‘Why Nigerian travel, tourism sector lag behind’


• Operators harp on innovation, policies, synergy
Perennial lack of a clear destination marketing strategy, and synergy among stakeholders were yesterday, identified as the main reasons Nigeria’s travel and tourism sectors are still underdeveloped, compared to other countries in Africa.
 
Leading tour operators on the continent, at the Akwaaba African Travel Market 2018 in Lagos, were unanimous about the huge tourism potential in Nigeria, but expressed concern that the country is yet to attract patronage to tourism for the development of both local and African economies.
 
The 2017 Annual Economic Reports of the WTTC estimated that air travel and tourism in Nigeria contributed 1.7 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016. The sectors, in cash flow, contributed a total of N1.861 billion, which puts Nigeria at 171st position among 185 ranked countries; 180th on the growth rate and 105th on the long term growth rate index.
 
While Nigeria lags behind, travel and tourism in Gambia contributes nine per cent to its GDP, with 63.7 per cent foreign visitors. Gambia ranks 164th in growth rate, and 34th in long term growth among 185 countries sampled. Similarly, travel and tourism in Rwanda contributes 4.5 per cent of its GDP, with 60.2 per cent foreign visitors. Rwanda ranks sixth in growth rate, and fourth (compared with Dubai), in long term growth projection.
 
The Chairman, Africa Tour Operators’ Summit, Fatima Garbati, grouped tourism countries on the continent into three. There are countries with developed tourism like Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia; those with steady incomes from developing tourism like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and so on, and others with interest in developing the industry.
 
”Where do we place Nigeria? For me, it is really hard to place Nigeria anywhere in these categories. Yes, we have all that it takes, yet we have not arrived,” she said.Director of Africa, Dubai Tourism, Stella Fubara, said the difference between Nigeria and her African neighbours and other more developed tourism destinations like Dubai, is the level to which the Federal Government is involved in tourism development.
 
Fubara said: “The government has the key role in marketing destinations. Yes, government don’t own hotels, airlines, attraction, destinations and taxis. But government has the good policies to foster all the critical stakeholders, without giving anyone preferential treatment over the other.”
 
Managing Director, The Gambia Tourism Board, Adama Njie, added that all the stakeholders must also be ready to work together, saying tourism and destination promotion are the business of everyone.
 
“That is the way we moved forward in The Gambia. Outbreak of Ebola really affected our tourism, with about 75 per cent cut in flights. Everybody felt it including the groundnut sellers. But through the tourism board we all rallied together to ensure we bounced back. If tourism must succeed, everyone must be involved,” Njie said.
 
Chief Executive Officer, Destination Connect Kenya, Consaga Khisa, advised that the destinations must also be attractive to be appealing to guests.”People only visit great destinations, and places like Dubai has much of it. It is the place of the government to make destination attractive,” Khisa said.

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