Fresh facts have revealed that Nigeria loses over N700 billion to tourism annually due to poor management of tourist destinations, heritage sites and monuments across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Nigeria has over 1,000 tourist destinations including 33 museums, 65 national monuments out of which two were declared World Heritage Sites, namely, Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa State and Osun Oshogbo Groove in Osun State.
The Abuja Carnival and Argungun Fishing Festival should attract no fewer than 300 international tourists and over 50, 000 domestic tourists. When the tourists board flights, book hotels, eat and pay for other leisure associated with the festi-val, Nigeria stands to rake in over N200 billion as profit.
Again, Nigeria loses over N600 billion in Yankari Game Reserve, Bauchi; Obudu Cattle Ranch, Cross River; Sukur World Heritage Site, Adamawa; Tinapa Resort Centre, Cross River; Chad Basin National Park, Borno; Abuja National Park; Kamu-ku National Park, Kaduna; Okomu National Park, Edo; Gashaka Gumti National Park, Taraba; Cross River National Park; Kainji National Park, Niger, and Old Oyo National Park among others.
This monumental loss is not unconnected with infrastructure decay, absence of facilities, non-existence of national carrier, poor management and insurgency, with the latter virtually crippling other sectors of the economy in the last four years.
Also, with the outbreak of Ebola, the revenue in tourism industry dropped slightly last year.
As part of Tourism Vision 2020 goal, Dubai wants to double its number of visitors and tourism revenue from 10 million people and almost 12 billion Euros in 2012 to 20 million people and almost 36 billion Euros by 2020.
With an increasingly accessible tourist destinations, solid infrastructure and facili-ties, it is no doubt the number one destination of choice for both Nigerians and other foreigners.
A reports from Business Destinations, an online source, revealed that the annual passenger traffic reached 66, 431,533 in 2013, which is approximately 15.2 percent compared 57, 684,550 passengers recorded in 2012. It is also projected that pas-senger numbers will keep climbing to 78 million in 2015 and 98 million by 2020.
The South Africa government has set a target of attracting 12 million international tourists by 2018. It also plans to increase domestic holiday trips from 2.8 million in 2014 to 4.1 million by 2020.
South Africa is famous for its rich cultural heritage and vast infrastructure which also extends to their tourist destinations.
A South Africa website quoted the country’s Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom, as saying that the target would keep the ministry on track toward creating 225,000 additional jobs in the sector by 2020.
According to Hanekom, in total, tourism contributed no less than 9.4 percent to the country’s gross domestic product in 2014, and, more importantly, one in every 10 jobs in the country is supported by tourism.
At the 2014 Abuja International Carnival, 30 of the 36 states of the federation shunned the event.
Where such destinations and carnivals exist in Nigeria, experts are concerned that they are poorly marketed, managed and packaged in such a way that they cannot attract any serious investor to Nigeria.
The National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) and National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) which should be at the forefront of training stakeholders in the industry are almost collapsing due to the dearth of competent professionals and facilities.
At the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) Investors Forum and exhibition held in Abuja last year, the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Commission (NTDC), Dr Sally Mbanefo, said that Nigeria recorded a total 4,037,808 tourist arrivals in 2013.
According to her, the domestic tourism market has very high revenue and job creation potentialities. For instance, she said, the 2013 Osun Osogbo Festival recorded 21,713 domestic tourists and 123 international tourists.
The 2013 Abuja Carnival recorded 19,015 domestic tourists and 113 international tourists while religious tourism recorded over a million domestic tourists and a substantial number of international tourists in 2013.
She estimated that Nigeria has a $4billion domestic tourist market.
A source at NTDC who spoke on condition of anonymity insisted that everything that has to do with tourism is currently crippled due to paucity of funds.
The source said that NTDC budgeted N193 million for capital projects in 2014 but only N82 million was released, adding that no money has been released for capital projects in 2015.
The source revealed that the commission had entered into partnership with customs and immigration to boost its activities, and called on the aviation ministry to include the construction of an airstrip at Obudu Cattle Ranch in the budget to make movement easier for tourists.
There have been incessant lamentations by stakeholders about the failure of the immediate past Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke, to focus on programmes and projects that would make tourism a mainstay of the nation’s economy in the face of dwindling oil prices in the international market.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Culture and Tourism, Hon Abiodun Hakeem Muniru, who represented Oshodi Isolo Federal Constituency 2, in the 7th National Assembly, had revealed plans by the committee to organise a World Symposium on Tourism on the possibilities of exploring the sector as the mainstay of the economy apart from oil but this never came to be.
A competent source that spoke on the condition of anonymity told LEADERSHIP that Edem Duke failed to utilize his closeness to the then first family to introduce reforms in the sector.
LEADERSHIP recalled that at the 2014 budget defence of the ministry before the Senate Committee on Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Duke had insisted that about N25 billion was required for the successful implementation of the 2006 Tourism Master Plan, lamenting that non-allocation funds had stalled the crucial project.
This, he said, was essential for the effective development of Nigeria’s tourism potential which will create revenue for government and jobs for the people.
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) has in its custody over 100,000 antiquities from all cultures in the country, which are curated and exhibited at museums all over the federation, but stakeholders have alleged that they have been replaced with fake ones.
But in his reaction, the NCMM Director General, Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman, debunked claims that artefacts in the museums had been stolen and replaced with fake ones. He asserted that the commission had rich and genuine collections of antiquities in Kastina, Owerri, Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu and other museums across the country and submitted that vendors of antiquities were paid over N170 million last year.
On the poor management of heritage sites, he explained that the federal government does not manage all the heritage sites and monuments: some are managed at the level of state government, local government, communities and even the traditional institutions.
He disclosed that the insurgency in the North East had affected the Sukur World Heritage Site Adamawa, and stated, however, that although the heritage sites and monuments needed attention from Nigerians, they were not poorly managed.
According to him, government has done a lot by establishing administrative and legal frameworks for the management of these sites, so what is left are contributions from other stakeholders in managing them.
“How much investment has tour operators made in the management of these sites in terms of their corporate social responsibility (CSR)? The operators who make so much money when tourists come into the country should plow back as a part of their CSR. The gate fees charged in the museums are very meager because they are public institutions.”
He pleaded with communities, institutions and stakeholders to assist the government in managing the sites.
The President of Hospitality & Tourism Management Association of Nigeria (HAT-MAN), Mallam Aliyu Badaki Ajayi, expressed regret that stakeholders were not carried along in the implementation of the tourism master plan, and said that stakeholders engaged in tourism activities handle it like buying and selling.
“From antecedents, Duke did not have the political will to implement the master plan and, in requesting the N25 billion, what did he contribute to the industry? How did he carry the stakeholders along, other than his selfish way of doing things,” he queried.
“We were told that there was a World Bank tourism intervention fund but access-ing the fund is difficult due to stringent conditions attached to it.
“There is a lot of bureaucracy that, up until now, nobody has accessed the funds, and even if you have any project to establish under tourism, before the bank will respond to your request, it’s a big problem.”
Ajayi further lamented the dearth of competent professionals in the industry. “Most people in the industry are not well trained and do not have interest in af-fairs of the sector, ranging from travel, tours and hospitality sectors, including agencies under it.”
He called President Muhammadu Buhari’s attention to the need to amend the Tourism Act, establish a national carrier and provide good infrastructure at tourist destinations to boost the sector and prepare it to provide the needed boost to the nation’s economy.
The HATMAN president also urged the president to move fast and contain the twin evils of the Boko Haram insurgency and rampant kidnappings in the country as tourism cannot thrive under present insecurity in the country.
On his part, the President of Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Chief Tomi Akingbogun, faulted the N25 billion requested by Edem Duke for the implementation of the tourism master plan, describing the figure as outrageous.
He challenged the immediate past minister to account for the monies he collected within his four to five years in office, stating that records have shown that most of the artefacts in the museums were sold and replaced with fake ones during his term.
Akingbogun described the silent rivalry between the ministry and the private sec-tor as unhealthy for achieving any meaningful development, adding that the fed-eral government needs to stop government officials from travelling oversees fre-quently for trainings and seminars that should have taken place in Nigeria.
He noted that the culture and tourism institutes lack competent professionals to pilot their affairs, in addition to being in bad shape due to outdated facilities.
On what he want the new president to do for the sector, he urged Buhari to ap-point competent professionals to run the tourism sector, to allocate more money to the tourism budget and to monitor its expenditure.
He also noted that national festival like Abuja Festival of Arts and Culture (AFAC), National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) as well as graphic art exhibitions, which should earn the country over N10 billion, are losing their impact due to poor funding.