The Sun News / / 2 hours ago
By Magnus Eze
With a projected growth of 4.9 per cent and accounting for nearly 9 per cent of the continent’s GDP, Africa’s travel and tourism industry has incredible potential to help generate growth, create jobs and enable development.
Unfortunately, Nigeria is not one of the top 10 most tourism-ready economies, based on the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2015.
However, Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Folorunsho Coker, seems determined to change the trend by positioning the country to benefit most from travel and tourism.
Coker’s dream is that Abuja, the nation’s capital, will be a major driver of his administration’s new brand, “Tour Nigeria.”
At the launch of Tour Nigeria on July 7, 2017, at Jabi Lake Mall, Abuja, the NTDC boss disclosed that Jabi Lake would be revamped in facilities and ambience to become the fulcrum of tourism in the Federal Capital Territory.
He said: “Jabi Lake could have sail boats for Saturdays and Sundays; it could have floating restrooms. We could put the largest swimming pool in the world in Jabi Lake; the largest swimming pool in the world is currently in Italy. If we build it two metres bigger and put it here, we would have the largest floating swimming pool.
“We could have jet-ski, we could have fishing competitions, we could have power boats on them and that is a whole new micro economy we would create.”
At present, fun seekers throng the sprawling lake, especially during weekends and festive periods, but its potential is yet to be maximised.
The agency is also said to be working to ensure that Abuja does not look desolate at weekends when many residents travel to other parts of the country; while some privileged few jet to places like Dubai and London.
Daily Sun learnt that the NTDC would be partnering the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) as part of efforts to ensure the development and promotion of the nation’s tourism industry.
It was gathered that, among other things, this would entail discounted weekend flight tickets to Abuja, to boost a special tourism project christened ‘#MyAbujaWeekend.
Speaking at the consummation of the partnership during a meeting with chairman of the AON, Mr. Nogie Meggison, in Abuja recently, Coker reasoned that affordable air travel was indispensable in building the tourism economy.
He noted that, in promoting domestic tourism, the agency would explore packaged tours and digital technology to drive the consumption of the tourism assets in the country.
According to him, “This is why NTDC finds it important to establish a strategic partnership with Airline Operators of Nigeria to create affordable air fares within inclusive packages in order to boost domestic tourism. We seek discounted weekend airline tickets to Abuja to propel the success of #MyAbujaWeekend project, further encouraging the travel business and promoting hospitality and tourism services in capital city of Nigeria.”
Daily Sun was informed that the NTDC would, as part of its new corporate governance and regulation, ensure ease of entry and exit of tourists in and out of the country, by making access to visas prompt, accessible and affordable.
Interestingly, the NTDC has found a willing partner in the airline operators, if what the AON chairman said was anything to go by. Meggison had expressed the readiness of the association to partner with the NTDC to ensure aggressive promotion of tourism in Nigeria, thereby making the country the cheapest holiday destination for Nigerians primarily.
He said: “The practice everywhere in the world is the airlines being the front burner in driving tourism, and Nigeria would not be an exception.”
Coker explained that the key components of tourism, which include travel, accommodation and entertainment/hospitality, would be explored with the airlines, hotels, car hire services, tour operators and others to bring out affordable package tours to encourage Nigerians to tour Nigeria.
He, therefore, called for conscious investment in the promotion of domestic tourism, while appealing to everyone in the tourism value chain, state and local governments and the private sector, to work together and be ready to drive the market with Tour Nigeria.
“We need to partner together in creating the right impression about our country and driving the consumption of what we have, because, if we do not do this, those dollars we are hoping would come to the nation would not come,” Coker said.
In the main, information from the agency indicated that the corporation would commence a Tour Nigeria bus tour from the first week of August, to sensitise Nigerians on the new concept.
The itinerary, according to the NTDC, would cover the six geo-political zones of the country to create awareness on the huge possibilities of tourism as a major revenue and employment generator, while encouraging goodwill and support for the brand.
As lofty as the ideas appear, industry watchers were unanimous that the present economic recession and growing tensions in parts of the country, occasioned by ethnic agitations and security concerns, would impede the success of the initiative.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation Highlights, 2016 Edition, showed that global receipts from tourism for 2015 stood at $1.26 trillion, but Africa earned $33.1 billion, with Nigeria raking in $404 million.
Meanwhile, former director-general of the NTDC, Sally Mbanefo, claimed that about 4.8 million people visited Nigeria in 2014 and the related expenditure was $853 million.
“While in 2015, about 6.01 million came into Nigeria and we generated over $1.1 billion as the expenditure related to their arrival in this country,” she said.