Nigeria has great prospects when it comes to tourism. A country with diverse landscape, beautiful scenery and many destinations with historic significance should have a thriving tourism sector. Unfortunately, this is not the case and hence this post to highlight major problems of tourism in Nigeria and possible solutions.
Tourism is a vital sector to every nation in the world. It is not just about people going on vacation from one place to another. It is important because it has capacity to boost a nation’s GDP. There are a lot of tourist centres in Nigeria and they possess immense potential for the economy if their resources are harnessed well.
A few popular tourist centres in Nigeria include Olumo Rock in Ogun State, Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State, Obudu Mountain Resort in Cross Rivers state etc. Tourism in Nigeria also includes our popular festivals like the Calabar Carnival and Eyo Masquerade festival and so on.
In spite of these wonderful tourist sites, Nigeria still ranks outside of the top ten international tourist arrivals in Africa. Besides, the World Economic Forum scores Nigeria 2.8(on a scale of 1-7) and 129th in the world on its Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index. These statistics show that Nigeria needs to address some important problems when it comes to tourism.
What is Tourism?
Tourism has been defined as travel for pleasure or business. It may be international or within the traveller’s country.
The World Tourism Organization (WTO) however, has gone a bit further to define tourism as travelling to and staying in places outside one’s usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes.
Tourism has the potential to significantly contribute to a nation’s GDP and many countries have taken advantage of this. It is evident in the development, maintenance and publicising of their tourist attraction sites. A tourist attraction is a place of interest where tourists visit, typically for its inherent or exhibited natural or cultural value, historical significance, natural or built beauty, offering leisure, adventure and amusement. Nigeria has a tremendous number of such places. Few of them are:
Benefits of Tourism
- Job creation and availability of employment opportunities
- Income generation that will alleviate poverty
- Pride in our cultural heritage
- Preservation of ecosystem and biodiversity
- Attraction of foreign investment
- Promotion of local communities where the tourist sites exist
Service industries that stand to benefit include:
- Hospitality services such as hotels and resorts
- Transportation services such as airlines, cruise boats, trains, and cabs
- Food services such as restaurants
- Entertainment services such as amusement parks, theatres, cinemas, music venues and comedy centres
- Local craftsmen like souvenir makers
- Shopping malls
With these promising benefits and evidence of tourist attraction sites as seen in the pictures, why then is tourism not flourishing in Nigeria like it should be?
Problems of Tourism in Nigeria
1. Poor Infrastructure
For tourism to thrive in any country, some factors must be in place such as good roads, constant electricity and even potable water. Nigeria has problems in all three. If the roads are bad, movement will be hindered. Besides, many of Nigeria’s popular tourist sites are located in rural areas that lack these basic infrastructures. The lack of such basic amenities will discourage potential tourists.
International tourists concern themselves with accommodation and there are fewer hotels than meet international standard obtainable in Nigeria. Countries like USA, France, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and some others are top competitors in the tourism industry. These countries have numerous hotels that meet international standard, quality road networks, sea ports and airports which are all necessary tourism infrastructure. Until these infrastructure are improved and in abundance throughout the country and not centralized, it will remain a hinderance to tourism.
2. Terrorism and Security Challenges
Terrorism, robberies, kidnappings etc. contribute to Nigeria’s problems in the tourism sector. Nigeria has had her own share of insecurity issues and they keep visitors far away from the country. It is so bad now that even other nations warn their citizens of the dangers involved in visiting the country.
I remember back in secondary school, as a student taking Geography, we had trips to look forward to. The subject required visits to historic sites and outstanding terrain within the country. My class visited RISON Palm in Rivers state and another planned for Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi state.
Today though, with the terrorist attacks ever on the rise, the kidnap of Chibok students and Dapchi students, the kidnap of individuals rampant in different states of the country, I doubt any school would want to risk taking students and teachers on such tourist trips. Print, audio and visual media outlets within the country cover these gruesome stories and make visiting these places unpleasurable.
International news sources such as CNN constantly keep the world updated on the security challenges. If we don’t feel safe touring in such states, we cannot expect people from other countries to. These terrorist attacks and security challenges, if they persist will remain a problem of tourism in Nigeria.
3. Misrepresentation of Nigeria Abroad:
Regarding International tourism, Nigeria loses prospective visitors from abroad due to its bad international image. Issues such as poverty, illiteracy, food crises and hunger, epidemics (e.g. Ebola, Lassa fever, AIDS) and crimes such as kidnapping, robbery, killings etc. has given a lot of foreigners a negative view of the country.
4. Lack of proper management
Most of our tourist destinations are poorly managed. Our beaches are overcrowded and other sites lack basic necessities to ensure the comfort and satisfaction of visitors.
5. Lack of proper data
Tied to the previous point, is this one. The government seems to lack proper data on tourism in Nigeria. Of course, the data that is gotten is used to make adequate provisions for visitors. Therefore, if this is lacking, we cannot but have the problem of poor management. We need enough data to be able to plan ahead and improve the field.
6. Relegation of indigenous culture
Nigeria has great potential. We have a lot from our culture to showcase to the world. There are a lot of indigenous art and products and even cultural that we have to attract people. Instead, our tourism sector seems to focus on copying foreign culture. The nation lacks proper ‘packaging’ to be able to effectively compete in the tourism world.
7. Inadequate investment and funding
This is a major problem considering that tourism is one of the largest employers of labour all over the world and its development has immense benefits to the economy. Tourism is underfunded relative to its potential if one takes a look at our budgets over the years. This has caused development in the sector to move at a very slow pace. Nigeria is a country that has focused so much on Oil and has ignored other important aspects of the economy like agriculture and tourism.
8. Air travel problems
Nigerian airports operate at level far less than the average standard of airports in other countries. The first place a foreign visitor sees in a country is its airports. If airports offer bad services, no one would want to come back. Also, in local air travel, we face problems like abrupt flight cancellations and delays, increase in ticket prices and so on.
9. Lack of adequate training
The National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism was created in 1994 to provide professional training in the hospitality and tourism sector. This institute, unfortunately, has barely been able to achieve it aims fully or meet world standards for other similar institutes. Proper training on tourism is no doubt a major factor to aid the development of tourism and the lack of it will pose serious problems.
This is one word that is used commonly in Nigeria. Corruption has eaten deep into our government and this is so obvious everyone can see it. Corruption at top levels of government, stealing of public funds and budget ‘padding’ contribute problems to the industry.
11. Limited Air Routes
Not only are there limited airports in Nigeria, there are also limited airlines and air routes. This means few flights connecting major cities in Nigeria to the world. Travelling by road in a developing country discourages most people from considering Nigeria a destination country.
12. Lack of Policy Implementation
The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation established in 1962 with the responsibility of planning, supervising, developing and marketing tourism in Nigeria has had its shortcomings. In 2005, President Obasanjo led administration saw the need to set up a committee responsible for tourism policy for Nigeria. Their recommendations are yet to be implemented. President Muhammadu Buhari also admitted in 2016 that the Tourism and Culture sector has been neglected for way too long.
13. Weather Conditions
Holiday destination seekers put weather conditions into consideration. Beaches are a major attraction for tourists and increased rainfall affects water level of beaches. Rainy seasons also make commuting unpleasant and causes flooding. Nigeria has long periods of rainfall and this is natural but proper infrastructure put in place can make Nigeria as a tourist destination more desirable.
14. Low Budget Allocation
Nigeria tourism sector gets very low budget allocation. The Minister for Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed has faulted the budgetary allocation to culture and tourism at different times too, describing it as “mere tokenism”. Well, Nigeria needs more than tokens to make the tourism industry thrive.
15. Crime Rate
The rate of poverty in Nigeria keeps getting worse, leading to an increase in crime rate and petty theft. The United States Department of State once warned US citizens of the dangers of travelling to Nigeria. This warning was pinned to a number of things including “violent crimes committed by ordinary criminals, as well as by persons in police and military uniforms, which can occur throughout the country”. A warning like this and the evidence of some of such crimes poses a great threat to tourism development in Nigeria.
16. Political Unrest
Nigeria is known for her very fragile political state and corrupt political class. The riots, demonstrations and attacks that forge propaganda raises legitimate safety concerns for tourists.
17. Medical/Health Care Concerns
The political elite and well to do in Nigeria are constantly travelling abroad for medical attention, painting the picture of an unreliable heath care system in the country. Health is a major concern for people of all classes and if travellers are not convinced of good medical treatment if the need arises, it deters them from coming to Nigeria.
18. Lack of Awareness
There is a lack of participation from the major stakeholders of sustainable tourism development in Nigeria, partly due to unawareness of the many benefits to be accrued by them or unawareness of their roles to the development of the sector.
Possible Solutions to Problems of Tourism in Nigeria
Tourism in Nigeria faces a lot of challenges. Most of the solutions lie with the government. Tourism has great potential and our government should address these issues if they don’t want to leave the potential of tourism untapped. We have a lot to benefit from tourism such as economy boost, increase in available jobs and so on. But these wouldn’t be attainable if necessary actions are not taken now.
As much as adventure lies at the heart of tourists, safety will always be top priority hence solutions that ensure safety and serenity will be steps in the right direction. Other factors that will encourage tourism in Nigeria include:
- Provision of adequate infrastructure that support tourism such as standard hotels, electricity, good road networks, sea ports where necessary and intentional boost of the medical sector to make it more reliable for citizens and foreigners alike.
- Tackling security issues within the country and bringing terrorism to a zero-level. This will give a facelift to the country as a whole, even to the eyes of the international media.
- Necessary infrastructure such as good roads, electricity and potable water supply should be readily available. Work need to be especially done in the rural areas that host many tourist sites.
- The government, especially the ministry of information, need to work on this. Every country has its own share of problems but the power of media can be used to give Nigeria a positive image abroad. The government can produce documentaries and publish relevant information that can encourage foreigners to come visiting.
- Our tourist centres should be properly managed. Effective people with good track record should be put in place to deliver good service
- The Tourism Satellite Account framework should be used effectively to gather comprehensive data for effective planning and policy making.
- Indigenisation is the process of making something more native to suit a local culture. Our tourist sites and festivals should, as much as possible, try to showcase the Nigerian culture. This will give the sector a kind of uniqueness that makes it attract visitors.
- Tourism should be adequately budgeted for. This is so that the sector can have enough funds to bring even bigger benefits in revenue.
- Our security agencies need improvement. Therefore, the various security agencies and the military should work together effectively to ensure safety of lives.
- We need our improvement in our airports so that they can meet up with the standards of other airports around the world. Airlines operating in the country should also discharge their duties effectively. They should also prepare well ahead of emergencies.
- NIHTOUR should be improved upon and properly funded to train people on tourism and hospitality
- Corruption can be checked if our anti-corruption agencies like EFCC and ICPC do their job effectively. The judiciary also comes into play to attend to cases of corruption fairly and promptly
- Improve the air transport system by building more airports within the country and encouraging more airlines to fly in Nigeria.
- Implement policies that are in favour of development of the country and tourism particularly.
- Develop a more tourism friendly visa acquisition system.
- Collaboration between the major stakeholders. The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Transport and Aviation, Ministry of Trade and Investment and the Local Government heads around where these tourist attractions are need to work together to improve the tourism sector.
- Educate the locals around the tourist attraction on how they can benefit and get them gainfully employed in the whole process.
Nigeria has depended on oil for so long and a country looking to diversify should take the steps proffered into consideration and act accordingly. Indeed, there are huge prospects for the tourism industry in Nigeria that will benefit the masses and bring about the much needed development for the country. I have visited the Marina Resort in Calabar, Qwa Falls, Freedom Park and many other beautiful and culturally rich places in Nigeria and know for certain that the world needs to see all this beauty and learn from such a diversified people.
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