Unarguably, Nigeria is sitting on a tourism goldmine, which is as rich, if not richer than oil. The tourism industry equally boasts of potentials capable of generating significant investments toward economic development of the country. However, it is reported that Nigeria has up to seven thousand tourism sites across the six geopolitical zones, and at least each state of the federation is blessed with one or more tourist potentials.
For instance, there are photographs of civil war museum at the Ogbunike caves in Anambra state, Idanre Hills in Ondo state, Ikogosi Water Falls in Ekiti state, where we find hot and cold water or the Farin Ruwa in Nasarawa state and the Gurara Water Falls in Niger State, among many others.
But Taraba state is much blessed, that probably explains why the state is often referred to as‘Natures gift to the nation’.
In the state alone, there are undulating and rolling hills, thick forests like that in the Amazon forests of Brazil, with all season rivers, parks, including the Gashaka-Gumti National Park, the largest in the country with various species of rare wildlife including buffaloes, elephants, hyenas, tigers, Hippopotamus, Antelopes, Baboons, birds and reptiles etc Also, there is the temperate Mambilla plateau with its highest point standing imposingly at over 9,000feet above sea level, which in fact is the highest point anywhere in Nigeria.
Tourism, no doubt is a very powerful tool that can be deployed to ease the country of several challenges. If for instance, the Rio Festival in Brazil can attract millions of visitors annually with their millions of foreign currency that help to boost the Brazilian economy, there is no reason why such annual cultural fiestas cannot, if properly organised and given their richness, do the same for the country.
This new administration should ensure that domestic tourism is further reenergised as it remains the foundation for attracting international tourists. Domestic tourism alone has a very high revenue and job creation potentials. Assuming that about 20 million Nigerians travel locally for business, leisure, culture, religion or sports annually, there will definitely be an increase in the money going into the coffers of the domestic tourism market. It also reduces to the barest minimum rural-urban migration, as people will stop running to urban centres for jobs not readily available whereas other jobs are around and within their localities.
Another reason is that it creates unity, as people travel from the south to the north, west to the east, appreciating the culture and tradition of each other.
Therefore, repositioning the tourism sector of the economy should be seen as a welcome development. Such a desire of government should not have been more appropriate, considering that government around the world, including the developing ones are faced with mounting economic slowdown and deteriorating revenue sources.
But for government to do this, it should endeavour to put in place necessary frameworks for structural change and adequate regulation to support the industry. It can also collaborate with stakeholders to develop enough infrastructure that support the industry’s growth. Government can also encourage prospective investors through incentives such as tax holidays, excise-duty-free grants, etc.
Truly, nature has been good to Nigeria; it has vast natural resources, including mineral resources, fertile lands, rivers and lakes, unmatched scenery, good climate, hospitable people and more crucially, an enduring peace in the land. But sadly, these gifts have not been matched by commiserate investment in order to turn these potentials into reality for the good of the country.
For this to happen there is the need for partnership between the government and the private sector. In conjunction with the private investors, rivers, thick forests, wildlife, temperate climate, etc can be turned into first class tourist sites and destinations. If this where to happen, the economy will receive a boost and be of benefit to both government and the citizens who may want to be involved in the industry as operators of lodgings, tour guides or handicrafts vendors.
We are not unmindful that the tourism industry is a daunting business, not the least because it requires big capital to develop the necessary infrastructure and perhaps above all patience, as the rewards may not start flowing immediately unlike oil. On the other hand, its benefits are truly enormous; not only is the industry a great employer of labour which is an antidote to the increasing wave of unemployment in the country.
In this case therefore, we urge the different states with tourism potentials to wean themselves from the heavy reliance on the monthly federation allocation, by intensifying efforts to develop the vast untapped tourism industry in their respective states. This is the time to turn these enormous nature’s gifts for the benefits of the states and the country at large.