On the lookout for a solution to the lingering challenges confronting the operations of tourism in Nigeria, particularly in the area of Hajj, industry experts have stressed the need for the present administration to overhaul the sector so as to boost the nation's economy.
The practitioners, who spoke with The Guardian in Abuja lamented that tourism industry has been held back by series of challenges ranging from absence of a national carrier to unnecessary delay in visa processes and cash policies among other challenges.
One of the operators, who is also Chief Executive Officer, AMCO Travel and Tour Limited, Ahmed Sani, said Nigeria government is yet to prioritise tourism the way other countries do.
He said the sector is constrained by challenges "particularly with recent policies from the new administration. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)'s Forex policy really affects Hajj operation this year even with the fact that the Federal Government gives a directive that there must be subsidy on Dollar rate to intending pilgrims".
According to him, it is extremely difficult for the operators to book hotels and handle other logistics because of the cash limit set by CBN, which is inadequate even to cover feeding cost.
He said every year comes with its challenges, but the new government policy has made things worse this year.
"There is no money in circulation and few people who have the money are not ready to spend unlike before that you see only one politician paying for up to four people.
"If you have to take people to Saudi, you must have made reservations in the various locations of the holy land, make plans ahead for transportation, pay for tenth and feeding, you must pay for the complete package even before you are granted the Visas, knowing full well that the payment is not refundable but a lot of us ran at a loss because of the economy situation of the country and other challenges," he added.
Sani said that though President Muhammadu Buhari was working on making the country face reality and fashion a blueprint for a robust economy, but the fall in prices of commodity, particularly oil, remained a major concern to every sector and a reason for intensified effort on economy diversification.
Speaking on the stampede at the 2015 Hajj, Sani lauded the effort of a member of the Joint Task Force and Commander of Combat Team One, Lt.-Col. Danladi Hassan, whose effort saved a lot of lives during the incident, noting that Saudi authority must ensure nothing was left to chance in safeguarding lives and properties of pilgrims.