10th February, 2015
As the reality of continuous fall in the price of crude oil dawns on the nation, the tourism sector with huge financial potentials, is one of the sectors that holds the key for the continued sustenance of the economy in the face of hardship.
No nation survives on a mono product economy. For years, Nigeria has relied on the petroleum sector as its major source of foreign exchange earning with other sectors playing second fiddle. This has proven to be a fatal policy error with the continued decline in prices of oil in the international market.
A recent report revealed that Nigerians spend about N350 billion annually on holiday trips to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alone. This is beside the unreported huge sums of money spent in other choice tourism destinations in Europe, Asia and United States of America. Added together, the amount is estimated in the neighbourhood of over N600bn annually.
Painfully, most Nigerians who travel abroad on these holidays know little or nothing about their country and its tourism potentials. Nigerians, and, indeed, the media have over time cried out on the need to stem the falling standard of education and thereby arrest the outflow of Nigerian students abroad for studies. The same thing goes for the health care system in Nigeria, and the need for tourism development.
Successive Nigerian governments, it appears, seem to take pleasure in seeing a continuous depletion of our national life. Or else how does one explain that for over 50 years, government failed to develop the tourism potentials of the Lagos waterfront and its numerous beaches that could make the city the equivalent of Bahamas in Africa.
Besides Lagos, the country has also failed to develop other tourism destinations amidst the numerous ones, like Yankari Games Reserve and the Obudu Cattle Ranch. Government’s attention must also be drawn to the fact that in Tinapa, the Cross River State Government is trying to replicate Dubai in Nigeria.
Ordinarily, the development of our naturally endowed tourism destinations will attract both foreign and Nigerian fun seekers and prevent Nigerians from travelling abroad for holiday. Instead, Nigerians are left to seek and find pleasure and relaxation in foreign lands.
Added to government’s unwillingness to overcome these shortcomings, is the absence of basic infrastructure such as constant electricity supply and good network of roads and rail-lines, which are key to the development of the tourism industry. While it makes sense to stem the huge capital flight, government needs to take tourism as serious economic diversification project. We urge government to seriously focus its attention on the tourism sector as the untapped goldmine in that sector could sustain this country.