The fear of insecurity in the country has created a hole in the profit margin accruing to the tourism sector, which is why so much needs to be done and hurriedly too.
In 2014, the World Travel and Tourism Council calculated that tourism comprises of about 11 percent of the global GDP. The organisation also declared that the worth of expert of tourist provisions is nearly 6 to 7 percent of complete exports of services and goofs. Assessment has it that tourism industry hires nearly 6 percent of the global professional population staff includes railway employees, travel agents, airline employees, taxi workers, hotel employees, bank personnel, insurances, tour or travel guides, vendors, photographers, life savers, potters, as well as individual in control of locations visited by tourists like art, museums, shops, galleries, parts and theatres. Therefore, tourism is a function that cuts across the majority of the economic activity of a country.
Counting the many blessings of tourism in the recent years, there has been improvement in the protection of Nigerian culture, tradition and historical legacy. The significance of tourism development thus in protecting both natural and manmade context cannot be over-estimated especially in the preservation and protection of several historic, archaeological and cultural destinations from destruction due to its positive utilization in such areas. The several natural resources such as national games and parks resources are instances of such positive utilization. Tourism has expanded the country’s economic baseline and assets of foreign exchange through the development of global tourism and made more employment options to accept an ever raising work force.
However, the security situation in the country is dashing the gains of tourism to pieces presently.
In her journal, tourism scholar and enthusiast, Mojúbàolú Olufunke mentions that
“The Boko Haram sect has infused so much fear and anxiety on the legal enforcement agents and institutions of Nigeria. In reality, relocating to the northern area of the state has become abhorrence to, particularly members of the police force from the southern region of Nigeria going by the persistent killing and assaults conducted by members of this group who are sternly averse to all forms and nature of education or civilization”
In a recent interview with the Conservator- General of the National Park Service (NPS), Haruna Tanko, he decried the level of insecurity and infrastructure which is responsible for the deficit in revenue.
“The NPS currently operates seven national parks across the country covering a land area of 24, 000 square kilometers. The National Park Service has been playing a crucial role in intelligence gathering for the country’s military in the Northeast and the forest bothering Chad and Cameroun,
“Since we have been upgraded to a para- military agency by the President, we have been working closely with other security outfits as well as have a joint border patrol.
“National parks are located in the rural areas and mostly in the borders between Nigeria and other African countries. In most cases, when there are cases of insecurity, especially coming from those areas, there is always collaboration between us (and other agencies in terms of patrolling the areas.
He regretted that insecurity and infrastructure deficit have been a challenge to maximizing the potentials of the Parks, “The Park realised thirty-two million naira as against the forty seven million naira, he added.
Furthermore, Mr. Tomi Akingbogun, Vice President, Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), has ascribed the drop in the influx of tourists to the country to the ineffective management of the county’s image, adding that the increase in bills; insecurity and other economic challenges made visits to tourist sites in the country difficult.
“The government is not giving the right attention to development of tourism. Dubai works on tourism, Kenya, South Africa; see how many billions they are making; why are we allowing Nigeria to just go down.
He explained that if there was no movement of tourists within the country, there would be no influx of tourists from outside the country, a situation, which he said, had undermined Nigeria’s ranking as a tourist destination.
However, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, the Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation argues that Nigeria is not the only country that is dealing with terrorism or insecurity, it is a global issue.
“It’s a global issue. Our job is to create awareness, to let people know where is safe and not safe. There will be tourism police and guard. For example look at South- West, South-West is safe, tourism industry is booming, Lagos is doing very well and all the others as well as other Geo-political zones so security is not a barrier.
Supporting Mrs. Mbanefo’s claim, Mrs. Sola Olumeko, said that there is no place that is actually free of vices
“There is no place that is actually free of vices. So for our tourism industry to thrive, we should focus more on positive than negative reports that will scare tourists away”.
“Other countries have excelled in tourism because they don’t look at their bad sides, they look at the good sides of their country and that should be our orientation in Nigeria as well”. She added emphatically, “Security is a very sensitive issue in tourism; I would rather prefer you talk about tourism and the potentials of what we have that can attract tourists which can also help to enhance our own image. I don’t think it is only Nigeria that has security challenge, it is all over the world”.
Throwing more light on what can be done to convince people that Nigeria is still safe and secure for tourists visiting the country, the Director of Tourism described Nigerians as warm and hospitable people who accommodate any tribe or foreigner, no matter the religion. She discloses further on cultural diversity and tourist sites that can attract foreigners to the country.
“Nigeria comprises 36 states with diverse cultures and big festivals that are internationally-recognised. We also have interesting sites to visit like Obudu Ranch Resort, Tinapa and various artefacts. The civil servant agreed though that the country should focus more on providing necessary infrastructural facilities.
However, Mr Boris Bornman, the General Manager, Abuja Sheraton Hotel and Towers argued further that there is no guarantee for safety in the country as lots of people abroad see the country like the old Soviet, where many believe that there is an iron curtain and until that curtain of insecurity is removed, people won’t come.
“Without doubt, the more violent the situation gets, the more people will stay away from Abuja and Nigeria at large. Do not forget that Nigeria is not a tourist destination yet, but a business market. Again, in spite of the huge potentials of Nigeria’s cultural tourism that can attract tourists, they will all stay away because of insecurity. As I speak with you, lots of people abroad see the country like the old Soviet, where many believe that there is an iron curtain and until that curtain of insecurity is removed, people won’t come.
“To be honest with you, we now have to spend more money on security than ever before in the history of our operations. We have to import detective equipment, spend extra money on CCTV cameras, and the list goes on and on in other to provide at least minimum security for our guests.
“Regrettably, Nigeria is a beautiful country and you have wonderful things that people want to see, but the fear of insecurity and violent keeps people away. Imagine Zimbabwe with the entire international political buzz, tourists from UK and around Europe still go there. Zambia and their likes too also have a fair share of international arrivals because they have been able to guarantee safety of visitors to their countries.
He added that in those countries, tourism accounts for between 15-20 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product [GDP] and the tourists’ dollars spent in their countries matters.
“Like you know too, it’s not compulsory that the entire country is promoted as tourist zone, but those sections that can be promoted be done because Nigeria has some unique cultures that most people around the world have not seen and they would want to see such.”