Tourism, one of the earliest industries known to man, essentially involves travelling from one place of interest to another, either for sight-seeing, leisure, adventure, picnic, relaxation/ recreation, holidays, business or just for peace and quietness. A vacation or ‘gateway’ from life’s stress, pressures and busy schedules to a tourist destination is, for many an exciting opportunity to unwind, for some, a status symbol and for others a sign of an improved standard of living. While tourism in Nigeria is still at an embryonic stage, it is a major, soaring industry in most developed and some developing countries, where it has contributed tremendously to the economies. Countries such as Australia, Spain, Italy, Canada, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Seychelles, Egypt, Gambia, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, USA, the Bahamas, Canneries Island and many other Countries, notably in the Caribbean harness the potentials of tourism to boost their economies.
In Nigeria, tourist sites abound in virtually every region. The Osun Shrine in Osogbo and Erin–Ijesha Water Falls in Osun State, Abuja (Aso Rock, Zuma Rock) Niger (Gurara Falls), Akwa Ibom (Ibeno-Pkerete Beach, Nwanibo Hills), Bauchi (Yankari Games Reserves), Anambra (Udi Hill), Cross River (Obudu Cattle Ranch, Kwa Falls, Ranch Resort, TINAPA, Oban Hills), Plateau (Watse Rock, Assopt Water Falls, Wildlife Resort)), Kwara (Owu-Water Falls), Lagos (Lekki Beach), Ogun (Olumo Rock), Ondo (Idanre Hills) Ekiti (Ikogosi warm and cold spring), Taraba (Mambila Plateau) are just a few examples. Regrettably, over the years, these potentials have not been effectively tapped, developed and harnessed.
Tourism provides a veritable platform for rebranding and international public relations by way of projecting, showcasing and promoting a country’s unique history and rich cultural heritage, economic endowments and natural resources, including social and political evolution and transformation, thereby positively influencing the image and reputation of the country. There is also a growing global recognition and awareness that tourism fosters bilateral ties among countries as well as the expansion of international trade by way of artistic and cultural interaction and exchanges. It thus promotes better harmony and understanding among nations.
A recent publication by the United Nation World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) noted that international tourism grew by almost five percent in the first half of 2011, totalling a new record of 440 million arrivals. Results confirm that, in spite of multiple challenges, international tourism continues to consolidate the return to growth initiated in 2010. Over the decade of the 1990s, Africa experienced a rise in tourist arrivals from 8.4 million to 10.6 million and receipts growth from $2.3 billion to $3.7 billion, respectively. For those countries having high tourist’s arrival, governments had realized the role tourism can play in economic development of their various nations, but that is not same here in Nigeria.
The Nigerian government still sees and treats tourism as an instrument of entertainment and not instrument of economic development. This could probably inform why tourism has been sidelined in the scheme of things. Former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke admitted that tourism, rather than solid minerals was the largest contributor to GDP in South Africa. According to Duke, “We’ve got the population and the market. The question is why have the eggheads in the country failed to look at the business angle of the sector apart from the mere dancing and singing”.
Tourism is a significant economic driver, which can bring about development of a nation from various facets of endeavour.
One of the easiest advantages to identify is the jobs tourism creates. This range from directly influenced positions like tour guides, hotel staff, coach services, and restaurants. Another important aspect of these businesses is that, tourist sites not only pay wages to their staff, but the tourists usually source goods and products locally, giving a boost to local industry. What’s great about tourism is that the supporting industries like retail and food production also benefit, although it is not as obvious to the untrained eye as this is mostly occurring behind the scenes.
Tourism and Poverty Reduction
Poverty is an economic condition of lack of both money and such necessities like successful life as food, water, education, shelter and other basic life needs. Tourism could serve as source of poverty reduction in Nigeria if the people trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty are brought into the desirable cycle of riches. This could happen through the employment opportunities tourism could provide for them, offering of social infrastructure like good roads to the communities hosting the tourist centres, school and health facilities, electricity and other social means that could add life to the people in question.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
A World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual research shows Travel & Tourism’s contribution to world GDP grew for the fifth consecutive year in 2014, rising to a total of 9.8% of world GDP (US$7.6 trillion). Travel & Tourism generated US$7.6 trillion (10% of global GDP) and 277 million jobs (1 in 11 jobs) to the global economy in 2014 – 9.8% of total world GDP. Its growth of 3.6% was faster than the wider economy and out-performed growth.
In addition to bringing employment prosperity to an economy, tourism also allows an economy to develop a new form of income. This acts as an insurance policy in case of hard times, because the additional dollars coming in can help support traditional industries in case they come under financial pressure. For instance, the international price of crude recently hit a six-year low below USD40 per barrel with West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures as low as USD39.89, while Brent crude declined further to USD45.10 per barrel. Nigeria’s sweet crude is similar to the Brent.
It’s also important for rural communities, where there is significant risk based on the farming conditions and global commodity prices. Tourism allows a community to diversify sources of income, and rely less on a single industry.
The additional revenue that comes into a community also benefits the local council or governments. It means more tax revenues, which allows public projects to be launched or developed. This means the infrastructure improves, with new roads being built, improvement in electricity, parks developed and public spaces improved. The better facilities brings in more visitors, but it’s a fantastic benefit to local residents, especially when there is enough revenue to build new airports, schools and hospitals, which all support the economic development even further. Without a good infrastructure, the flow of goods and services is impossible, and tourism revenues allow this to be supported.
It can be a source of pride for local communities and allows them to look at their history and cultural heritage and develop their own community identity.
Increased spending in the local community
This comes twofold. First you have the money that is spent directly by tourists in the economy. Not just on tourism, but there are a huge range of basic human requirements that need to be purchased, like food, clothing, hairdressing, medical services, and transportation needs that all need to be filled, along with souvenirs and amusements. In its own way, tourism supports global trade, which you can learn more about in this course on the new economy.
In addition to what is spent by tourists, the tourism revenue that are earned, by both businesses and individuals is often re-injected into the local economy. So you’ve got more money being earned locally thanks to tourism, which is then spent in the local economy as well.
However to achieve these, Nigeria has to be a safe place for tourist to visit without fear of life and properties. Hence, the Federal Government needs to work harder in combating the terrorism, militancy, kidnapping, and armed robbery. In order for the country to realise its potentials, both the people and government must confront the obstacles.