Nigeria And The Global $9trn Tourism Industry

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Over the years, successive governments have routinely touted the idea of diversifying the nation’s economy with emphasis on agriculture and solid minerals. But hardly have the governments, at all levels, looked seriously in the direction of tourism as a veritable source of economic activity. Or, if they did, it was purely for entertainment.

The country is known to have several tourist destinations and sites such as Yankari National Park in Bauchi State; Apapa Amusement Park and Bar Beach, both in Lagos State; Assop Falls in Jos Plateau; Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River; Ogbunike Caves in Anambra State; Olumo Rock in Ogun State; Zuma Rock in Abuja.

The capacity of this unique sector of the economy to generate businesses and jobs are limitless. Also, worthy of mention is its use as a means through which people can preserve their natural and cultural heritage for future generations.

In Nigeria, however, despite the rich heritage this sector harbours, the country is still grappling with low investment, poor infrastructure, insecurity, inadequate funding, corruption and the lack of policies that can be deployed to harness its huge potential. Where a semblance of policy exists, its poor implementation drains the zeal of enthusiasts who deign to venture into the sector.

Recently the Director General of Nigeria’s National Tourism Agency, Folorunsho Coker, made a case for a solid foundation in the sector before any investment can be meaningful. He said that the industry is worth $9 trillion globally but Nigeria and other countries in Africa have failed to maximise the huge opportunities offered by the industry.

According to him, “we must build a solid foundation and that solid foundation is the corporate governance we are talking about, the regulation of the business, the legislation that the business requires to grow. You can put as much money as you want right now, but if you don’t have the right foundation you cannot grow.

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“Tourism globally is a $9 trillion business. Africa attracts less than five per cent, why? We have 51 countries in UNWTO but we see capital fly from the West over Africa to the East and back. So, it is time for us as a region in ECOWAS to collaborate not to compete, to enter a joint marketing and training campaign.’’

Succinct as this assertion may seem, it is not the first time the benefits of tourism to the economy is put in the front burner of public discourse. We make bold to point this out because diversification of the economy will not be thorough without a conscious effort to revamp the tourism sector. Countries such as the United States, France, and other European countries are traditionally famous tourist destinations across the world with an established tourism market.

China, despite its huge industrial and manufacturing base, has massive investments in tourism with splendid tourism sites such as the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Temple Heaven, and the Great Wall among dozens of others, which fetch the Chinese government billions of dollars in revenue every year and offer millions of jobs to Chinese citizens.

It is our opinion that Nigeria and countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) must take more significant steps to reposition the tourism industry in the region with the aim to gain more from the $9 trillion said to be the global worth of the industry.

Already, ECOWAS has moved to harmonize two instruments that are critical to the development of the sector. These are the Regional Tourism Policy (ECOUTOUR-19-29) and the Regulation about Classification of Hotels and Accommodation within the member states of West Africa.

In 2018, ECOWAS member states adopted the regional tourism policy which is an action plan. In 2023, the member- states adopted a new regulation about hotel grading and classification and in this regulation are the regional mechanisms to control how to certify and grade hotels in the region.

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The ECOWAS ECOTOUR 19-29 Action Plan was adopted by the Authority of Heads of States and Government to serve as a roadmap for promoting responsible tourism. However, experts posit that before this can work, there must be effective implementation strategy, with efficient monitoring and control mechanisms that involve the ECOWAS, other regional bodies, public institutions, private sector and local communities.

We believe that the success of these initiatives hinges on the active engagements of the private sector. It is pertinent, therefore, to draft operational modalities for the two critical tools to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of tourism as well as the capacity for expanding the industry.

In our considered view, this already delayed step deserves an expeditious articulation and execution with the sole aim of putting operational measures in place so as to enable the countries in the region to tap the full potential of the sector for the overall growth and development of their economies.

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