The Federal and State Governments in Nigeria have been urged to actively support private sector initiatives aimed at fostering domestic tourism in the country.
Ikechi Uko, a renowned travel expert and organizer of Akwaaba West Africa’s largest trade exhibition event, who spoke at the Nigerian South African Chamber of Commerce Breakfast meeting sponsored by Philips Consulting as part of its 30th anniversary quoted Fareed Zakaria of CNN, saying Nigeria should stop doing stupid things, start doing smart things and plan for the future.
Ikechi Uko who was the guest speaker, speaking on the topic “Rethinking Tourism In Nigeria” proposed three ways to rethink tourism in Nigeria.
He highlighted the historical lack of government support of private sector efforts to drive domestic tourism, emphasizing the crucial role played by private firms and a select few states in this regard. He underscored the importance of government support for domestic tourism using the highly successful Kenya Tourism Board’s Tembea Kenya as an example. He listed The South African Tourism Sho’t Left project as another one.
He specifically mentioned the positive impact created by projects such as Naija7Wonders, Nigeria Tourism Lovers, Goge Africa and Naija Explorers, which have been at the forefront of driving domestic tourism growth, with states like Cross River, Osun, Lagos, Akwa Ibom and Ekiti actively participating.
He pointed out that a survey of the top 10 domestic destinations included those states with Akwa Ibom joining for the first time in 2022 as a result of Naija7Wonders and NATOP AGM.
He identified the reasons why Nigerians travel using data on passenger traffic from Nigeria over the past years.
The data he said is sourced from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), NBS, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) and the top five travel agents in Nigeria shows that VFR, religion, business, school, leisure, M.I.C.E, Medical and ‘JAPA ‘ are the major reasons for travels to the top destination of UK, USA, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Canada and India.
Uko talked about the potential of leveraging the global success of Nigerian artists in the music industry to enhance tourism.
He noted that Nigerian music has become widely popular across African countries as it is the most streamed Music in most African countries except in some South African countries and the government should seize the opportunity to promote the country as a tourist destination.
Rema he said played at the Ballon D’or Awards, Burna Boy played at UEFA Cup Finals, Davido played at World Cup finals, Tems played at NBA all Stars and Tiwa Savage played at the Coronation of Kings Charles. These are powerful endorsements that can be parlayed into wonderful tourism products.
Critical to the success of domestic tourism, the tourism Expert emphasized the need for the government to ensure the safety of citizens and visitors, make the available Infrastructure effective and efficient and support Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) events capable of attracting tourists, especially from abroad.
He criticized the allocation of government funds to events that do not bring in any tourists either from abroad or Nigeria and ignoring those that have proved to
contribute to tourism growth. He urged a shift in priorities.
Uko encouraged the government to recognize and support private sector efforts that have successfully ignited domestic tourism in Nigeria over the past four years. While Nigeria is a giant in outbound tourism, Uko highlighted the need to address the challenges faced in the inbound category and emphasized prioritizing support for globally recognized events like Afro Nation, Detty December, AFRIMA, and Experience by House on the Rock to achieve tourism goals using music.
“Nigeria is a global giant in outbound travel spending over $1.5b buying tickets and over $2b on medical tourism. It is a dwarf of inbound and domestic tourism. This has to change.”