Nigeria Not Taking Advantage Of Her Tourism Potential – Efa | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Small Business

Nigeria Not Taking Advantage Of Her Tourism Potential – Efa

Brian Efa
Posted: Jun 3, 2016 at 4:25 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Brian Efa is the managing partner at Jonel Hospitality Consulting, organiser of the Nigeria Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference. In this interview with Ikechi Nzeako, he speaks on how Nigeria can develop her tourism potential and earn more revenue in the face of dwindling price of crude oil in the international market.

Late last year, Jonel Hospitality Consulting organised an international conference on tourism and hospitality, what was the conference all about?
The conference was meant to review opportunities in the tourism and hospitality sector; look at how financing can be sourced; x-ray the current trends in African tourism sector and how we can grow tourism and hospitality sector as an income earner for the country.
How did the conference go?
The conference went well; there was a lot of private sector participation. The private sector embraced the idea and we got a lot of support from them. However, there was no support from government quarters apart from the endorsement we got from the then federal ministry of culture and tourism and the national orientation Agency. There was no participation and support from the government at the conference.

What is your assessment of government policy on tourism?
The government does not seem to have a clear-cut policy on tourism and hospitality. They have not shown that they have any intention to develop the sector. This can be seen in the merger of the Tourism Ministry with Information Ministry. Indeed tourism doesn’t seem to be on the development agenda of the government. Tourism is a sector that can generate billions of naira for the government; this is because the more the number of people that come to Nigeria, the more revenue for the country.

What is your assessment of the tourism potential of the country?
As many others have said, the tourism sector has the potential to generate huge revenues for the country. There are a lot of tourism sites in the country; there are many natural heritage sites, which can attract millions of tourists to the country and enjoy themselves. Of course domestic tourism has a lot of potential to generate revenue for the government, especially for state government that are in dire financial situation and are unable to pay staff salaries. Many Nigerians travel abroad for holidays and they spend huge amounts in foreign currencies, however, if the tourism sites in the country are developed, they can travel to the different sites and contribute to the local economies they are visiting. There are many tourism sites in Imo, Anambra, Bauchi, Enugu, Osun, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and many other states in the country. Many countries do not have natural heritage sites as we have in the country but they are using the tourism sector to generate huge revenues for their countries. Imagine a situation in which one million holiday makers come into the country and each one of them spend $1,000, that will give us $1billion through tourism alone. That is what tourism can do. The world has about one million visitors everyday and Nigeria does not share significantly in the huge money that these people spend on a daily basis.
What role can the government play in the development of the tourism sector in the country?
One of the issues that was highlighted by the foreign participants at our conference was that there was visa restrictions; our visa policy is horrible. People find it difficult to access visa to come to Nigeria. This was the high point of our foreign participants at the conference. Most people complained that they had difficulties getting Nigerian visa. In this year’s conference, one of the issues we want to discuss is “the role of government in tourism development”. We have written to many government agencies and high-ranking government officials that are in the position to talk about this issue but none of them has responded and they are unwilling to speak at the conference. I see a government that is not ready to develop the tourism sector. Government has specific roles to play in terms of policy formulation that will attract investors and visitors to the country.
How does tourism create jobs in the country?
Tourism and hospitality create jobs in the country. If a tourist decides to come to Nigeria, the airline man is going to have a job; the air hostess is going to have a job; people in the hotel will have a job – the receptionist, cook, steward and many others will have something to do. The travel agent, the food vendor will have something to spend from what the tourist brings into the country.
Some people say that the quality of hotels in the country is not high. Is this true?
That is a lame excuse; most of our top hotels are of international standard. If you say the cost per night is high, yes I will agree with that. But of course the hotels spend millions of naira to provide electricity on a daily basis for months; that is what you do not see hoteliers do abroad and they have to recoup the money they spend.

How would assess the tourist sites in the country?
Most of the sites are not developed to attract people to come and visit and government can partner with the private sector to develop the sites. Government can stimulate growth in the sector even when the economy is in recession so that the economy can come out of recession. That is how it works in every part of the world and it should be for Nigeria. At many sites, there are no access roads; it is the responsibility of government to provide roads. Investors need the road to go and develop the place. This is how government can stimulate the economy. Some sites are wonderful sites that people want to see but there are no access roads to them and government cannot generate revenue from those sites. In terms of quality of hotels, we have regulatory agencies like the Tourism Development Corporation and state Ministries of Tourism; they should set and regulate standards. They do not do this; all they are interested in is in registration fees and other fees. Nobody is regulating the operations and standards in hotel industry. It is the responsibility of government to regulate the industry.

How has the security situation impacted on the sector?
Security plays a major role in tourism development. When you want to visit a particular place, you check the security situation first. Nobody will travel to the Northeast of Nigeria when security is not guaranteed. Security plays a major role in making people to come and visit a particular place or country. People want to be safe; nobody wants to visit a place where they will be hurt or killed. We have the Niger Delta Avengers in the Niger Delta and Boko Haram in the Northeast and with the news about their activities, not many tourists will want to come to Nigeria on a visit. Therefore, the government must make conscious effort to resolve all security challenges so that the tourism sector can develop and flourish.

What should Nigerians expect from this year’s conference?
At this year’s conference, we will have some people coming from the academia to present papers and many commissioners coming to speak on different issues in the sector. We will be x-raying how insecurity affects tourism; we will do a case study of the attacks on tourists in Mali and Niger Republic. We will also examine the role of free and fair elections on tourism. We will dwell on the role of government in the development of the tourism sector in the country. Someone will come from the World Bank to handle global tourism and how Nigeria fares in it. Tourism is the sixth highest income earner in the world and Nigeria does not have a meaningful share of the revenue. We are also going to examine how people can get funding for their hotels and others