By Adeniyi Ogunfowoke
Some Nigerian states are gradually tilting towards tourism because they now recognise the undeniable fact that tourism is a major cash cow that can earn them enough revenue to run their states.
Cross River is leading the pack as it has developed her tourism and hospitality sector to the point that the first destination anyone within and outside Nigeria thinks about is Calabar. As such, the Cross River Government can confidently say that it plans to make the state a tourism destination by generating N1.7 billion from the sector annually as part of efforts to boost the state’s economy.
Another state that also plans to explore tourism to boost its economy is Lagos State. The State recently organised a Tourism Summit where her Tourism Master Plan was unveiled.
These grand plans are all well and good. However, a major drawback is the dearth of infrastructures. This was clearly pointed out by different speakers at the summit.
Does infrastructure matter in tourism development?
Simply put – no infrastructure, no tourism. This is the bane of tourism in Nigeria. There are no supporting tourism infrastructures in the country. While the ones available are begging to be revamped.
Tourism infrastructure can come under three categories, namely: Commercial (Hotel, gastronomy, tourist information, and tourist arrival servicing); Public (transportation and communication facilities, security, trade and service facilities) and investment in tourism destinations.
Although the commercial category has been taken care of by the private sector, the public and investment category which are also critical are yet to be given their deserved attention. For example, the access roads to some of these tourism destinations are very poor. And the security of tourists is not guaranteed except in some states.
A good example of how security is key to tourism is what happened in Egypt after the 2011 revolution. The North African country became unstable and experienced several terrorist attacks. This discouraged many tourists from visiting the country due to instability and insecurity.
Who will provide the infrastructure?
When it comes to the provision of infrastructure, the government is charged with this responsibility. It has to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
However, the government cannot do it alone. They have to partner with the private sector through Public Private Partnership to provide these much-desired infrastructures and investment in tourism destinations. For example, a corporate organisation can adopt the National Museum in Onikan, Lagos, turn its fortunes around and perhaps share proceeds with the government.
The returns of developing tourism infrastructure are perfectly embodied by Dubai. According to reports, Dubai aims to triple its annual income from tourism to $82 billion by 2020, which would involve doubling the number of its hotel rooms. Meanwhile, in 2015, tourism added $36.4bn to UAE’s GDP.
What is attracting Nigerians to Dubai? It is because the country has positioned itself as an exciting destination where you can have fun and feel safe at the time. We can do better because Nigeria has some of the best beaches, flora and fauna as well as the most beautiful tourist destinations in Africa and the world.