Today is celebrated by the world community as World Tourism Day. The day was announced in 1980 by the United Nations Tourism Organization. The main aim of the celebrations is to make the whole world aware of long-term planning and development and to take advantage of the many benefits of tourism.
The theme of this year’s commemoration is âLeave no one behindâ. September 27th is celebrated worldwide as World Tourism Day. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has been celebrating the day since the 1980s to raise awareness of the role tourism plays in the global community and its impact on social, political and cultural values ââaround the world.
The statistics available have shown the enormous dividends that tourism generates in economic, social, global peace and friendship among others. The experiences in Kenya, Gambia, Egypt and South Africa illustrate how countries derive economic growth and development from tourism.
Over the past six decades, tourist destinations and locations have seen progressive growth from 25 million tourists to well over 1.4 billion. Similarly, tourism revenues also increased from $ 2 billion in 1950 to $ 1,260 trillion in 2015, which is roughly 10% of global GDP and one in ten jobs.
Tourism has become one of the fastest growing sectors in the world economy. It is undisputed that it is in the best interests of tourist destination countries to develop the sector sustainably so that they gradually develop their ability to get the maximum benefit from the money-spinning sector.
The country’s state and federal government caught the global fever when a day was slated to celebrate tourism. Its seriousness has been demonstrated by the establishment of ministries of tourism. Endowed with breathtaking and expansive geography, cultural heterogeneity, and an abundance of historical sites and monuments, the Nigerian landscape undoubtedly holds great promise for a sector that can rival black gold in terms of foreign exchange earnings.
However, because of the easy and quick money that flows from the oil sector, tourism, like the other sectors of our economy such as agriculture and solid minerals, has been terribly neglected. The annual Osun Osogbo Festival, for example, is mainly the result of the patriotic efforts of private sector participants. The same applies to the Calabar Carnival, which was launched a few years ago and has brought the âCanaan Cityâ into the spotlight worldwide.
On the other hand, the once vibrant Argungu Fishing Festival alongside the famous Argungu Motor Rally, the Yankari Game Reserve, the Jos Wildlife Park, the Olumo Rock, the Asop Falls and the boat regatta in the coastal parts of the country have anything but contemplated that the Elmina slave castle in Ghana continues to attract tourists who want a glimpse into the horrific experiences of victims of transatlantic slavery; Nigeria’s similar monuments in Calabar, Lagos and Badagry are now receding into insignificance on the world tourism charts.
Other potential tourist destinations across the country include the Mambilla Plateau, whose potential revenue could very well compete with the country’s oil sector revenue. There are the Gashaka-Gumti Gane Reserve, the Ngel-Nyaki Forest Reserve and the numerous pure, indigenous festivals in the Taraba axis, which, if fully packed, would have freed the state from becoming one of the poorest states in Nigeria today are valid. The states of Yobe and Borno have between them the world famous Dagona Birds Sanctuary, which phenomenally attracts different species of birds from Europe, North America, Australia and Asia fleeing the harsh effects of winter on these continents.
There is also the 8,000-year-old Dafuna canoe, the Tulo-Tulowa, also known as the ‘desert land of hope’ and of course the sadly receding Lake Chad, which is a huge tourist and economic center in a different climate. These few examples are some of the times we think the government should have done a lot more for its livelihood and growth.
At a time when Nigeria has committed to segregating its economy from oil, and given the growing projected economic and other benefits of tourism, Nigeria needs to wake up and focus on the tourism industry among other strategies and options in line with the dictates of sustainable development focus goals (SDGs). We recommend appointing only qualified individuals to oversee agencies and other related departments. Tourism is a specialized industry and people with the appropriate qualifications and not on the basis of political patronage must be appointed to oversee it.
The government should also increase its funding for the infrastructure development sector. The need to promote Nigerian tourism attractions to the world on international mass media platforms, our embassies and other forums in order to further strengthen patronage from around the world cannot be overstated. Efforts must also be aimed at encouraging and attracting private sector engagement. We also call on the government to step up its efforts to address security challenges in parts of the country that are capable of wetting the sector.
No tourist would look in the direction of a country seething with terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping, and other allied crimes, no matter how attractive its tourist destinations are. These are the critical issues Nigeria should address as we join the global community to celebrate the annual ritual.