Nigerian tourism struggles amid growing insecurity
Amid the gradual recovery of global tourism from a devastating and ongoing pandemic leading to a loss of $1.2 trillion in the global tourism industry (UNWTO), 75 million job losses worldwide (WTTC 2020 ), of which 50% of job cuts in the aviation industry are likely permanent according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
With the ability to create massive jobs, attract foreign investment and foreign exchange, the sector is largely dependent on international tourists for its 20% contribution to the economy. However, widespread insecurity has made most parts of Nigeria unsafe. Insecurity resulting from the insurgency, communal killings caused by clashes between herders and farmers, COVID-induced loss of livelihoods, coupled with the “get-rich-quick” mentality, have increased kidnapping activities and ritual killings.
Managing Director of Infogem Limited and ITPN Vice President, South West, Otunba Ayo Olumoko, whose company has consulted on several tourism, culture and festivals in the South West, said the lack of security in all states in Nigeria had impacted business investment and international agency support for tourism. . “It is difficult to bring international tourists to Nigeria. Usually international scholars who want to learn more about Nigeria and Nigerian culture come. image of Nigeria,” he said.
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Insecurity is also threatening domestic tourism which has been hailed as “the low hanging fruit” to drive the sector’s growth post-pandemic. The President of the National Association of Travel Agents of Nigeria (NANTA), Susan Akooriaye, has said that Nigerians are unwilling to travel within the country due to increased insecurity activities. She noted that NANTA’s scheduling of its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Kano resulted in outright refusal by members to attend, let alone international tourists. Moreover, domestic tourism, she pointed out, “cannot bring (to Nigeria) the kind of money that it seeks to make in tourism by selling ‘Nigerian tourism’ to Nigerians alone. You earn more money and you add to the GDP if tourism is sold to foreigners”.
Motley Travels and Logistics Limited, an Abuja-based tourism company that offers tour packages to Nigerians and foreigners inside the country, has seen a drop in business due to insecurity. CEO Mark More said tourist trips which attracted 100 subscribers online had plummeted, with around 40 subscribers inquiring about safety, resulting in the reduction of his annual group visits.
“Usually, we would have around 250 people on a trip to Gurara Waterfall in Niger State. In recent years, a trip to Gurara Waterfall hardly attracts 20 to 30 tourists. the last year you barely have ten people sign up for a group trip, and it’s all centered around insecurity issues Obudu Cattle Ranch, which attracts tourists in December, has only seen about 64 people visited the site last year,” More lamented.
Whatever the dismal picture, private operators are taking the initiative to ensure their survival.