Stakeholders and operators in the Nigerian tourism sector have charged government at all levels in the country to focus more on the tourism sector in order to achieve accelerated development of the country, as crude oil wealth was fast depleting.
The call was made on Tuesday in Lagos during a tourism seminar organised by the Association of Nigerian Journalits and Writers of Tourism (ANJET). The Olota of Otta, Ogun State, who was the royal father of the day, Oba Adeyemi Obalanlege, took the lead in making the call when he urged government and Nigerians to explore tourism for job creation and growth of the gross domestic product, while dwelling on the theme of the seminar, “Tourism and Jobs: Better Future for All.”
Obalanlege said that Nigerians must stop depending on government for job creation but get creative to groom most of the enormous tourism potential the country was endowed with.
He said that festivals in each community could be developed by members of such communities to generate revenue, while ensuring that the festivals were developed over the years to attract local and International tourists.
He identified the Egungun masquerade festival as one of the tourism potentialities to latch upon, likewise the monumental buildings across communities, which could be converted to tourist sites.
“With the huge tourism potential we are blessed with in the country, we should not be complaining about lack of jobs. Individuals must be creative and tap into these tourism potential.
“The Egungun festival is an opportunity to latch on by the unemployed, different communities have their masquerades, which should be developed and showcased to the world. Nigerians need not look up to the government for job creation; government is only meant to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
“The second tallest story building in Nigeria is in Ota, it should be better developed to attract international tourists; a lot more monumental buildings across communities can also be converted to tourist sites,” he said.
Earlier, Dr. Gbenga Olowo, managing director, Sabre Networks, West Africa, urged government to take the tourism industry seriously by sufficient budgetary allocation for the sector.
Olowo, who was represented by Mr. Mayowa Badewa, deputy zonal director, western zone, Sabre Travel Network, said that the tourism industry must be prioritised as huge employment opportunities could be derived from the sector.
He said African countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Gambia were doing well in tourism because they have been able to work on improved connectivity, good infrastructures, visa relaxation policies and more.
He, however, urged the Nigerian government to collaborate with the private sector, intensify efforts in fighting insecurity and terrorism, create policies for ease of doing business, good and safe roads for tourism businesses to thrive in Nigeria.
“We are known to be the giant of Africa, and Nigeria is not recorded in the list of the top 10 visited countries in Africa because we are not doing things correctly.
“Government should try to allocate huge revenue for the tourism industry annually because the returns will be in multiples at the end of the day.
“There are only two hanging lakes in the world, the one at Colorado, United States of America and the Ado Awaye hanging lake in Oyo, which is not well marketed for international recognition.
“The one in Colorado generates over a million visitors annually; we must let the world know what we have and encourage them to visit,” he said.
Also, the president of La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort in Lagos, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye, declared that the power of tourism sector in transforming a community, people and the country, such that it can’t be neglected was enormous.
He gave examples of how he has, through La Campagne, succeeded in transforming Ikegun community where his resort is based to one of the richest and fastest-developing localities in Nigeria, describing how he has economically empowered the people and transformed their lives and the community.
He recommended such a model to government and Nigerians, urging everyone to look inward and see where they have comparative advantage and latch on to it for the development of the people.
Mr. Victor Edosomwan, managing director, Vicwan Limited, urged Nigerians to engage in critical thinking to ensure the tourism industry is improved to create jobs for youths.
He urged Nigerian tour operators to collaborate with international ones in order to woo more international tourists into the country.
Mr. Ladi Jemi-Alade said Nigerians remained poor due to ignorance, as most people lacked comprehension of areas to explore for wealth creation. He said Nigeria had everything to make tourism businesses thrive but the youths lacked the necessary information to explore the industry.
“If Dubai can be doing exploits in tourism, as a city in a desert, Nigeria can do far better with all our endowments. As a country, we do not appreciate what we have, we have to look inwards to develop our tourism industry; the youths should be ready to learn and explore,” he said.
Akinboboye urged the Nigerian government to encourage MDAs to ensure their exercises like conferences, retreats and seminars hold in local tourism facilities. He said this would create room for proper marketing of nation’s tourists sites.