Posts Tagged ‘growing domestic tourism nigeria’

Nigeria

Nigeria Tourism

By VICTOR NZE

To say that Nigeria’s nature and wildlife parks as tourist destinations are in dire need of attention is understating the obvious, even as operators in the industry have continually raised the alarm over the precarious and dilapidated state of infrastructure in these destinations spread across the country for years.

And while for some of these destinations, especially those located in the North East geo-political zones like the Mambilla Plateau and the Sukur Cultural Landscape, all in Adamawa State, the Gashaka Gumti National Park in Taraba State, Yankari Games Reserve in Bauchi State, their problems may well be rooted in the Boko Haram insurgency, however, for others, it has been a simple case of institutional neglect and abandonment by all the tiers of government.

Recently, a study commissioned by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO) on its natural World Heritage Sites found out that 46 percent of these sites including the Sukur Cultural landscape had no active tourism management plan. The research also found about 105 sites of the 229 natural UNESCO sites lack tourism management plans.

Sukur Cultural landscape, which is one of the Nigeria’s only two UNESCO acclaimed natural heritage sites, rarely gets a look-in from government quarters, a problem further compounded by the fact of its not having any major national festival attached to it.

Few visitors dare the destination for accessibility and security factors, with no attempt by the state or federal government to improve accessibility with the retention of its natural topography still protected.

“In terms of years since listing, newer or more recently inscribed World Heritage sites were more likely to have extensive planning or at least moderate tourism planning, compared with sites that had been listed a very long time ago,” the UNESCO report said.

Only last month, management of the Ogba Zoo and Nature Park, in Benin City, Edo State, rushed to the Edo State Government to appeal to the State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to intervene in what the management described as the destruction of its facilities by vandals in addition to the ‘conversion of the land for private development.’

Director/CEO of the Ogba Zoo & Nature Park, Mr. Andy Osa Ehanire had also urged Governor Obaseki to quickly set up a panel to investigate the circumstances surrounding the loss of nearly 70 per cent of the company’s land to land grabbers.

“We seek the intervention of His Excellency the Governor of Edo State, to set up a special investigative panel to look into the destruction of the Zoo Staff quarters and the conversion of the land for private development, in violation of a subsisting Arbitration judgement.

“This investigation should naturally extend to the scandalous incursions and destruction of nearly 70 per cent of the zoo, since we currently hold the unenviable record of being the most vandalized Zoo in Nigeria. We have absolute confidence in the integrity of the Governor to do justice to these disturbing issues plaguing Ogba Zoo, as only a panel set up by the Governor can guarantee neutrality, rather than the intended investigation by the House of Assembly,” said Ehanire.

Commendably, Obaseki has since acceded to the appeal of the Zoo’s management with the setting up of an investigative committee to look into these complaints.

However, in other states, the case is not the same, as Nigeria continues to lose huge revenues at the expense of out-bound tourism following the unattractiveness of local destinations, some of which have either been overgrown with weeds, or closed shops.

The case becomes even worrisome when viewed against Federal Government’s expressed commitment to grow the tourism sector and make it a major revenue earner for the country, and also with the new policy statement by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) to focus on developing domestic tourism.

Only last week, Members of the Plateau House of Assembly Committee on Culture and Tourism decried the poor state of the Jos Wildlife Park.

According to Chairman of the committee, Mr Nyam Daren, who led other members on a visit to the park in Jos, this facility as one of the treasures of the state, has suffered so much neglect in the recent past.

“It is obvious that this park needs government special attention to make it regain its past glory. We are blessed with so much tourist sites, but sadly, they have been neglected by successive administrations in the state.

“So, if the government is serious about revenue generation, then it must go back and fix the tourism sector and make it more attractive and viable,” Dareng said.

The conditions inside the park was so appalling, members took turns to carpet the tourism sector in the state.

While, a member of that committee, Mr Jacob Kassam, decried the poor feeding pattern for the animals in the park, and also calling on State Governor, Simon Lalong, to also visit the park to assess the situation, another member of the committee, Mr Eric Dakota, called on the government to ensure prompt release of funds for the rehabilitation of the park.

Earlier, General Manager of the Plateau Tourism Cooperation, Mr John Doi, equally called on the government to revive the park without further delay.

It would be recalled that earlier this month, President of the Hotel Owners Forum, Abuja (HOFA), Dr. Chike Ezeudeh, urged the Federal government to institute a development fund for tourism and hospitality for private sector investors to help expand the sector.

“The loan can be given at a single digit interest rate to genuine investors in the sector. The fund is absolutely necessary because presently, you cannot get loan from the bank; also even if you build a hotel, it needs constant renovation,” he said.

According to the hotelier, the fund could help investors develop tourist venues to encourage inbound tourists to support these sites across Nigeria, while further stressing that maintaining good hotels and tourist destinations in the country would encourage Nigerians to remain in the country for vacation instead of traveling to destinations in other countries.

Experts posit that any move by government geared towards developing domestic tourism in the country without rehabilitating the various wildlife and nature parks would fail as these destinations constitute the biggest draw in terms of revenue earnings.

This is just as many also believe that privatization of these sites should also not be ruled out in the quest to diversify the economy and grow the tourism sector.

“With the abject state of our parks and nature reserves, it will not be out of place for the government to declare an emergency in the industry so that these iconic sites can get the attention they need. I don’t even understand why state governments build hotels in the middle of nowhere in their states as if a tourist will leave his home just to come and stay in your five-star hotel. There has to be attractions like parks and games reserves where people can come and see while residing in your hotels,” opined Ms Gladys, CEO of MGs Travels in Ikeja, Lagos.