We are done and dusted with the elections that come once in four years, it's time for this administration to make tourism a priority.
Nigeria as a nation is too blessed by mother nature for us not to make it a priority.
I had a discussion a while back with a tourism expert and he said the government do not have any business in tourism but to create the enabling environment and put policies in place that will make tourism grow. He also said Nigeria has the potential of generating $650 Billion as tourism revenue annually. This may look absurd but it is possible if Lagos State as a State was able to generate N50 Billion from Tourism in December 2017.
If we have ever met you will know how passionate I am about growing the tourism and cultural potential of my country, Nigeria. I have been to a few States in the country and I will use the tourism potential of the places as examples so we can all relate.
The enabling environment expected from the Federal Government is in different forms. But we need to start with the Federal Government parastatal that is responsible for Tourism: Ministry of Information and Culture which is presently run by Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Does the ministry have a detailed list with comprehensive data of how many tourism sites we have in each state? per local government? how many people visit these places every week, month and year? We need these data to be able to forecast and determine different challenges with respect to Tourism.
So I will outline the different key areas the government need to make a priority in order to generate more earnings internally per States.
1) Policies: Let's start with the supposedly Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation Bill, 2017 referred to as NTDC Bill that was sent to the Senate to repeal the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC Act) and in its place establish the Nigerian Tourism Corporation. Include is a layman translation of the document. First, I did not read the document, most of my tourism colleagues are not aware of it, so who are the people that granted it okay for NTDC to send it? Please do correct me with my thinking but I am just saying in sending a bill, stakeholders are to be represented.
NTDC needs to up their game by really coming down to the level of the mortals and start dealing with real issues.
We need to have policies that allow the indigenes of the places where the tourist site is located a revenue-sharing formula that benefits them thus encouraging them to take care of the places for it is always too far for government staff to visit regularly.
Policies need to be enacted when it comes to nature, tree felling, nature conservation, environmental cleanliness and animal protection. Tourism is not about hotels, taxing hotels is not the main goal of tourism development, it is more than that.
2) Good Roads: We need good roads with streetlights on the highway, this will make travelling very interesting and smooth for people to want to travel. I have done a trip from Lagos to Enugu and it took me about nine hours to get to Enugu due to bad roads. I know this administration is working on that. I need them to take the terrain and drainages into consideration when building roads. Some terrains are so muddy which means the roads need to be dug pretty well into the ground to last longer. We need good roads which will make us want to set out and drive around the country.
3) Security: There is a need for good security, not the ones that will be exploiting people on the road. People need to feel safe travelling around the country.
4) Information Database: As far as Nigeria is concerned, most of the data found are user-generated. This is good because one part of the job is done, what is left is the verification and data collection process. We need a detailed database of the tourism sites and potentials we have in this country.
It is important that we tackle these issues. Nigeria has the potential to generate revenue from Food tourism, cultural tourism, Adventures and hiking, Nature conservation tours, National Parks etc...There are too many things we have laying fallow.
Let me give you a bit of information about what we have so you will understand my frustration.
i) The only natural suspended lake in the world is in Ado-Awaye, Oyo State, Nigeria. The supposedly second one is the Hanging Lake in the Glenwods Canyon, east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, USA. It was formed by a geologic fault which caused the lake bed to drop away from the gently sloping valley above it. So the true one is here and we are not taking care of it.
ii) The supposedly highest waterfall in West Africa is Owu waterfall, tucked away in a village in Kwara State. It is said that Wli Falls, Located 20km from Hohoe in the Volta Region of Ghana is the highest. I will have to hike it, see it compare though. To get to Owu fall is a terrible tough terrain. It is 3hrs if you walk and about 90 minutes if you bike because you will have to come down in some areas, walk down and then climb the bike back. It is not supposed to be so, it is not for the faint-hearted to hike through. The terrain gets soaked and rough as you approached the waterfall in the rainy season.
iii) The ten commandment stone in Jos. This is an abandoned project which could have been generating revenue for the government.
iv) Matsirga waterfall, Kaduna. This waterfall is wasting away and the government are not doing anything to the place. This is the easiest waterfall in the country. You can see the waterfall by the roadside. It is about two hours 30 minutes from Kaduna town and it is in Southern Kaduna and not far from Zango Kataf where the crisis normally starts. This place has the potential to have a resort built around the waterfall. The land is been used by farmers to cultivate their crops.
v) Agbokim Waterfall: This is another tough waterfall to manoeuvre. The trip down there is not lovely as well. Do you know one of the cocoa-producing community is along that road? They make chewing stick which is now imported in Agbokim, I saw truck been loaded of the chewing stick.
vi) What is wrong with the adire been made in Abeokuta and Osogbo to be exported to the world. We need to create a whole chain from production to the market, adire need to be on New York Fashion Week runways, London Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, Paris Fashion show to mention a few. Do you know how much revenue will be generated if our adire makers start to design patterned adire for fashion designers globally
There are jobs that will be created, the economy will thrive, communities will develop on their own because all the necessary infrastructure is in place. We can train tour guides, craftsmen and artisans will start selling their wares to tourists, the local food seller makes money, the taxi driver makes money, the local Buka and restaurants make money, the hotel makes money, and its a full circle where the money changes hand within the environment and never goes out.
Do you know we grow very sweet strawberries in Nigeria? DO you know there is a tea plantation in Nigeria? We need to wake up. I want Nigeria to be shown to the world in its beauty and glory, my Nigeria the way I see it through my lens.
Please if you read this and you are close to the present government, kindly draw their attention for the need for tourism growth. We need seriousness in this sector.
The quest for me is to showcase the 36 States in Nigeria, tell their stories, and ultimately the 54 countries in the African continents.
Please do share.