While it makes sense to bemuse the huge expenditure in foreign exchange therefrom, government needs to take tourism as serious economic diversification project, especially as the reality of continuous fall in the price of crude oil dawns on the nation:
For several years, we have lived with the well-to-do Nigerians, or societal upstarts on the socio-economic strata, spending holidays abroad and on the total aggregate spending billions of Naira annually on their foreign trips. At the beginning, it was a status thing amongst the rich and affluent in society until it became a vogue for just anybody who can afford. Alongside, came the falling standard of education in Nigeria and the wealthy ones began carting their children and wards abroad on studies with monumental drain on the economy, just like the holidays. Not done, and perhaps, not satisfied with the nation's Medicare, the elite class now seeks medical tourism broad, with India and South-Africa as destination point.
For these three engagements, the impact on the economy annually runs into billions or even trillions of Naira, which the economy can ill-afford. Recently media reports that Nigerians spend about N350billion annually on holiday trips to Dubai in the United Arab Emirate (UAE) alone brings into the front burner the need to develop the nation's tourism industry. While the issues of medical tourism could be excused for the seriousness that should be attached to health and life, this Newspaper is concerned that billions of the nation's foreign exchange is spent on frivolous holidays abroad.
Painfully, most of these Nigerians who travel abroad on these holidays know little or nothing about their country and its tourism potentials. Nigerians, and, indeed, the media have over time cried out on the need to stem the falling standard of education and thereby arrest the outflow of Nigerian students abroad for studies. The same thing goes for the health care system in Nigeria, and the need for tourism development.
Successive Nigerian governments, it appears, seem to take pleasure in seeing a continuous depletion of our national life. Or else how does one explain that for over 50years, government failed to develop the tourism potentials of the Lagos waterfront and its numerous beaches that could make the city the equivalent of Bahamas in Africa; and that the country has failed to develop other tourism destination points amidst the numerous ones, like Yankari Games Reserve and the Obudu Cattle Ranch. Government's attention must also be drawn to the fact that in TINAPA, the Cross River State Government is trying to replicate Dubai in Nigeria. Ordinarily, the development of our naturally endowed tourism destination point will attract both foreign and Nigerian funk seekers and stem the outflow of Nigerians going abroad for holiday. Instead, Nigerians are left to seek and find pleasure and relaxation in foreign lands.
Added to government's unwillingness to overcome these shortcomings, is the absence of basic infrastructure such as constant electricity supply and good network of roads and rail-lines, which are key to the development of the tourism industry.