October 02, 2021 / 11:22 PM / by FDC/ Header Image
Credit: Guardian Nigeria
In the year 2019, tourism contributed $1.5 billion to the Nigerian economy, which was scarcely 0.3% of the total GDP. In 2020 this value dropped, largely thanks to COVID-19. Yet as the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization has observed, Nigeria has the potential to be one of the world's best tourist destinations.
Tourism presents economic, social and technological opportunities for Nigeria. Economically, it serves as a channel for foreign reserves and investment in the economy, which by extension, leads to GDP growth and economic diversification. Socially, tourism serves to promote tolerance. In Nigeria, an increase in tourism could be a uniting force in an otherwise fractured country. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated, "tourism can... [bring] people together. Tourism can promote solidarity and trust - crucial ingredients in advancing the global cooperation that is so urgently needed at this time."
Technologically, as demand increases, the sector will be forced to evolve the technology it employs. This would enable those who work in tourism to be able to serve more people, reduce human errors and increase efficiency. However, to reap the benefits of the tourism sector, Nigeria needs to do more with regards to nature conservation, investment in tourism infrastructure and boosting domestic tourism.
The Nigerian government has suffered from a budget deficit for many years with this year not being an exception. This constrain of resources has made it hard for the government to invest in tourism and the resources gained are focused on the oil sector which generates about 80% of the revenue in Nigeria. Evidently, in 2018, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) stated that the government spent $1.8 million of fuel subsidy which was 4 times more than its expenditure on health, education and science.
The level of insecurity in the country is also another factor that has dented growth in Nigerian tourism. Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest number of deaths from terrorism and this has affected the tourism sector through lower investments and loss of natural resources. With these factors in place, the Nigerian tourism sector is expected to have a stunted growth for a long time. In order to prevent this, the government should effect policies which would increase investment and reduce insecurity.
With regards to natural resource protection, Rwanda offers an example. Rwanda is a country which has taken great steps to preserving its natural resources and using it for the betterment of its tourism sector. The eastern African country holds an annual gorilla naming ceremony with its main aim being to curb the killing of gorillas. The ceremony has already led to positive effects in the country as the IUCN have renounced the animals being endangered and the number of tourists has increased over the years. It is to be noted that one gorilla has the capacity to generate an average of $3million during its lifetime so by preserving them the revenue goes to the government and can be used to grow the society. In line with this, the Rwandan government allocated 10% of the revenue gotten from the tourism to develop the surrounding neighborhood increasing the standard of living of its habitants. With this good example given by Rwanda, Nigeria still stands a chance at developing its tourism sector and its economy as a whole.
Another area of focus for Nigeria ought to be in tourism infrastructure, specifically sporting infrastructure. By investing in this area of the economy, the dependence on oil would be reduced and the economy would operate a more diversified economy. Countries like England and France have come to realize the value of sports in tourism. Wimbledon, which is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, is held in England every year. It has served as a great source of revenue for England and has also helped to develop its tourism sector. In the year 2019, the 13 days event was attended by 500,397 people and watched by 96 million people.
To this cause, the Wimbledon tournament has received various donations worldwide which have helped to increase the foreign reserve and GDP in England. In the case of France, the country holds a yearly cycling event known widely as Tour de France. This event is used as a channel for tourism as the contestants travel through different areas in France and even neighboring cities. The cycling event is said to be watched by an estimate of 3.5 billion people on TV while 12 million people attend it physically. The Tour's revenue according to experts is estimated to be between $60-$150 million which can go a long way in the tourism sector.
Insecurity as stated before, is a challenge affecting the tourism sector. The government of Nigeria has to then increase its expenditure on security services as this would help to promote peace and stability in the country. Egypt is also another country that has significant issues with insecurity but has taken measures to curb this action and improve its tourism. While Nigeria's military expenditure in 2020 was $2.403bn, Egypt increased its military expenditure to $4.016bn in 2020 from $3.744bn in 2019 (7.26%)6. Due to this action tourism now serves as one of the leading factors contributing to Egypt's national income as the number of tourists visiting has been increasing after the restrictions were removed (an average of 500,00 people per month since April).7
It can then be concluded that some developing and developing countries such as Morocco, Egypt, England and Poland have used tourism to boost their economy, and Nigeria can follow suit as tourism can be used to revive the part of the economy that COVID-19 subdued. This can only be achieved by curtailing insecurity, increasing government expenditure to tourism and diversification from traditional tourist attractions of game reserves and national parks to activities such as sports