The retrogressive place of Nigeria's tourism sector in African ranking is worrisome and a cause for concern considering the inherent capacity of the sector to contribute in no small measure to the socio-economic development of the country.
Recently, in a paper titled, "'Tourists, gas propeller of socio-economic and political growth," to mark the World Tourism Day by Kogi State Ministry of Culture, the Director of Tourism, Dr S. Jerry Agbaje submits that tourism being a multi-billion Naira spinning industry, the country has no option but to deploy its strategies to make the industry another foreign exchange earner. Certainly we agree with his position.
Evidently, this sector, which has a lot to offer, does not rank high among the priorities of the Federal Government as shown in the 2015 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. Available statistics from the World Economic Forum report states that the tourism sector in Nigeria ranks 131st position in terms of government priority among its counterparts in 141 countries of the world.
Although the country's cultural and natural resources are in the 57th position, the limited development of the tourism industry seems to be a missed opportunity for diversifying the economy and creating employment opportunities. Of course this is undoubtedly due to the over-dependence on oil by successive governments over the years. But the truth is that in most developed and developing countries, tourism is a major source of employment and national income. Indeed, it is a catalyst for the socio-economic development of the host communities as regard social infrastructural amenities such as electricity, water supply, communication, transportation, good roads and health facilities. But it is unfortunate that in spite of all these benefits, the successive governments in Nigeria, potential investors in tourism and even the host communities where these tourist attractions are located do not seem to appreciate the need for an aggressive development of the sector.
Interestingly, Nigeria can boast of different types of tourism attractions ranging from ecotourism which has to do with the various natural tourist sites across the country such as Ikogosi water falls in Ekiti State, the Olumo rock in Ogun State, Ogudu catle ranch in Cross river State and so on; to cultural tourism such as the Osun Osogbo festival in Osun state, the Agungu fishing festival in Kebbi State to mention but a few. The other type is the man-made or artificial tourism, which has to do with Hospitality industry like the various Hotels and resorts in the country.
Perhaps the report on the abysmal Nigeria's ranking on the African continent should be an eye opener for government to begin to consider seriously the development of the sector. It is unfortunate that government at the federal and state levels have not done much in this regard except Cross River State that has done fairly well. The truth is that the economic potential of tourism in Nigeria is something the nation cannot neglect at this point in time especially in the face of dwindling oil revenue and renewed call to diversify the economy.
We call on the Federal government and by extension the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism to rise up to the challenge of developing the sector. To do this, this newspaper believes that there are certain fundamental factors to be addressed. In the first place, the enabling environment has to be created for the promotion of the sector. Regrettably, up till now Nigeria is still struggling with requisite infrastructure that would foster development in the sector. Besides, security of lives and property is also germane to ensuring that the sector attracts the required investment and patronage. Above all, we believe that there has to be appropriate economic policy framework that would be favourable to the sector.