Tourism the world over is known to be a great contributor to a nation’s gross domestic product and per capital income. It is a money spinner and one of the largest employer of labour anywhere on the globe. Countries like Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Gambia, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey and today’s Dubai generates a lot of revenue-foreign exchange from tourism for their government and peoples.
The tourism industry entails the business of traveling for pleasure, catering for people who do this and the encouragement of touring. These includes tour guides, transporters, hoteliers, the boosting of local industry, commerce and trade through sale of handcrafts, artifacts, souvenirs exposure of local cuisines and delicacies to foreign tourists etc. Also other aspect. of the culture and traditions of the people are showcased and brought to the limelight.
Suffice it to. say that the potentials for this industry is enormous for the country especially Rivers State with its many beautiful beaches, aquatic nature and splendor, different cultural festivals, traditional dances, masquerades, boat regatta displays, local music, monuments and sites.
Rivers State could become a centre for tourist destination in Nigeria and the world because of its unique and strategic location and its prominence in the oil and gas industry. The state boasts of an international airport a large seaport and is linked by major roads from different parts of the country, also a fine weather.
Apart from the aforementioned, the state boasts of some of the best hotels both five and three star hotels in this part of the country. Even though there is need for great improvement in this area especially considering the influx of many foreign nationals and people who come to the state to do business.
Today the world talks of eco-tourism whereby governments and people use tourism to boost trade and commerce e.g. Dubai where tourist travel to basically for shopping and to transact all kinds of business likewise London, New York, South Africa etc.
Also is the much talked about health-tourism, in this case many people travel to countries like India, Singapore, South Africa or Germany for medical treatment and convalescing backed and encouraged by’ those individual government.
In the same vein is sports-tourism, for instance countries build and develop sporting facilities to host world sporting meets, events like the popular wimbledon opens in London, the Olympics, All Africa Games, the World Cup e.g. the 2010 World cup hosted by South Africa attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world. And you had billions of people watching the event via satellites and television all over the globe. Imagine that revenue from adverts, endorsement gate taking, hotel lodging, feeding, money for local transporters etc. then ofcourse the goodwill and publicity to the entire nation. For the records South Africa made billions of dollars from hosting that event within just a month.
Interestingly there is the genre of edu-tourism and many countries are benefiting from it like Ghana, South Africa, Canada, UK, Malaysia etc.
They build educational institutions/schools of international standard and attract students from different countries of the world. Indirectly using education to showcase their peoples language, culture and tradition etc.
All of these forms of tourism which is in no way exhaustive, help attract people/tourists and generate foreign exchange for the individual countries and governments concerned. This will inturn translate to better conditions of living and improved standard of living for the people and government.
This present administration is doing much in trying to restore Port Harcourt to its old garden city status especially through its beautification efforts. The development of green areas, parks and gardens is adding aesthetic beauty to most parts of the city and this must be sustained to keep these parks and gardens functioning all year round.
Also the annual Rivers festival and carnival dubbed CANIRIV has done much in fostering unity among its people and attracting visitors/tourists from far and near. It should be expanded to include exhibitions/fairs of arts and crafts as well as cooking competition to further expose the rich cuisine and delicacies of the Rivers people. The private sector should be involved for sponsorship and to market it internationally and locally.
In addition places of interest and tourist attraction sites like the Port Harcourt Zoo should be improved like the surrounding and ambience then of course more. animals should be introduced with good relaxation spots. As a matter of urgency an amusement park of international standard with all the trappings of modern day tourists attraction and fun spots should be built for the city. This could be done through Public Private Partnership initiative with private corporate concerns.
Furthermore one or two beaches should be developed to enable pleasure and fun seekers beautiful sites to relax and unwind during festive periods and holiday times for instance the OPI beach and some others like such.
There’s also, the need to build more modem shopping malls and markets for residents and people visiting the state in order to help enhance commerce and trade as well as boost the local economy, thereby facilitating exchange of goods and services under decent and conducive environment.
Finally, making Port Harcourt city and indeed Rivers State a destination of choice for tourists could be possible if security is better improved by government and law enforcement agencies. As this will guarantee free movement and help restore night life. Transportation too is very critical to realising this goal since easy movement from one point to another without unnecessary bottlenecks enhances and promotes tourism by opening up tourist attraction areas in the hinterland. Also the national sports festival to be hosted by the state is a good forum to showcase the rich culture, tradition and hospitality of the Rivers People .