourism products that could attract and generate inbound tourism traffic and generate revenue for the government.
The Director General of the National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC), believes Nigeria’s huge endowment in the culture and craft sector can help change the tourism fortune of the country.
Runsewe, speaking recently during the courtesy call on him by the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) executives to his office, said the tourism and culture sectors are like Siamese twins which he likened to a production and marketing outfits where “Culture produces the content while Tourism markets and sustain the system.” He said that was the reason why culture and tourism are inseparable.
He had explained this further in a recent interview: “Culture is the platform through which we can grow our tourism in Nigeria and that is why we are doing everything we can to showcase all the amazing attributes of our culture to the world.
“In the course of my research, I came to realize that tourism can actually reduce crime in Nigeria. I have come up with a model already that we can adopt as a society to address the challenge. No other sector has the potential for job creation in Nigeria than tourism. You don’t need a master’s degree to knit a bag; you don’t need a doctorate to carve a wooden chair. I have met people in other countries where tourism thrives, making a lot of money from the sector even without any form of education. All they need are skills to create something that would be appealing to tourists and they’ll be making some decent money.
“We have a lot of talented Nigerians everywhere today but there is no opportunity for them to develop anything. My agency, in recent times, has been changing the narrative. We have been creating wealth through skills acquisition and other empowerment schemes to equip people with the relevant training that would see them earning in the tourism sector. In the coming weeks and months, we hope to introduce other initiatives that would further open up the industry and position it for greatness.
“If I will be modest, I am sure that tourism can create up to one million jobs in Nigeria annually. Don’t forget that we have the hotels, transport companies, cab drivers, travel agents, tour guides and several other businessmen and women who would all be benefiting directly or indirectly through the windfall tourism creates in the country. This industry is huge. It is an industry where nobody cares about your credentials but your performance.
“As a country, we have not been able to showcase what tourism can do for our economy. It is for this reason that the NCAC, under my leadership, is taking this message everywhere because the time has come for Nigeria to begin to reap the full benefits of tourism. As far as I am concerned, oil is good but tourism is better. We are working tirelessly to reawaken the consciousness of our people towards promoting our culture and boosting tourism.
“We are third in the world in the movie industry. In several other areas of human endeavour, we are in the leading role as well. These are all aspects that we can harness properly to sell Nigeria to the world.
“We need to properly manage the things we have in this country if we are to successfully develop tourism in Nigeria. Every country in the world has their own challenges, therefore, we must do our best to promote and portray the positive aspects of our society rather than always telling others about the bad things in Nigeria alone. Our country is not the only place in the world with challenges; there are challenges everywhere in the world, so let’s concentrate on showing the positive things about in Nigeria so that more people can be encouraged to visit the country.
“All over the world, those in this category bring their final products to us to market during major tourism and cultural events in the country and beyond. Even though it has been a different case in Nigeria over the years, we have come up with a new and improved strategy that has seen us collaborating more with artists, sculptors and other categories of craftsmen in recent times, in our drive to sell Nigeria to the world.”
Although not effectively harness, culture, arts and craft have been at the forefront of Nigeria’s tourism drive. While most domestic tourists travel to see natural attractions around the country, most inbound tourists are attracted to Nigeria by the rich and diverse culture.
While Cross River (Calabar) is the number one tourist destination in Nigeria, the traffic is seasonal-during the month of December only. However, Lagos has a steady drip of all year round traffic. Most international visitors are more interested in visiting iconic cultural sites in the state than rich natural endowments. The top three tour sites most inbound tourists ask of in Lagos are:
Fela’s Museum (Kalakuta Museum) and shrine. Nigeria’s late legendary musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s music has a fan base that cuts across the world hence most visitors to Nigeria would always request to visit the shrine now located at the Alausa Central Business District of Lagos and his residence at Gbemisola Street Ikeja. The Kalakuta Museum houses most of the personal attires of Fela while alive. We saw that happen when the French President Emmanuel Macron visited Lagos.
These two places could be compared to the Vilakazi Street in Soweto, South Africa where tourists would always ask of to see the old home of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela.
Another favourite city tour site for visitors to Lagos is the Nike Arts Gallery owned by the famous textile artist, Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye. Nike, with little or no education, acquired training in textile arts through the late teacher Ulli Beier and his wife Georgina and the late Austrian Osun devotee, Suzanne Wenger. With no education, armed with just African textile arts, Nike has taught African arts and design in some of the best universities in the world and currently a very sought after speaker in her area of specialization.
Nike Arts Gallery, a three storey building at Elegushi, off Lagos-Epe expressway. It is one of the largest private arts galleries in Africa. The gallery has works from the ancient to contemporary arts. The gallery alsdo offfrs visitors practical experience on how to make batik materials, and also preparation and taste of some of Nigeria’ s favourite snacks like Akara beans cake and puff puff.
The third is the National Museum Onikan behind MUSON Centre. He tourists have pip in to hundreds of years past and the also contemporary events in Nigeria.
Also Lagos boosts of magnificent beach side relaxation spots, but the cultural sites are always top on the agenda of visitors.
Another cultural site that could help in propelling Nigeria’s tourism is the iconic Osun Osogbo festival. The Yoruba population worldwide is put in the region of 105 million. The Yoruba people have a large presence in Brazil, the United States of America, Jamaica, Cuba and so on. Among them are many devotees of Osun goddess who make efforts to visit Osogbo for the annual festival. This huge market has not been effectively targeted and thousands who could have made the annual pilgrimage to Nigeria for the festival are lost.
It was through the intermingling of culture, religious and arts that the world renowned Osogbo Arts Movement with renowned artists like the late Duro Ladipo, Jimoh Buraimoh, Rufus Ogundele, Taiwo Olaniyi (Twin Seven Seven), Nike Davies- Okundaye, Buraimoh Gbadamosi and others, came into being.
These are artists have helped popularize Osogbo as a destination and also brought in thousands of tourists yearly.
Benin culture is another cultural asset that could boost Nigeria’s inbound tourism number. Renowned Benin is renowned creative bronze carvings.
Recently, former World Heavy Weight Champion, American Deontay Wilder (Bronze Bomber) traced his ancestry to Benin, probably because of the culture of bronze carving.
The Igun Street (the residence of Benin bronze craftmen) has existed from the ancient Benin kingdom. This is the street that for hundreds of years, have churned out the work that has come to recognized the world over as the Benin bronze carvings.
North, South, East or West, Nigeria’s culture and arts boosts of a rich assemblage of these culture and arts work that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. They are our culture, but they are also tourism products that ought to be harness to boost tourism in the country.
For tourism, it is time to go back to the drawing board, put a more realistic master-plan in place, taking into consideration this area of comparative advantage. When can harness them and market them to the world.