By Bimbola Oyesola
As Nigeria intensifies efforts at improving the economy through the non-oil sector, stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality industry have said that the sector could earn billions of dollars for the country per annum.
This is even as the country sets to attract over one million international tourists in the year to beat the record last recorded in 2008.
Acting Director General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr. Paul Angya, represented by Mr. Abiola Komolafe, Director, Standard Directorate, at the inauguration of the National Mirror Committee on Tourism and related activities in Lagos, said Nigeria was ready to take her share of the global trillion dollars tourism investments.
“As Nigeria diversifies its economy from oil, tourism and its related activities can be one of the game changers for foreign exchange earnings, job creation, infrastructure development and business,” he said.
Angya said there has been tremendous increase in the numbers of international tourists globally from 166 million in 1970 to 1,035 billion in 2012, with attendant earnings.
He said, “the 2012 visitors spent $1 trillion on travel (excluding international passenger transportation expenses valued at $213 billion). Directly and indirectly, their spending accounted for 9 per cent of the world’s GDP and 6 per cent of its exports.”
He stated that for tourism-dependent countries and destinations, tourism’s share of GDP can exceed twice the world average, adding that presently international receipts exceed $1 billion per year in some 90 nations.
Angya, however, explained that though tourism is acknowledged as an important sector that drives the socio-economic development and growth of nations, only developing countries actively pursued tourism exports as a key development strategy.
The SON acting DG said World Economic Forum (WEF) report in 2015 showed that West African countries are among the least in global tourism.
He said poor performance in Africa could be adduced to limited accessibility in terms of airline traffic, shortages of hotels and other lodgings, skilled staff, inadequate service and production standards, security concerns, political frailty, health threats (Ebola, malaria) and terrorism.
He said the committee is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring standard that will position Nigeria’s tourism sector to compete globally.
The new Chairman of the committee, Mrs. Chika Balogun, Director General of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), called for political will to move tourism sector forward, pledging that the committee would ensure that Nigeria succeeds in the drive at developing the non-oil sector.
”It has to be Nigeria without oil. We all want to make Nigeria great and this we can do by making sure that tourism is not left behind when we talk of lexicon of business in Nigeria,” she said.