Why Nigeria, Africa lag behind in tourism development, gains

Olumo Rock site in Ogun state… SOURCE: Google

The poor state of airport infrastructure and stringent visa policies in Nigeria and other African countries have been identified as the major constraints behind the low profitability of the tourism sector.

The global money-spinning industry, according to experts, has left Africa behind despite the comparative advantage on the continent.

The Director of the Association of African Airlines (AFRAA), Aaron Munetsi, said the continent, with no fewer than 62 airlines, 419 airports and 817 aircraft could only account for 88 million passengers in 2018, “because we are still not considered as a top destination for tourism.”

Munetsi said despite the failure to build user-friendly and standard infrastructure at ports of entry, the African governments were still putting up visa policies that restricts even fellow African countries to travel within the continent.

The Director, who spoke at the 16th Akwaaba travel and tourism conference in Lagos recently, said it still costs 45 per cent more to travel within Africa than to other continents.

“Not only that, only 19 per cent of African trade is within Africa. It means that we are busy exporting our wealth. Is there then any wonder that we are poor? Why are we stopping other Africans that are bringing in money from coming to our country? When you charge $150 visa fee, is that out of policy or poverty?” Munetsi queried.

He added that the impacts of such subtle restrictions were fast catching up with African countries. Notwithstanding the good weather year-round and good tourism sites, only Morocco welcomes as much as 11 million tourists in a year.

In fact, the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) 2018 report revealed that Morocco saw 11.3 million international tourists arrival in 2017. Next was South Africa, with 10.3 million, Egypt had 8.3 million, Tunisia 7.1 million and Algeria 2.5 million.

Others in the top 10 ranking are: Zimbabwe 2.4 million, Cote d’Ivoire 1.8 million, Botswana 1.6 million, Namibia 1.5 million and Mozambique 1.4 million.

Globally, France has the highest number of international tourists arrivals, put at 89.4 million. Next is Spain with 82.8 million, USA 79.6 million, China 62.9 million, Italy 62.1 million, Turkey 45.8 million and Mexico 41.4 million.

Comparatively, Munetsi said the figures recorded by Africa was quite shameful, and should be a reminded for Nigeria and others to wake up from their slumber.

“Other countries will continue to take advantage of us because we are sleeping. Anyone can visit Africa round-the-year, but only about three months in Europe. That means Africa is where the tourism market should be, if our airlines and authorities are ready to take what is rightfully theirs.

“Right now, 80 per cent of African traffic is by non-African carriers. It tells us that others are competing against us for our market. But if we sit back and do nothing, there may be no future for us,” he warned.

Apparently in agreement with Munetsi, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DP Tours, Christopher Ezekwe, said there was no quantifying the enormous job opportunities that abound in tourism, if the fundamentals could be put in place.

Ezekwe said it begins with improving the economy, good infrastructure, security of lives and properties, as no tourists would want to be where there safety could not be guaranteed.

He added that the youths have job opportunities in the area of flight and travel ticketing, hotel services, tour guide, taxis and sundry services.

General Manager, Tour Brokers International, Odion Chigbuifue, reminded new entrants into the tourism industry that the business is an emotional one and requires trust.

Chigbuifue added that the business is sustainable, if customers’ satisfaction is given priority.

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