Nigerians have listed their expectation from the government as regards the tourism industry. Ezeh Fred chronicles their demands
With the price of the crude oil on ‘free fall’ in the international market, Nigerians have challenged the government at all levels to look inward to find a way to salvage the economic health of their states and by extension, Nigeria.
It is also no longer news that it has fallen beyond the expected, thus breaking decades of records. This development has also frustrated the effort of the Nigerian government and other oil producing countries, affecting their ability to provide the needed infrastructural services to their citizens.
As it concerns Nigeria, the development has forced Nigerians to revisit their years of call for the diversification of the economy, which hitherto depends on oil for its foreign revenue.
The frustration of the situation started to show on the nation’s economy and was obviously made worse when the majority of state governors were unable to pay the salaries of their workers, thus subjecting the people to untold hardship.
The experience gave justification to the call by Nigerians to revisit the issue of diversification of the economy, with specific focus on tourism, which is fast becoming the major source of revenue for some developed countries who, long ago invested in the tourism industry.
Meanwhile, in an interaction with Nigerian Pilot, the President, Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Services, Mr. Fadipe Ashamu, asked the federal government to promote the culture of Nigerians, describing it as a major driver of the tourism and a catalyst for economic growth and job creation, particularly as the economy of the oil dependent nations is dwindling.
Mr. Ashamu, a retired civil servant, noted that oil revenue could no longer provide resources to meet the growing and competing demands of the nation, hence the need to explore tourism as an alternative source of revenue for the government.
He added that Nigeria is blessed with diverse culture that, if properly attended to by both state and local governments, will serve as a major source of income for Nigeria, particularly in this era of significant drop in oil price.
“It is not as if other things don’t drive tourism, but because culture is most tangible asset through which tourism drives, that is why it is widely believed that it be in the front burner of tourism. Culture is like a man, and as a result, people want to see what you have rather than other things before they visit you. That is why what we have in terms of cultural performance, festivals drives tourism because people come from far and near to witness different cultural activities like festivals where culture is displayed, and that helps to boost tourism business.
He said that the experience of the past three decades clearly highlights the shortcomings of a development strategy that places premium on foreign exchange earnings from non-renewable natural resources, especially oil and solid minerals.
‘’The economic and social dislocation that has been the country’s experience from the 1970s right from the first decade of the country had its origin in the collapse of the international oil market. Our experience in the recent past clearly demonstrates that oil and mineral resources are non-renewable and have very limited potentials for addressing the developmental challenges that face the country today over the medium and long-term period,” he said.
On advisory note, Mr. Ashamu challenged government to dust up the existing documents that tourism stakeholders have prepared and presented to the previous government for implementation.
“On our side as industry players, we will be ever ready to support the effort of government to boost the sector, particularly at this period that the major source of revenue for government has significantly dropped as a result of the fall in the price of oil in the international market,” he advised.
He however, challenged government to review the master plan of the tourism industry with more attention on the projects that had been prepared in clusters of projects, proposed in the master plan in 2006 which may not be attainable.
Mr. Ashamu urged government to adopt the steps that have been suggested by stakeholders in different forum to transform the industry for an increased attention and revenue, noting that “tourism drives world economy and Nigeria should not be an exception.”
Meanwhile, a civil servant, Mrs. Nkasi Okam in her opinion expressed disappointment that with the obvious drop in oil demand in the international market, Nigeria is still planning in that direction. “It is high time we wake up from our slumber and tell ourselves the truth concerning our economy. The world is moving away from the use of fossil fuel to renewable energy.
“It also baffles me that the Muhammadu Buhari government that we voted for with high expectations is disappointing us. Seven to eight month in power, the government lacks clear directions on how to solve the problems of Nigerians. I pray for God to give him wisdom and clear directions on how to pilot the affairs of this country.
A businessman, Mr. Ejike Ogazich allenged the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to open his doors to great minds for great ideas and also supports them to transform the industry for improve revenue to both the government and the investors.
“Nigerians must embrace tourism as a culture. Governments at all levels must preach tourism day and night. Schools and universities must include tourism studies as an essential subject in their curriculum. Hotels, motor parks, airports, land borders must all be tourists friendly. If you visit the top tourism countries like South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda for instance, you discover the drivers are all very well tutored about tourism, highlighting historical landmarks as they take you to your destination leaving you panting to go out to soak in more.”
Many state governments cannot pay salaries because allocations from the Federal Government have either been reduced and cannot meet the demand or has been cut as a result of lack of market; the budget, which is financed with revenue from the oil sector, is in shreds.
Meanwhile, some tourism stakeholders who interacted with our correspondent at the sideline of the recent workshop on “Mainstreaming Tourism into the Economic Agenda of Government’ in Abuja, stressed that Nigeria needs economic diversification now and the tourism sector is strategically placed to lead in providing the much-needed revenue for the government.
According to one of the stakeholder (name withheld), ‘’Successive governments have neglected tourism sector. In countries like Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zanzibar, Cape Verde, Nepal and Egypt; the tourism and hospitality industry is a crucial contributor to the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of these countries.
A businessman, Kingsley Iheajirika, just like other Nigerians noted that Nigerian’s hardly travel within the country for sightseeing but prefers to travel abroad. ‘’Governments all over the country must create incentives to make their states attractive for visitors.
“The truth is tourism sector is a multi-billion-dollar industry that can become a major revenue earner for government. That is, government could re-examine its reliance on oil and gas, while diversifying the economy,” he said.