Globally, tourism is one of the fastest and largest growing
sectors in world economy. It is indeed a major catalyst
in the socio-economic and political development of any
country. Good tourist sites create an avenue for cross
cultural interaction among different people of the world,
thereby promoting mutual understanding, cultural appreciation and
tolerance.
Investment experts opined that tourism stimulates economic growth,
generates foreign exchange and contributes to the domestic earnings of a
country. They also argued that the industry is the biggest revenue earner
in the world due to the rapid transformation in the areas of transportation
and communication.
Tourism could also be an alternative strategy for sustainability and
diversification of a country’s economy.
Some of the developed countries of the world such as the USA, Canada,
United Kingdom and France have utilized the enormous benefits of
tourism to develop their economies. These countries make fortune
from the booming tourism industry for the overall development of their
countries.
According to the World Tourism Rankings released by the United
Nations World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, there were 1.087
billion international tourist arrivals worldwide in 2013. France was the
most visited countries by international tourist in 2013 with 84.7 million
arrivals. It was followed by the USA and Spain with 69.8 million and
60.7 million tourist arrivals respectively. UNWTO further disclosed that
international tourism generated $1.4 trillion last year in export earnings.
The continent of Africa has some of the best tourist sites in the world,
but unfortunately these great tourist potentials are being under-utilized
and poorly managed, thus adding little or nothing to the economy. For
instance, it is sad that no African country was among the world’s top 10
tourism destinations in 2013.
In fact, going by the various attractive tourist destinations in Nigeria,
it is expected that the industry would have been the second largest
contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, after oil, but the
reverse has been the case over the years. Nigeria’s over-dependence on oil
has invariably relegated other sectors of the economy to the background
as well as affected the country’s foreign exchange earnings. If countries
such as South Africa, Morocco, Namibia and Kenyan could be making
millions of Dollars annually from tourism, there is need for Nigerian
government to look inward and come up with policies and programmes
that will open up the sectorfor full private participation.
In Nigeria today, we have the Yankari National Park; Obudu Cattle
Ranch; Argungu Fishing Festival; Oguta Lake; Olumo Rock; Ogbunike
Cave; IbenoBeach; Azumini Blue River; Rojenny Tourist Village; among
others. It is quite disturbing that with all its rich diverse culture, multi
ethnic and religious background as well as beautiful scenery, the country
is not among the top 10 tourist destinations in Africa.
Lo and behold, the tourism sector is what it is today because of the
neglect it has suffered over the years. It is a pity that some of the tourist
centres in the country are not well developed to promote socio-economic
development. Nevertheless, some of the constraints being faced by
the sector such as lack of enabling environment, poor security system
and funding have seriously hampered the number of tourist arrivals in
Nigeria. The current security situation in parts of the North, has affected
revenues that could have been generated from the sector.
As the tourism sector has become an integral part of any country that
wants to forge ahead economically, then it is imperative for the Nigeria
Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, and the Federal Ministry of
Tourism and Culture to come up with a ’tourism master plan,’ aimed at
using the sector to stimulate the economy. There is the need to adopt an
integrated approach to tourism development in the country and ensure
that its services are made more reliable and goal-oriented.
Tourism is a socio-cultural tool used in driving national development.
The sector represents 9 per cent of global GDP and has the potentials
of generating foreign exchange that could be used to fight poverty and
disease control.
As a country in dare need of rapid development in all facets of life,
the tourism sector provides a veritable platform for Nigeria’s economic
emancipation and national development. Federal Government should
therefore provide an enabling environment to promote tourism. Perhaps,
this is why the United Nations set aside every September 27 to celebrate
‘World Tourism Day’ to bring to the consciousness of world leaders and
policy makers the importance attached to the sector. The theme for this
year: ‘Tourism and Community Development,’ draws special attention to
the role of tourism in nation building.
Furthermore, Nigeria should take advantage of the various international
conferences in the country to showcase its tourism potentials to the
global community. For a country like Nigeria with diverse culture, tribe
and religion, tourism is no doubt a potent tool to drive its national
development.

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