In a paper titled ‘Growth Opportunities in the Travel Agency/Hospitality Sector’ delivered by the Zonal Head of Business Banking, Abuja Mrs Sandra Okoli, the plan by the Federal Government to diversify the economy from crude oil production is an amazing initiative. All around the world, Tourism has become a major source of economic growth, employment, and foreign exchange earning and Nigeria should be no different.
According to her, the potential annual export revenue generation for Nigeria is in the excess of $224 million or N35 billion while the potential total annual revenue generation is about $520 million or N83 billion. She also noted that tourism can contribute over the current five per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
But the reality in the sector is rather gloomy, take for example the reported takeover of 85 per cent of the shares in the multi-billion naira Tinapa Resort. Does this reflect a depressed tourism industry or is it just that tourism ventures entered in or promoted by the Federal and State governments have been business failures?
But tourism is big business in many countries and the involvement of government in those countries are always vital. Where does the Nigerian government get it wrong then? Take for example in Egypt where despite the Arab spring of 2012, tourism still brought in 9 million. Tourism is vital to economies and big foreign exchange earners of Dubai, South Africa, Singapore, Kenya, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Brazil, China to name a few and their Governments have played massive roles in these successes.
Why then is Nigeria’s case different? Why then does the governments involvement in national projects like Yankari Game Reserve, Tinapa and Gurara Falls always turn out massive failures?
It has to be noted that the Nigerian ideas are usually amazing, the implementation is what seems to lack. Take for example the Tinapa Resort which was designed as a veritable tourism attraction and investment centre (with facilities for retail, wholesale, leisure and entertainment) to rival places like Dubai at a cost of $350 million in 2007 has been running at a loss for 6 years. Why does this keep happening I ask myself?
In my opinion, all that needs to be done is for the leadership through the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation to have a Tourism Strategy. Government should build structures, government do not necessarily need to run those tourism based businesses. For the national tourist sites the government needs a more professional driven workforce who set out to help the government make a profit while naturally running the business efficiently.
The government needs to decide what role they have to play in strengthening and diversifying the Nigerian economy through properly harnessing the huge potential of the Tourism industry.
Nigeria has diverse cultures, a huge population, a rising middle class, workforce, improving structures, natural wonders et al- all these if harnessed has a potential to create jobs, build capacity, develop structures and generate massive income.