Globally, tourism is one of the fastest and largest growing sectors in world economy. It is indeed a major catalyst in the socioeconomic 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 fortunes 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 country by international tourists 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 tourist 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 overdependence 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 sector for full private participation.
In Nigeria today, we have the Yankari National Park; Obudu Cattle Ranch; Argungu Fishing Festival; Oguta Lake; Olumo Rock; Ogbunike Caves; Ibeno Beach; 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 socioeconomic 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 masterplan,’ 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% 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 dire 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 Nation set aside every September 27 to celebrate ‘World Tourism Day’ to bring to the consciousness of world leaders and policymakers 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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