Mass tourism in Nigeria
Tourism has been defined variously by various scholars over the years to include the business of travel for leisure, recreation and or research; however for the purpose of this paper the definition put forward by Aremu 2001 will be used. According to him; “tourism can be defined as the science, art, and business of attracting and transporting visitors, accommodating them and catering for their needs and wants. The entire world industry of travel, hotels, transportation, and all other components including promotion, serves the needs and wants of travelers. Tourism today has been given new meaning, and it is primarily a term in economics referring to an industry” (McIntosh et al, 1977, Aremu D.A 2001).
From the above given definition mass tourism would therefore involve, the large scaled efforts of governments and peoples of a country towards establishing, providing and maintaining tourism and tourism enhancement services.
Nigeria has enormous and widely spread quantity of qualitative tourism sites and or cultural activity. For each of the thirty six states in the country; there is at least two or more site that has potential for national and or international tourism attraction.
Tourism resources in Nigeria
The tourism resources in Nigeria cannot be exhaustively listed in this write up but an attempt will be made at enumerating a few of such resources as well as an attempt to group such resources into different categories. Worldwide there are largely three basic categories of tourism i.e. cultural tourism, religious tourism and ecotourism. (Lawrence B. Marguba in Aremu D.A. 2001).
Cultural tourism in Nigeria
Cultural tourism involves visit or tours to cultural sites or historical sites, it involves a visit or tours that gives one detailed exposition about the life ways of people visited both past and present, this also include cultural festivals and celebrations. According to Marguba 2001, “the most memorable cultural tourist destinations include: in the north, the annual Argungu festival in kebbi state; annual Sallah Durbar, Kastina state; Gidan Hausa…….. In the south; Eyo masquerade of Lagos state; the Olumo Rock of Ogun state; Ikogosi Warm Spring in Ondo state” to mention a few.
Religious tourism in Nigeria
Religious tourism involves visit to religious sites and sometimes participation in religious festivals and celebrations, there are several colorful religious festivals that can be of tourism significance in Nigeria. There are several religious sites of significant importance in Nigeria scattered all over the states, in fact one could be tempted to say that there are as many sites as there are tribes. In the south for example the Ogun (god of iron) shrine in Ipole with a yearly worship done at the shrine and a lot of masquerade display and other cultural displays), in Osun state, there is the Osun Osogbo groove that has a traditional festival attached to it, there is also the Sungbo Eredo site in Ogun state and also the Olumo rock at both sites there is a yearly festival, also there are shrines and worshiper living around this sites, these worshipper know part of the oral history of this sites and can serve as good informants for interested researchers, the Hubbari (Shehu Usman Dan Fodio’s tomb) in Sokoto to mention a few. Most of the sites of historic significance also have strong religious undertones attached to them along side religious festivals and celebrations.
Ecotourism in Nigeria
Ecotourism or nature tourism is a well known and well developed form of tourism all over the world. “Ecotourism is nature based tourism that involves education on and interpretation of, the natural environment as it is managed to be ecologically sustainable” (Marguba L.B. in Aremu 2001). Yankari Game reserve is the first protected area in Nigeria since 1956; the area is protected and has now been up-graded into a national park. Today in Nigeria there are several parks, zoos, nature reserves, game sanctuaries, biosphere reserves, museums and other sites of ecotourism importance in Nigeria. According to Marguba 2001 there is a total of 731 protected areas in Nigeria, there are 32 game reserves and game sanctuaries, 8 newly created national parks totaling about 3,533,788 ha. in the country. Nigeria has 97 million ha. Of mangrove communities, this nearly accounts to about 35 of West African mangrove forest. There are also in Nigeria 3 Ramsar sites or internationally recognized wetland ecosystems frequented by immigrant palearctic birds, which covers a total area of 47,200 ha.
Ecological tourism resources in Nigeria also include the various beaches and coastal areas scattered all over the country, there several of such sites in the areas where the Atlantic Ocean circumvents the country, there are also several rivers, and lakes both manmade and natural all over the country. The availability of such water bodies allow for leisure activities that may be of touristic value such as beach surfing, leisure fishing, beach soccer, sun tanning and so many other ventures. The location of Nigeria on the West African coastland is another added advantage for mass tourism development as it provides avenue for various variety and diversity of ecosystems and also the opportunity for diverse types of tourism practices and attractions for tourist.
All the above listed are just a few out of the lots of possible tourist sites in Nigeria that if well developed will yield great economic returns for the nation and consequently create large sources of employment for the populace.
Developing the mass tourism potentials of sites and cultures in Nigeria
Considering the size of the country, the relatively large size of land area and the availability of the seven different classifications of the ecosystems, it becomes expedient for the government and peoples of Nigeria to work on developing at least two of each site scattered across the states in the nation. The move at developing at least two sites in each state of the federation will tend to promote even development across the shores and borderline of the country.
If at least two of the numerous sites in each state are given proper attention every year at the end of the four year term of every government regime, at least six tourist attraction sites and or activities would have received adequate attention.
Tourism education for the people
The Nigerian populace is largely unaware of the importance of tourism, tourism still sounds as a distant idle state of being, most Nigerians do not understand the concept of tourism and leisure let alone the economic potentialities it holds for the nation as a source of income, or as a financially viable sector of the economy (Alabi A.A 2001). It is important therefore that there be mass tourism education for the Nigerian populace and even stake holders.
There is also need for innovation and creativity on the part of both the government and people of Nigeria, to effectively develop tourism there must be genuine interest and innovation. This gives room to creativity and the borrowing of ideas from countries that have well grounded tourism practices. There is also a need for a proper planning of land use acts and a detailed survey done with the interest of tourism in mind for the country, it would be a near impossibility if we do not have a sound landscape planning. Such landscape plan will give details as to where and what type of construction and or economic activities would be allowed in various parts of the country.
Government legislation to promote and encourage both local and foreign investment in tourism
Just as it has already been done in some African countries such as Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, the Gambia and some other countries, Nigeria as the acclaimed giant of Africa needs to take and implement some giant stride legislations that would support;
· A less cumbersome foreign investment process in matters pertaining to tourism and tourism related enterprises.
· Easy flow of arrivals and their movement (though not in an environmentally detrimental manner) within the country.
· Reduction of tax levied on tourism and hospitality related business, or as is the case in the Gambia a five year tax free period for all tourism based investments.
· Provision of financial aids and incentives to nationals interested in the tourism business with a minimal interest rate charged per annum on such financial loans.
· Strategic planning, development, promotion, and marketing of the nations tourism activities within and outside the country through well equipped establishments and organs.
Deliberate change of attitude of government toward tourism and development related matters
It is most expedient for the government of Nigeria to actually have a deliberate change of attitude towards tourism as a foreign exchange and internal revenue generating and economically viable sector. It becomes pertinent to point out that so far the tourism segment of the Nigerian economy has been hitherto treated as a more or less uneconomically viable sector and the sector has suffered neglect as well as some other important sectors such as agriculture (Aremu D.A. 2012 Pers comm.). When the change of attitude has effectively occurred, it becomes possible for there to be the development of the basic infrastructure needed to enhance the growth of the tourism sector. As it stands, many potential tourist sites in Nigeria have inaccessible roads and such infrastructure have to be put in place for there to be any form of reasonable development.
In view of such aforementioned situation, the onus is on the government to also provide other basic social amenities such as; good and accessible roads nationwide, relatively constant electricity supply and proper water supply. When such basic amenities are in place, the development of sites for tourism activities becomes easier, less stressful to start up and also cost of setting up tourism operating ventures become reduced.
National security and tourism development
This is a very important aspect of mass tourism development. As the security achievable in a country increases so also will the level and quantity of tourist visiting such a country rise (Ogundele S.O, Sowunmi M.A, Folorunso C.A, Aremu D.A, in Aremu 2001). Security determines the attractiveness of the country especially to international tourist. Nigeria is yet to achieve a very good height of national security, as the cases of civil unrest is widely on the increase. It is therefore important for the country to place checks on the security situation of her states and engage in activities that will foster national unity, growth, and development.
Local governments and grassroots mass tourism development
Local governments play a vital role in mass tourism development as it is in such local governments that the tourism materials are located. These local governments represent the closest links to both national and states sites of tourist attraction. For most tourist sites to grow, it is important to first secure the co-operation of the local populace. Firstly it should be noted that most tourist sites belong firstly to the people and in most cases the local population have more attachment and claim to the sites especially in the case of religious sites. In some other cases the local population may not be aware of the significance and touristic importance of tourism sites around them and in this sense; there is dire need for education as lack of such education may lead to damage or total loss of the site. Local and grass roots participation is therefore of uttermost importance to mass tourism development.
At this point it should be noted that there are established federal, state and local government parastatals, which are the national tourism development commission, the state tourism board/ ministry and the local government tourism committee respectively. The local government development committee (came about as a result of the Decree 81, of 1992 on tourism) is supposed to be headed by the local government chairman and have as members a councilor or supervisor from the local government, a representative of the ministry of tourism charged with the responsibility of matters relating to tourism, three specialists who are knowledgeable on tourism related issues, the divisional police officer, and a traditional ruler. The main trust of such a committee would be the identification of potential tourist sites and activities in the locality and communication of the existence of such sites with government officials both at the state and federal levels. Such committee is supposed to help in fostering mass tourism development in the states and the country as a whole.
To enjoy mass tourism in Nigeria, the issue of national security must have been properly dealt with and put in check. There is also need of a conscious consistent trend in the development of tourism and its related enterprises/spheres. There is a need to encourage and educate the national populace on the need and importance for tourism consciousness, preservation and conservation of potential tourist sites and facilities, and also to desist from destructive activities.
Tourism is an economically viable sector which if paid particular attention can out do the present returns gotten from crude oil exploitation. Tourism is acclaimed to be the world’s largest foreign exchange earner, and an emerging field of large foreign exchange earning in most West African countries. It’s a sector that undoubtedly improves nation’s level of development and has an unporported impact on poverty alleviation. It is therefore important to pay attention to such an industry that allows for grassroots participation and also provide direct income for such grassroots participants. For mass tourism to thrive in Nigeria, the need for the provision of basic social amenities cannot be over emphasized.
A nation that must grow, and invariably develop; should not allow any form of waste of it resources, and or the underutilization of one resource at the expense of another.
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Aremu D.A. (2001): “Organizing Tourism Committees and Survey of Tourist Resource in Local Government Areas in Nigeria” in Cultural and Ecotourism Development Management in Nigeria. Edited by D.A. Aremu. Hope Publications, Ibadan.
Folorunso C.A. (2001): “Exploring the Frontiers of Tourism: A Global view” in Cultural and Ecotourism Development Management in Nigeria. Edited by D.A. Aremu. Hope Publications, Ibadan.
Marguba L.B. (2001): “The Relevance of Tourism (cultural and ecotourism) in Nigeria Towards our 21st Century National Development” in Cultural and Ecotourism Development Management in Nigeria. Edited by D.A. Aremu. Hope Publications, Ibadan.
Ogundele S.O. (2001): “Tourism Development in Nigeria a Grassroots Perspective” in Cultural and Ecotourism Development Management in Nigeria. Edited by D.A. Aremu. Hope Publications, Ibadan.
Oyelaran P.A. (2001): “Community Participation in Tourist Resource Management in Nigeria” in Cultural and Ecotourism Development Management in Nigeria. Edited by D.A. Aremu. Hope Publications, Ibadan.
Showunmi M.A. (2008): “Tourism and Security: facing the Challenges” in Preservation of Land, Culture and Wildlife for Development of Ecotourism in Nigeria. By D.A. Aremu, Spectrum book publishers, Ibadan.