Boosting tourism vital for economic growth, says industry stakeholders

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By Taiye Olayemi, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

On Aug. 16, 2023, President Bola Tinubu heeded the called by tourism industry stakeholders for the creation of a stand-alone Ministry of Tourism in the country, with the appointment of Lola Ade-John as the minister to spearhead affairs of the ministry.

The creation of the first-ever Ministry of Tourism was greeted by celebrations and jubilation among stakeholders across the nation.

One year into the present administration, some tourism practitioners while commending the government for the creation of the ministry, however, fault its budget allocation.

The ministry has an allocation of N11.06 billion in the 2024 budget, of which the sum of N3.96 billion is for recurrent expenditures while N7. 30 billion is for capital expenditure.

Ime Udo, National President, Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), advised President Bola Tinubu to ensure a substantial budget allocation for the tourism industry to support large-scale capital projects, marketing initiatives and capacity building.

Udo said it was necessary for the government to revitalise the industry, which has been abandoned for a long.

“The allocated budget of N11.06 billion for the tourism ministry in 2024 is a meagre sum, considering the industry’s neglect over the years and the need to execute significant capital projects.

“Recurrent expenditures account for a substantial portion (N3.96 billion), leaving limited funds for capital projects (N7.30 billion).

“To revitalise the industry, a more substantial budget allocation is necessary to support initiatives like infrastructure development, marketing campaigns, and capacity building.

“I believe tourism as a whole needs a lot more investment and budget than what we currently have.

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“Tourism marketing and promotion does not only benefit the sites, attractions or festivals but also the entire socio-economic landscape of the people,” she says.

Udo further advised that going forward, a comprehensive tourism master plan must be developed, outlining strategies for sustainable development, growth and investment in human capacity building, training tourism professionals, and enhancing service standards.

She harped on the need for tourism and hospitality practitioners to leverage technology for digital marketing and virtual tours to showcase Nigeria’s rich cultural and natural heritage.

For Ikechi Uko, a tourism consultant, the ministry is yet to receive its full support from the government.

“No office, no vehicles, no take-off grant, so, for now, we are waiting for the government to fund and support its new baby to help realise the full potential of the purpose of its creation.”

According to Gbenga Sunmonu, President, Nigerian Hotel and Catering Institute (NHCI), the tourism industry has not faired well in the last one year.

Sunmonu says this is a result of the low budget made available for the sector which cannot make any significant impact in the promotion of tourism.

“The budget allocation is abysmal. This is just a fragment compared to some MDAs in the country.

“To groom the industry, the government should approach a holistic strategy starting from increasing the budget through appropriation.

“The minister should be intentional to develop all year-round programmes along geo-political zones; involve the state commissioners and be ready to mass promote using all agencies of government,” he said.

Sunmonu advised the Federal Government to reinstate the Presidential Advisory Committee on Tourism and walk the talk.

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“The tourism minister should minimise junketing across states and be purposeful in the visits to attract others to create wealth.

“Let the states make their respective tourism boards effective,” he says.

On his part, Nkereuwem Onung, National President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), called for the release of a take-off grant for the new Ministry of Tourism.

“One of the bane of tourism development in Nigeria is lack of funding. Some state tourism budgets are higher than the federal tourism budget.

“I call on the federal government to release the take-off grant for the young ministry. We need a structured programme for the industry that will enable us to move on a predetermined trajectory.

Onung saaid going forward, the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of the ministry should be made public while appropriate records of international arrivals, domestic tourism potential and delivery be made available to all.

According to him, this will aid the growth of the industry over time.

Tourism is one of the biggest economic activities in the world today. It involves the pursuit of recreation, relaxation, and pleasure while making use of the commercial provision of services.

The tourism industry with its enormous potential is capable of generating the needed employment opportunities for the teaming youth as well as engaging them in meaningful ventures.

Stakeholders said the industry, if well positioned, can successfully boost Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings through the development of inbound and outbound tourism.

They said while the government should be committed to taking deliberate and giant steps in creating an enabling environment for tourism businesses to thrive by making available the needed infrastructures and basic amenities, the private practitioners are meant to consolidate on this to build an attractive and formidable industry, capable of contributing significantly to economic growth. (NANFeatures)

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Edited by Folasade Adeniran

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