NIGERIA’S TOURISM IN DIRE STRAITS

It was the legendary writer and elder statesman, Chinua Achebe, who wrote the book,” the problem with Nigeria”. According to the writer, there is nothing wrong with the weather or climate of the country, the problem with Nigeria is squarely that of leadership failure. However, the focus of this piece has nothing to do with politics but has everything to do with the policies of the country.

A good follower of news events globally and locally will by now understand that the main source of wealth of Nigeria (oil) is gradually becoming not as “as attractive” as it used to be in the past. Many western countries are busy searching for an alternative to oil and as we now know, there are cars that don’t need fuel to operate. Also, there have been reports that some oil wells are drying up. This means in no distant time, the country cannot continue to bask in the euphoria of an oil-producing nation as the income that is generated from oil won’t be able to sustain the country. Even now, the government is taking loans upon loans to carry out projects but that is an issue for another day.

So, since we have established that the earnings of oil are not enough, what should the government focus on? It is simple. The government should focus on tourism. Tourism has the ability to generate lots of revenue for the government if properly harnessed.  The beautiful thing about tourism is that it is an industry that cuts across traveling and hospitality; which means that the government has a chance to benefit not just from tourism but also from travel and hospitality.

A quick example will suffice here. In 2019, Nancy Pelosi, United States House Speaker, and some Congressmen and women took a trip to a West African neighboring country, Ghana. They visited a tourist attraction in Ghana, the Cape Coast Castle where they saw the final place where slaves stay before they are shipped to America or Europe. Now imagine if Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues had visited Nigeria and went to maybe, Badagry slave trade museum. The lawmakers will buy a flight ticket from America going to Nigeria. When they get to Nigeria, they will look for a taxi to take them to their destination. They will also need to stay in a very good hotel to rest their nerves. All this is how money changed hands and in turn, this turn boosts the economy.

It is strange that a country like Nigeria can’t think of a way out to sort out the issue of unemployment. Unemployment is a cankerworm that is destroying the fabric of the nation as many have used the veil of unemployment to become internet fraudsters, thieves, and others but if the right policies from the government, some of these youths may go back to being employed as there is dignity in labour.

If the tourism sector is fully operational, some of these unemployed youths can work as drivers taking some of these tourists to their various destinations and this, of course, comes with lots of financial rewards and tips. In Calabar for instance, there used to be the Obudu Mountain Race but it stopped. Now imagine the whole world coming to Obudu to either join the mountain race or to just take a cool vacation or do some sightseeing during the course of the race. These foreigners will buy their air tickets to Nigeria and may later get another ticket going directly to Obudu. Government makes money from these tickets because of the value-added tax (VAT) it adds to these tickets. The hotels in Obudu and Calabar will be filled to the brim as everyone will want to see the race. These hotels also pay revenues to the government. Also, local traders have the chance to sell their wares because of the increased population and the more money change hands in the country, it boosts the economy and it is also a plus for the government.

No doubt, the country is blessed with many tourist attractions and some of them need a little touch to attract the attention of tourists.  There is the Osun – Osogbo Groove, there is Ikogosi, where cold water meets warm water in Ekiti. The Yankari Game Reserve is located in Bauchi. The Kajuru Castle is in Kaduna and a tourist can learn about the civil war when he or she visits the Abia Museum in Abia State. There is even the Mambila Plateau in Jos and for history about the slave trade; Badagry in Lagos is the place to go.  The list is endless.

From East to west,   north to south, the country is blessed with immense tourist attractions and it is high time the government finds a way to milk the revenues wasted from tourism. But before that can be achieved, the issue of security must be resolved as no tourist will ever come to a country that is not peaceful.

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