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Agenda, Opinion

Tourism Agenda For GMB

Posted: May 7, 2015 at 12:16 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Adeniyi Ogunfowoke, a public affairs analyst, wants the President-elect to focus on the development of tourism  especially as the country seeks to diversify in the face of the falling oil price in the international oil market.

The 2015 elections have come and gone. The vanquished have returned to the drawing board to re-strategize for 2019. Others are heading for the tribunals while the winners are basking in the euphoria of victory. They have been urged to be magnanimous in victory.

Edem Duke, Minister of Culture and Tourism

Edem Duke, Minister of Culture and Tourism

Whichever divide you belong, the fact remains that Nigerians trooped out en masse to vote according to their conscience. They chose change over transformation. Despite the brickbat and mudslinging, we all have to reconcile, forget our differences and ensure that we work together to move Nigeria forward.

Unfortunately, General Muhammadu Buhari doesn’t have the leeway or liberty to flop unlike past administrations. Failure is absolutely unacceptable because the expectations of Nigerians are over-the-roof!

Nigerians want jobs, security, an incorruptible government, and massive infrastructural development that Buhari promised during his campaign tour across the 36 states of the federation. Hence, the failure of GMB to fulfill these promises would lead to his electoral downfall in 2019. This is because many Nigerians now believe that political power has been restored to them. Their votes now count. Again, the resounding victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and GMB in 2015 could be a resounding defeat in 2019 for them if they decide to become the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) overnight.

Therefore, no room would be commodious for GMB’s non-performance, which culminates in the need for him to deliver on his promises.

Ironically, many questions have been raised about the feasibility of these promises they made during the electioneering process. How do they intend to fulfill the payment of stipends to unemployed graduates, and feed every primary school child in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)? These are quite grand projects and many have asked where the government will source the money from to fund these projects.

Interestingly, GMB was elected because of his principled façade and he promised to plug loopholes and leakages from which Nigeria is losing billions of Naira. In addition to this, he assured that anti-corruption agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) will be merged and revived for effective performance. Both agencies were dormant under the outgoing administration. Least to stress that, there have been outcries for the salaries of the members of the National Assembly to be reviewed if the government is serious about sealing these loopholes. The salaries of these members are irresponsibly outrageous.

These ideas are commendable. However, one sector of the economy that has probably not been given enough attention is the Tourism and Hospitality sector. This sector is a multi-billion dollars industry that can become a major revenue earner for the government. That is if the government can decline its reliance on oil and gas, while diversifying the economy.

It is sad that successive governments have neglected this sector. In countries like Kenya, Tanzania, South-Africa, Zanzibar, Cape Verde, Nepal and Egypt, the tourism and hospitality industry is a crucial contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of these countries. However, in Nigeria, the tourism industry contributes less than 4% to the Gross Domestic Product.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council report on Travel and Tourism Economic Impact in Nigeria 2014, the direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP in 2013 was N757.3 billion(1.6%), Total contributions of travel and tourism to GDP was N1,559.5 billion (3.2%) in 2013, total contribution of Travel and tourism including jobs indirectly supported by the industry was 1,837,000 jobs (2.8%) and in terms of investment in the travel and tourism industry in 2013, it was N264.2 billion (4.8%). Imagine if more efforts are invested in the industry, the figures will be more mouth-watering!

The reliance of Nigeria on the petroleum sector is obvious, as it contributes a staggering 90% to Nigeria’s GDP.This is not sustainable for Nigeria. The diversification of the economy is ever more important because crude oil will soon become a less sort after commodity because many countries are investing in finding alternatives to crude oil. Therefore, Nigeria shouldn’t be caught unawares. We have already been caught unawares because the fall in international oil prices has adversely affected us. Many state governments cannot pay salaries because the allocations from the federal government have been cut while the budget, which is financed by revenue from the oil sector, is in shreds. It has not been passed up till this moment.

So, there is no gainsaying that Nigeria needs economic diversification now and the tourism sector is strategically placed to lead in providing the much needed revenue for the government.

NIGERIA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY

Like earlier said, the tourism, travel and hospitality sector is a multibillion dollar industry. But in Nigeria, it has not attained its desired height. Hence, we are inviting the people’s General to beam his searchlight on the industry.

There is no doubt that Nigeria is blessed with a plethora of tourist sites, colourful festivals, puzzling believes, traditions, and hotels. From North to South, East to West, there are uncountable attractions. We have the Osun/Osogbo Groove (A UNESCO world Heritage site), The Olumo rock, the Ogbunike cave in Anambra, the Ikom Monoliths in Cross Rivers, The Lagos carnival, the Obudu ranch, the Calabar Street Carnival, Reminisce of Slave trade in Badagry, and even our international airports. There are also fantastic 5 star hotels and businesses such as Jovago.com,Hotels.ng using the internet to book hotels on behalf of Nigerians as well as visitors to Nigeria.

Appallingly, the questions that actually pop up in the minds of many Nigerians are what are the conditions of these tourist destinations and how well organized are these festivals? Can these festivals and destinations attract tourists from different parts of the world? Brazil is known as the home of Samba football. When it organized the World cup in 2014, tourism contributed so much to the revenue earned. There was 30 billion dollars added to the economy and the event supported 700,000 new permanent and temporary jobs to the country’s GDP. Why? Because the government invested in Tourism.  Also, Brazil is home to one of the most vibrant carnivals in the world, which is the Rio de janeiro carnival. Tourists and visitors from all over the world visit Brazil just to see and experience this carnival. You can only imagine how much is earned from hosting the carnival.

Therefore, investing in the tourism sector is not negotiable. The government has to declare a state of emergency in the sector. They should start collating the number of tourist attractions in the country. Afterwards, they should revive and promote the sector to the world in order to attract tourists.

By doing this, the government will encourage Nigerians to have their vacations in Nigeria rather than spending hard earned money travelling to Dubai, France, London and other destinations in different parts of the world. With this, the country will be able to retain money in the country rather than enriching other nations.

Importantly, the Nigeria Tourism and Development Corporation (NTDC) must begin to reform itself to intensify the promotion and development of the sector. Their roles cannot be downplayed.

A TOURISM POLICY/FRAMEWORK

It is no longer news that Nigeria does not have a tourism policy. This simply means that there is actually no plan for the industry whether long term or short term. The industry stakeholders have been agitating for a tourism policy whose call has fell on deaf ears so far. However, with the incoming government, there must be a tourism policy for Nigeria.

The Tourism policy can adequately regulate the industry, spell out the rules of engagement for hotels (Which hotel is 5 star or 7 star?), and evolve a very pragmatic tourism and festival calendar for Nigeria. It is shocking that Nigeria doesn’t have a reliable and workable Tourism calendar. Having one will help tourists determine where and when to visit Nigeria.

Also, this policy can aid the government define the modus operandi for Public Private Partnership to develop the tourism as well as how tourism can blend with sports (and other sectors) when hosting a sports events. What this policy can do for the tourism sector is inexhaustible. It is therefore paramount that Nigeria has a tourism policy if the government wants to develop the sector and diversify the economy. The tourism policy would be the Bible or Quran of the industry. Therefore, all stakeholders must be involved in drawing up a generally acceptable policy for the tourism in Nigeria.

The tourism sector is pregnant with many babies like food, hotels, restaurants, shopping, festivals, traditions, image promotion among many other babies. Therefore, all these babies must be cared for by ensuring that they are all integrated into the tourism policy.

Optimistically, the people’s general would not only focus on the oil sector alone but the tourism sector also. Because the potentials of these sector if well tapped like the oil sector can immensely contribute its quota to the GDP, provide the much needed employment, and boost Nigeria’s image in the international community. There is so much tourism can do in Nigeria that is if we can look away from petroleum for once in the lifetime of this country.