Tourism in Nigeria – Overview, Issues, Potential, and Challenges

In this post, we will discuss Tourism in Nigeria. Here we will take a look at the overview, potentials of the Nigerian tourism sector and possible challenges.

Quick question:

If I drove into your home, walked right into your living room, sat on your couch (with your permission), and told you that in ten years, tourism can replace oil as a major driving force of the Nigerian economy, you’ll probably look at me like I’m crazy or something.

You might even go as far as asking me:

“Are you well at all?”


Okay here’s another question:

Have you ever wondered why there’s so much excitement about what goes on in the petroleum industry?

Ah, this one’s easy and the answer is really rather simple.

Even my 10-year-old nephew has basic knowledge about the tons of money generated daily in the refining, trading, and marketing of petroleum products.

But have you ever wondered why, a country like Dubai, equally blessed in petroleum resources still generates billions of dollars from tourism, whereas, Nigeria barely derives enough money from tourism to pay Teachers salaries in Imo and Jigawa?

I guess we’ll find out.

It is no longer news that the greed for oil money has blinded the Nigerian government towards the vast revenue generation opportunities that lie hidden in sectors like tourism, and sadly, agriculture, which used to be a major driving force for the Nigerian economy.

Maybe we’ll talk about agriculture in subsequent articles, but for now, let’s focus on the less talked about the issue of tourism in Nigeria.

Tourism is by some margin, one of the most untapped economic potentials of Nigeria.

You know, last year, Nigeria was ranked as the fifth most visited country in Africa, with an average of 2million international visitors, yet, when you look at the statistics for countries like Kenya and South Africa, you couldn’t help but wonder…

Why we’re lagging behind.

A few facts and statistics that will interest you:

In 2016, the World Travel and Tourism Council reported that the tourism sector contributed up to NGN1.9Billion to the Nigerian economy. That’s around 1.7 percent of the total GDP.

And then in 2018, Statistics from Africa.com showed that travel and tourism support over 600,000 jobs in Nigeria, with the potential to double before 2028.

An Overview of Tourism in Nigeria.

Tourism in Nigeria – Overview, Issues, Potential, and Challenges

When it comes to wealth, cultural diversity and the potential to become a major economic player on the global stage, you can’t help but mention Nigeria.

But when it comes to travel and tourism, it is the lack of a robust infrastructural framework and unreliable security that makes Nigeria a not-too-desirable destination for tourists.

We can’t deny the fact that tourism in Nigeria is another seriously untapped sector in the Nigerian economy. But if properly harnessed, it could easily become multiple revenue-generating funnels for local, state and federal governments.

In June 2018, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization did say that with the right policies put in place, Nigeria has the potential to be one of the most ranked tourist destinations in the world.

He probably saw something that the Nigerian government has failed to see.

Maybe it’s the fact that there’s life outside crude oil money, and that if the relevance of long-ignored sectors like tourism is broadened, and invested in, it’s only a matter of time before Nigeria regains its rightful place on the world’s tourism map.

Nigeria does have a lot to offer international and continental tourists.

From our well-preserved culture too long stretches of exotic beaches to the heritage sites and ancient cities spread across Northern and Southern regions, Nigeria possesses enough tourist assets to leave visitors breathing hard with excitement. There is a lot of tourism potential in Nigeria to harness.

But then, the question must move from… “Can Nigeria transform its tourism sector into a major economic asset?” to……

Read Also: 10 Roles of Tourism in Economic Development in Nigeria

“What’s The True Potential of Tourism in Nigeria?”

Well, the first thing we need to look at is the fact that as clueless as our leaders are, Nigeria remains a regional superpower in Africa, with an enormous responsibility to put the continent on the map both economically and politically.

Read on.

Now when we talk about the potential of tourism in Nigeria, it’s not just down to income generation and foreign investment, it’s also about the huge potential for the creation of jobs and lucrative employment opportunities.

There’s a huge potential for tourism worldwide, and Nigeria is no exception.

In most developed countries, tourism has enriched economies and remains an effective catalyst for sustained economic growth, only because behind all of this, is a lot of deliberate planning.

Let’s say the Government encourages a private sector driven tourism industry where there’s an incentive for multinationals to invest in hotels, resorts, and even significant heritage conservation projects.

It is deceptively simple on paper, but if encouraged, could spark serious revenue generation for the Nigerian economy.

Also, if there’s a functional collaboration between the Government and the private sector, where for example, the Government is only involved in the initial stages and private investors are given autonomy to implement their ideas, a lot of potentials could be harnessed this way.

Take a look at Calabar for example:

That beautiful and very peaceful city is a clear reflection of how tourism can become a major revenue earner and almost single-handedly drive economic growth in Nigeria, as long as the Government is willing to do its part.

If the Cross River state government told you how much money it generates annually through the hospitality and transport sectors during the famous Calabar festival, you wouldn’t believe it.

We’ve not even taken into account other areas like food, entertainment, shopping, and local crafting. All of which naturally tie in with the beautifully diverse spirit of the Nigerian society.

That’s how profitable tourism can be in other states when exploited and harnessed properly.

Then there’s Nollywood, the third most valuable movie industry in the world.

In case you missed it, there’s already a tripartite partnership between the Ministry of Information & Culture, The United Nations World Tourism Organization and world news leader, CNN. This is a step in the right direction.

The objective, I believe, probably has a lot to do with using Nollywood as an effective catalyst to drive the growth of tourism in Nigeria.

Tourism in Nigeria can also be used as a strong public relations tool to attract needed foreign investment, but first, we need to tackle the…..

Read Also: Problems And Prospects Of Tourism Development In Nigeria

Challenges of Tourism in Nigeria.

Some time ago, Nigeria used to be arguably the most attractive and desirable destination for foreigners touring Africa. But today, you can’t make this claim without being laughed out of the room.

After all, if Africa accounts for only 3% of international tourism, and with countries like Rwanda, South Africa, Egypt, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya blazing a trail as the continent’s foremost tourist attractions, you can only imagine where Nigeria sits on the log.

The reasons are not far-fetched though, and here’s a few of them:

  • Poor Infrastructural development
  • Security challenges
  • Unimaginative governance and lack of political will
  • Lack of sustainable development towards tourism
  • A very disturbing International Image.

I don’t know about you, but personally, I don’t want to leave the comfort of my home and country to embark on a journey that has danger written all over it.

If I’m told that the country I’m considering for a leisure tour has bad roads and epileptic power supply, I’ll be a darned fool to go ahead and get a plane ticket.

Who wants to spend money on an adventure where movement to and fro tourist sites is made unbearable by terrible road networks, some of which can be described as deliberate death traps?

Not me.

What’s more?

Well, it seems to me that the idea of being kidnapped and hacked to death by extremists and dreaded terrorist groups should naturally put the fear of God in the hearts of foreigners and even adventurous Nigerians who would have loved to spend a couple of weeks in places like Borno and Kaduna.

As beautiful as the Yankari Game reserve in Bauchi state is, you will have a hard time convincing even a brain-dead monkey to embark on a tour to a state deeply immersed in serious security challenges.

Who wants to spend their money visiting what the mainstream media now refer to as one of the most stressful places to live?

Who wants to visit a country where the whole atmosphere automatically becomes dangerous during election periods?

And who wants to visit a country where the quality of health care services doesn’t even meet the standards in developed countries? Where the first sign of a slight headache is the perfect excuse for a politician to fly the first class to London where he’s probably keeping a mistress?

Who wants to spend their money doing all of that? Risking their lives on an adventure that could be easily canceled and avoided?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a black-blooded Nigerian and Nigeria is in my opinion, one of the most richly blessed nations there is. Unfortunately, there’s a lot to be done to tackle the problem of tourism in Nigeria, and as such, it is important to be as transparent as possible with ……

The handwriting on the wall.

We just have to be honest with ourselves.

There’s one very crucial challenge that should interest you, and that’s the significant role of air routes and airport services towards tourism.

The truth of the matter is, there’s a limited number of air routes connecting major Nigerian cities, and then there’s the case of rural towns and villages that aren’t even accessible by road.

What’s the first thing a foreigner sees when he visits another country?


And if they are not impressed, if the services are annoying, you’ll have a hard time convincing them to come back anytime soon.

Wouldn’t you rather stay back home than embarking on a journey where rather than fly comfortably to your destination, you have to make several stops and endure uncomfortable road trips, all of which are enough to make any a sane person lose their mind?

These challenges are real, that’s the bad news.

But the good news is, there are solutions and strategies that can help tackle these challenges.

Look, writing all of these is a labor of love for me, but then, I’m human and there’s only so much writing I can do. So rather than go on a long-winded babble about….

Read More on this: Problem and Prospect of Tourism Development in Nigeria

Solutions to Challenges of Tourism in Nigeria.

I’ll just put everything in a nutshell.

At least, to the extent that it makes a reasonable degree of sense to you and yours truly.

Have you ever wondered why, even with a population of over 180 million people, the percentage of indigenous tourist activities remains incredibly low?

Well, the first thing we need to consider is the fact that tourism in Nigeria isn’t even attractive to Nigerians and that’s only a reflection of primary challenges like infrastructure and security.

So as far as solutions go, maybe that’s a good place to start.

And you know, it’s not rocket science really:

Good roads, better security, stable power supply, world-class airports and hotels (with good customer service), especially around these tourist destinations.

Of course, the idea of improving security also makes sense, doesn’t it?

How do you feel when you think about visiting Calabar?

And how do you really feel when you consider visiting the Yankari game reserve in Bauchi state?

Do you see the difference?

Are you beginning to understand why, if you can’t feel safe traveling in your own country, it’s almost impossible for a foreigner to feel safe coming here?

Do you say you do? Good!

Back to the salt mines:

Then there’s the much more complicated issue of health care services.

What if I develop a sudden illness down there in Nigeria?

What if there’s a nationwide strike of Doctors and health workers?

And if there isn’t, can I count on the medical services available?

These are normal questions for a potential tourist.

Can we do something about the standard of health care in Nigeria?

We can, but then again, the Government must set the ball rolling. And if they don’t act accordingly, Nigerians must arm-twist them into doing the needful.

The power of the people has always been stronger than the people in power.

We just need to wake this country up.

Furthermore, there are a number of effective measures like proper maintenance of tourist centers, adequate budgeting for tourism and perhaps, implementation of tourism-oriented policies.

Can we do more?

Of course, there’s always room to do more, but at the level we currently find ourselves, it is best we begin with the basics.

And if we can’t be serious enough to take these steps?

We are beyond all hope!

Thanks for reading. Please share!

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Andy Mukolo

Andy Mukolo is one of the best direct-response copywriters in Nigeria. He's also a very passionate content developer who works with InfoGuideNigeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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