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Nigerian Tourism’s Foreign Exchange potentials could rival that of oil sector

It is not in doubt that the foreign exchange potentials of the Nigerian tourism industry are enormous. In a number of developing countries a significant proportion of gross domestic product is generated by activities designed to satisfy local and international tourism, which depending on the level of development could represent an important export activity. Globally, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) predicts that the number of international tourists will reach almost 1.6billion by the year 2020 (as opposed to 565m in 1995), and that international tourism receipts will exceed US$2.0trillion. The estimated growth of world international tourism arrivals of 4.5% per annum will pose enormous challenges and opportunities for many countries such as Nigeria.

At the Tourism Conference held in Vancouver, Canada in 1988, it was estimated that the tourism arrivals for the year would be 400m while the projected revenue would rank third among all exports; accounting for 6% of total world export and representing 25% of international trade and services. The estimates also showed that international travel would contribute almost 10-12% of the world’s gross product or US$2.0trillion in 1988.

Moreover, a recent survey by the World Tourism Organization on receipts from international Tourism, 1977-1981, showed the contributions of Tourism to the economic well-being of some African States including Nigeria. In 1981, the revenue accruing to Kenya was US$240m, Morocco US$440m, Tunisia US$581m and Nigeria US$55m, representing 20.2%, 17.9%, 26.5% and 0.3% of total exports respectively.   

Nigerians in Diaspora can help to promote Tourism at home

Nigeria’s quest for foreign tourists will face critical hurdles which only frustrate the objectives. There are numerous reasons why foreigners are not persuaded to travel to Nigeria except for business. The legion of travel warnings on the internet around Nigeria will scare even the brave hearted. In simple terms, foreigners are uncertain about spending hard earned and long term planned holidays to Nigeria amidst the hospitality, warmth and positive reviews of other regional destinations. However, personal ties make holidays easier and in this case, the Nigerian diaspora can fill this gap. The diaspora network have better flow of information and can easily sieve between the exaggerations and half-truths stalking Nigeria on the internet. A Nigerian in Chicago planning his holidays for Calabar can easily decipher the difference between Maiduguri and his planned destination. He can also call a cousin at home to understand how his planned holiday destination is exposed to a Boko Haram attack in Kano. Members of the diaspora can also blend well amongst the locals and do not attract extra security risks to them based on skin colour or ignorance of the local community. A tourism marketing strategy aimed at the Nigerian diaspora could help bridge the investment gap and lay the building blocks for a more developed hospitality industry.