TOURISM AS A FOREIGN EXCHANGE EARNER FOR NIGERIA

By Samuel Okocha, Lagos

0 483

Nigeria will host the world at the first United Nations World Tourism Organisation, (UNWTO) Global Conference on Tourism, Culture and the Creative Industry, from November 14 to 16 in Lagos, Nigeria. This will be the first time the country will host such a high profile conference on tourism which will surely open new vistas in Nigeria’s tourism industry.

Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic activities and an important tool for foreign exchange earnings. According to the UNWTO, tourism is the third-largest export category after fuels and chemicals. In 2019, tourism accounted for 7% of global trade, making it the third largest export sector of the global economy.

In Nigeria, travel and tourism contributed 2.8 percent to the country’s GDP in 2020, which was equal to 11 billion U.S. dollars. Comparatively, in 2019 the contribution of travel and tourism to the Nigerian economy had dropped significantly due to the Corona Virus pandemic. Indeed, the sector’s contribution to the GDP stood at 4.4% in 2019 before it fell in 2020 as a result of the global lock down.

According to the Travel and Tourism competitiveness report by the World Economic Forum in 2017, Nigeria ranked a low 129th out of the 136 African countries. This was against Ghana, which stood at 120th and South Africa which ranked 53rd. Factors for this low ranking include low prioritization of the tourism industry, poor infrastructural facilities and security challenges. All these have reflected in an increase in outbound travels to destinations like Ghana and South Africa. This in turn has resulted in loss of revenue.

Despite this low rating, Nigeria’s tourism potentials are not in doubt. When properly developed they will fetch millions of dollars in foreign earnings for the country. Presently, Nigeria has over 7000 tourist centers, with more than half of that number yet to be explored. The Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State which has been described as one the most popular game reserves in West Africa, speaks volumes about the potential of Nigeria’s tourism industry.

And that is not all! Sites like the popular Olumo Rock in Ogun State in the south West, Kainji Lake National Park, in Niger and Kwara states, in the north central, as well as, the Obudu Mountain Resort, in Cross River State, the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, are among the popular sites that receive tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Indeed, with an endowed geographical landscape which comprises the coastal beaches, mountains, historical monuments, wildlife, UNESCO approved heritage centres and diverse culture, Nigeria should be able to carve a niche in global tourism.

Nigeria the winning rights to host the Global Conference on Tourism, Culture and Creative Industry billed for Lagos in November this year, indicates a vote of confidence on the country’s environment for tourism to thrive.

Indeed, Nigeria has the capability to generate sustainable revenues that will rival current earnings from crude oil. But all levels of government, along with the public and private sectors, will need to synergize to convert the country’s potential in tourism to real income for the country. This will include developing the facilities and business environment that will attract local and foreign investors to participate in the tourism industry.

According to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council, the Travel and Tourism sector in Nigeria is expected to create 2.6 million new jobs over the next decade, doubling the number of those employed within the sector by 2032.This is not surprising considering vast and diverse cultures in the country with different cultural activities and festivals which will attract millions of tourists into the country.

The multiplier effects of a vibrant tourism industry include an increase in hotel bookings, air and road travels, restaurants, increased gate takings at tourist’s sites, and retail trade, alongside the investments and employment opportunities that will be created.

The security situation in the country will also have to improve significantly and must be given the priority it deserves for the country to be able attract tourists, increase foreign earnings and generate jobs for Nigeria’s teeming youth.

The value chain within the tourism industry is undoubtedly immense, with a lot of potential for foreign exchange earnings. Africa’s most populous country must now work to make that potential a reality.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.