NIGERIAN TOURISM: THE SUMMER LOSES ARE HERE AGAIN
Summer is upon us again.
Yes, I know we have rain and dry seasons here, but everyone says it is summer. So summer it is here, and it has come to stay.
Unfortunately, ‘summer’ is one of those window periods Nigeria will lose billions of naira, and tilt us more into unfavorable balance of trade relationships with many nations. Wealthy Nigerians and some middle class who could afford to travel abroad, will be taking out their hard earn ‘made in Nigeria’ money, and they would be spending it on holiday and shopping in foreign lands. They deserve to play hard, after working hard - it’s their money.
I dare not forget the politicians, plenty loot, over paid, over hyped, unrepentant- they will shamelessly lead the way to escape the sorry nation they have help conjured.
From booking of flights, we lose ‘big-big’ as we have no national airline, and do Nigerians travel! No matter how much those airlines disgrace us, we will still fly them and possibly with pride!
Hotels are paid for, local transport or car rental payment, entrance fees to tour destinations , and payment for many other services within the gamut of the hospitality and tourism sphere. Plenty people are employed in that industry and we eagerly go to service our annual investment into their system. We are known for shopping spree that makes attendants grin from ear to ear, and fat tips too. And on top of all of these, we pay tourism fees and city fees, to keep the foreign system working. We change plenty naira to dollars. And no, it does not make them respect us.
Truly, the Americans, just like the Chinese and the Europeans travel a lot to other destinations too. However, they do have their local play grounds too, which they usually conquer before venturing out, and billions of dollars deals happen in that industry locally. Miami, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Disneyland and many other places are thronged by Americans. We aspire to go to these places as we see them in movies, and witness the glamour and grandeur surrounding them. While these places are well set up, the American government also supports the industry with ‘film propaganda’ funds to hammer into our sub consciousness, reasons these places are heaven on earth. The same way we all want to travel to Paris to see the welded metals called the Eiffel tower. No matter how much they travel abroad, balance of trade will always be in their favour. Even our visa fees, running to billions annually is enough. We are the ones something is wrong with.
When Obudu and Tinapa came, in fairness to Nigerians, they supported whole heartedly, and those who could not even afford to go there talked passionately about them. We thought we are ready to host the world, and I was happy my Indian friends will stop insulting me with their Goa destination. These two places are now painful reminders of how wasteful, careless, and destructive we can be as a people. It suddenly becomes impossible to say you are going to Calabar for vacation or ask a partner from foreign agency to send people to Nigeria to enjoy Calabar as a destination or Obudu as a resort.
This is my grudge: while my counter parts in Dubai, Kenya, South Africa, France, Italy, Seychelles, Mauritus ,etc seat behind their desk, put together an email holiday package for summer for me to sell to my people and haul them over, I cannot do the same. We ‘sweat and slave’ for them, so we can make our own margin as a business. We use our resources, our network, and personality to market these destinations to our people. It is stressful! They have it all cut out for them, fantastic destinations, and a system that understands the value chain of tourism, and how their society can benefit from it. Their governments are vigorously helping them through tourism boards, by bringing them here to meet us, form alliances, and sometimes offer nice incentives like free travels to make us sell. Poor us, we gleefully and infectiously market, we have to survive too!
I do try sometimes to persuade them to send in people here, I could imagine the smirk on their faces when speaking to them or when they read my mails. They will tell me to send them packages but I know it will just sit in their emails, we are not a destination for now. They are just obliging me for the sake of business. Nothing ever happens. Few inbounds jobs I get yearly, and I am talking one two, are results of some good deeds in the past for visiting academics and the likes.
Imagine a scenario where I get to my office in the morning and I have like five emails from different travel agencies across the world. One requesting for a family package -seven days in Obudu, the others- student tour of western Nigeria cultures, five days Safari at Yankari game reserve, Fishing holiday in Bayelsa for old boys from Oxford, and Gorilla tracking expenditures somewhere in the South South. Or, request of cruise ship holiday, starting from Lagos and going through the West African water ways and returning to Lagos. You know how many people work on a cruise boat! Yes, I know my imagination is running faster than me.
If Nigeria Airways was ‘alive’ the tourist will prefer a direct flight to Nigeria, our car higher service will pick them up, they will stay in our hotels, our young graduates could be the tour guide that will take them round, they will buy items from our museums, gift shops or markets, they change dollars to naira, our telecom will earn, government will earn tourism taxes, city tax and more VAT, and then they get to see us first hand as good people, great nation and they take the messages back to their people. It is the best public relation. Most importantly, the ripple effect will allow many Nigerian families to have food on their table.
My partners abroad are already asking me how many people I will be sending to them this summer, the response from xyz request I made in February etc. Their job is to follow up by calling me, nice post cards emails, sending me new deals and informing me of a new hotel or new resort recently built and opening up this summer.
Sadly, it is virtually impossible to get people from Lagos interested in Yankari, because not many people in Lagos know what and where it is. Ikogosi springs is for students who are adventurous and would risk all the bad roads from Lagos to that destination, only to swim. Olumo rock offers nothing but getting to the top of the mountain with a bored curator , at Ibadan the Museum staff will show you round a museum with a touch light if you agree, the war Museum in Abia is mere display of objects, and it goes on and on. Would you compare these places to private ones like Nike Art gallery, and the Lekki conservation?
Now this against the backdrop that in the world tourism provides one out of ten jobs ‘serious’ countries, and tourism arrivals catapulting to 1.3 billion tourist as again 25 million in the 1950s. The income in tourism has also climbed to 1260 trillion compared to 25 billion in the 1950s. In all of these, what is Nigeria’s share? It is scary that we seemingly have our hands folded, praying for a miracle. We are the largest black nation on earth, our black history month alone, attracting black people from all over the world, should be running into billions!
As summer is here and traditionally, this year we lose big again. How about the federal government making sure that the state government at least spend five percent of their allocation on tourism and do a public –private partnership, so they can develop the industry and earn. It is also about time that the government commission film makers to do documentaries on Nigeria’s destinations and use those destinations for films. Our film industry is regale in Africa. Film is part of a nation’s public relation; it’s a big propaganda machine.
If Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, and other African countries can do it, we can. We really don’t need to build, we have natures of mountains, springs, and tradition we can carefully package in glossy brochure and beautiful screens and sell, we need the will and the re orientation. We need civil servant in the tourism sector who are passionate, and not people who just report to earn salary. We need a separate ministry for tourism and we need a minister who understands that industry. We need a more supportive tourism board who carry the industry people along and knows them. And the President needs a special adviser who understands the business of tourism- I am a Nigerian and I am ready to serve.
Let the next summer be different.
He is the CEO of Butterfly Tourism Nigeria.