The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation announced in 2015 that the tourism sector generated more than 1.1 billion dollars.
It observed further that the sector generated the revenue from the related expenditure incurred from the more than six million tourists that visited the country in that year.
Economists, therefore, believe that the development is an indication that tourism can add value to socio-economic development of the country if the sector is repositioned.
They observe that the sector is viable globally so much so that it contributed 7.6 trillion dollars, about 10 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product of 75.6 trillion dollars in 2016, citing World Travel and Tourism Council’s report.
According to them, tourism therefore seems to be the way to grow Nigeria’s economy following the dwindling fortunes of oil and gas, recalling that Nollywood alone created job opportunities for more than two million Nigerians in 2015.
With this performance, the President, Association of Tourists Boats Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria, Mr Ganiyu Tarzan, noted that tourism had a link with all other sectors of economy.
Tarzan urged the Federal Government, especially the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to rehabilitate tourism projects across the country.
“I am very positive that if we have functional heritage sites and other tourist attractions, they will boost the nation’s revenue and boost activities within other sectors of the economy.
“Tourism is very important to all sectors and its budgetary allocation and implementation should be given adequate attention,’’ he said.
Similarly, Mr Tayo Ogunbiyi, an employee of Ministry of Information and Strategy, Lagos State, said that vital infrastructures essential to the growth of tourism must be developed, warning that any visible defect in infrastructure would dissuade tourists.
“For instance, a poorly managed public transportation constitutes a serious disservice to tourism; equally, our hospitality industry has to be a world standard.
“We need to put in place a clear-cut strategy to professionally manage all attractive festivals and carnivals in the country,’’ Ogunbiyi said.
In her opinion, the President of Webisco International Federation of Women Entrepreneurs and Tourism of Nigeria, Mrs Margret Fabiyi, asked the Federal Government to implementation Tourism Master Plan in full.
She said that this should be captured in the budget because it would serve as a guideline to tourism developmental projects.
Fabiyi, nonetheless, commended the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation for its support to the development of the nation’s tourism sector.
She said that government should consider building new tourism structures to attract national and international tourists.
Expressing worry about the status of tourism sector, Mr Ini Akpabio, an hotelier in Abuja, said that the nation’s monuments and heritage sites were in poor condition.
“Unfortunately, in our country today, we continue to make the clarion call for the promotion of domestic’s tourism and the development of our tourist sites.
“But the heritage sites which are the Nigerian tourism prides are going moribund, most of the sites are fading off and losing their natural state,’’ he said.
Akpabio, therefore, urged the government to dedicate full attention to tourism sector and ensure that funds allocated to the sector were used for the purposes.
However, the Managing Director of Jumia Travel Nigeria, Mr Kushal Dutta Jumia, solicited the support of stakeholders to assist government in building the sector, noting that government alone could not do it.
He observed that there were lots of tourists destinations that people were choosing to spend their holiday in the country and encouraged Nigerians to travel within the country and explore such amazing tourist attractions.
Also, a renowned landscape photographer, Mr Dayo Adedayo, who has been taken pictures of historic sites for more than 11 years ago, described Nigeria as a goldmine waiting to be tapped.
“Nigeria is the world’s best kept secret; unfortunately, most of us don’t see it; when you are playing a game, it is people who are outside that will know your best moves.
“That is why the foreigners are coming here and making huge amounts of money while we keep lamenting every day,’’ he said.
Supporting Adedayo’s view, award-winning actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, on her recent visit to Olumirin Water Falls in Erin Ijesha, Osun, expressed concern over poor maintenance of tourist sites in the country.
The actress who described herself as an ‘intense tourist’ said: “I look forward to a time when tourism and entertainment would take their pride of place for Nigeria.
“We need to preserve and commercialise these opportunities with private investors; this will boost income, travel, peace, employment and decrease crime.’’
But the National Commission for Museum and Monuments says it is exploring ways to rebuild Sukur Cultural Landscape in Madagali in Adamawa, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage site that was destroyed by insurgency.
The Director-General of the commission, Malam Yusuf Usman, said that efforts were also on to address conservation challenges at Osun-Osogbo Grove in Osun, the second site listed on the World Heritage site by UNESCO.
“Provisions were made in the 2017 budget to address the conservation challenges of the Sukur site and Osun-Oshogbo sacred grove; these are both national monuments.
“Secondly, UNESCO has also made provisions for assistance to Nigeria to address these challenges.
“Soon, you will see lot of activities around Sukur Cultural Landscape that will address those conservation challenges following the attack of Boko Haram insurgents,’’ he said.
He also noted that the target was to restore the conservation status of the sites and to ensure that they attain cresting stage; well maintained enough to attract tourists.
The director-general said that he expected other agencies to popularise the Sukur site to attract tourists from across the world.
“Our major concern is maintaining the conservation status of the sites and that is what we want to address.
“We also have plans for tourism development and tourists in case of disaster and so on at the sites,’’ Usman said.
Other tourist sites listed for approval by UNESCO, which also have huge potential to attract tourists to the country to boost revenue generation both at states and federal levels include Oke Idanre Hill, Ondo State, Tarebu Chappai-Waddi Hill, Taraba and Ogbunike Caves in Anambra.
Others are the ancient Kano City Walls, Kano State, Oban Hills, Cross River, Ogba Ukwu Cave and Waterfalls in Anambra.
Also listed are Erin Ijesha Waterfalls, Osun, Ikogosi Warm Spring, Ekiti, Benin Iya/Sungbo’s Eredo, Edo and Arochukwu Long Juju Slave Route/Shrine in Abia.
With the approval of these sites, proper management and awareness, observers note that tourism sector will contribute maximally to the national economy as a major export earners such as the petroleum and the agricultural sectors of the economy.
Ladejobi writes for News Agency of Nigeria.