By BILKIS OGUNNUBI
ALL over the world, tourism has become very important that today it is a major source of income for many countries as it affects the economy of both the source and host countries. The economic potential of tourism is remarkable, with direct and indirect impact on employment. Similarly, it is a good public relations mechanism through which a city, state or country could attract needed foreign investments. According to the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index report of 2016 based on air traffic, Bangkok in Thailand tops the table of top ten most popular destinations of international tourism with 21.47 million tourists. Cities like, London, Paris, Dubai and New York City are also top tourists’ destinations.
Although Africa accounts for 15% of the world population and some of the fastest growing economies are domiciled in the continent, but still the potential of Africa’s tourism remains untapped as it receives only about 3% of world tourism. And while tremendous opportunities exist to further expand tourism across the continent as expected revenues that would be accrued from this sector can make up for double the amount of donor aids received from developed countries or international organisations;
However, lots of challenges are still militating against these. These challenges include good road networks, transportation, visa procurement and better airline connections.
But despite the aforementioned challenges, some African countries are fast becoming known as tourist destinations. Countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt and South Africa, known for their rich and economically viable sites are making waves and creating new era in tourism as well as contributing to each country’s national revenue annually. The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is known as Africa’s greatest wildlife reserve as the region is home to lots of African lions, 570 species of birds, 95 species of mammals and more than 2 million wild beasts, Zebra and Thomsons Gazelle annual migration.
And while Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania places the country among nations with exceptional travel attractions in the African continent, Egypt is known for the Pyramids and Sphinx, The Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world and one of the seven wonders of the world is found between Zambia and Zimbabwe; Cape Town, is one of the most beautiful cities in South Africa and is home to the world renowned Robben Island, the prison where the late South African president, Nelson Mandela was held for 27 years and a host of other tourist attractions.
However, in Nigeria, tourism is still in its infancy considering the large accumulation of resources which are yet untapped and the institutional structure which is yet to be regulated to compete favorably with other fast growing international and continental tourism destinations. This is largely due to years of the oil boom and over dependent on the revenue from the sale of crude oil for actualization of plans and projects of successive administrations in the country. So, putting it succinctly, the country operates a mono economy.
Consequently, the recent crash in crude oil prices in the international markets has greatly affected the country’s economy as it can no longer meet up with most of its obligations as a nation, invariably plunging the nation into a period of economic recession as the meager revenue accrued from the sale of low priced crude oil can no longer sustain the economy. Activities of the Niger Delta militants as well as pipeline vandals also contribute immensely to low revenue generation from crude oil sale.
Thus, the country has to explore other avenues to sustain the economy as well as provide necessary dividends of democracy for the citizens. One of such ways is through the development of the tourism sector which has been explored and still being explored by nations globally to generate the needed revenue to drive their economies. One of such countries as already mentioned is Thailand. Available data indicates that the country made over $60 billion from tourism in 2016.
Nigeria is replete with various tourists sites scattered all over the country as well as cultural festivals which mirror the lifestyles and heterogeneous nature of the people who occupy the space called Nigeria. In the Northern part of the country, the Yankari game reserve, Argungu fishing festival and different Durba displays among others are popular tourists’ attractions. Ikogosi warm spring, Erin Ijesha water fall as well the Osun Osogbo festival and a lot of other sites and festivals are famous in the South Western part, in the South Eastern part is the Calabar carnival, staged every yuletide period to reflect the influence of Christianity on the historical town, where Mary Slessor, a Christian missionary eradicated the killing of twins, But despite these enormous tourist potentials as well as successive governments’ efforts to put the tourism industry in the national economic map, the country cannot meet up with up with the exclusive listing. The aforementioned is due to lack of political will and legislation to regulate the industry to keep abreast with the United Nations framework on sustainable tourism development efforts.
Therefore, in an effort to put the country in the forefront of global tourism, and in a bid to generate the much needed foreign resources as well as improve the Internally Generated Revenue of the state, the Lagos State Government is highly committed to explore the potentials inherent in the tourism sector. Being one of the fastest African mega cities, Lagos offers a wide variety of tourists’ attractions, which include historical sites, extended and roomy river and ocean beaches ideal for relaxation and other water sports, cultural festivals as well as carnivals among others. Such sites include the first storey building in Nigeria – built by missionaries in 1842.
This can be found in Badagry town which remains the vestige of slavery in Africa and has a museum that tells the slavery story. The Third Mainland Bridge, longest in Africa, the National Arts Theatre, The Lagos Bar beach, The Silverbird cinema and Galleria, Lekki Conservation Centre, The African Shrine and the Oniru Private Beach are some of the tourists’ sites in Lagos.
Showcasing the history and culture of Lagos is the renowned Eyo festival, various Egungun festivals, the Lagos carnival and recently, the One Lagos Fiesta. The One Lagos Fiesta, a one location event held at the Lagos Bar beach was later expanded to hold concurrently in the five divisions of the State. This is to enable fun seekers across the State to enjoy the yuletide and New Year seasons. Traders and other service providers make brisk businesses during this period which invariably create employment as well as add to the Internally Generated Revenue of the State.
Ogunnubi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Lagos.