Nigeria’s leading online travel agency Jumia Travel delves into examining some of the key tourism market segments that Nigeria can develop to improve the economy. The segments mentioned in this article are not the only existing segments. However, this article has identified 3 areas: Ecotourism, Cultural tourism & Heritage tourism.
The concept of ecotourism is no longer new. It simply refers to responsible travel to natural areas that help to conserve the environment and help to improve the welfare of local people. Ecotourism is often associated with destinations in remote areas. It also represents a subsector of tourism that is affiliated with environmental protection and, has the potential to contribute to sustainable development and to help ensure environmental sustainability. Africa has a vast and diverse natural landscape, wildlife and protected areas on the continent. So, this provides the continent with a competitive advantage in ecotourism and if properly harnessed, it will help to promote economic diversification and contribute to job creation and enterprise development, while helping to address underdevelopment in remote regions and intractable environmental challenges. Tourism establishments in forest reserves can create employment for unskilled workers such as, drivers, cleaners, and housekeepers at accommodation facilities. In addition to increasing incomes in local communities, employment opportunities in tourism can enhance employee skills and productivity. Opportunities to supply products and services to the tourism sector can help to ensure a sustainable market and increase incomes and other revenues in local communities derived from tourism-related activities, while minimizing economic leakages. Joint ventures between ecotourism establishments and local communities such as wildlife conservancies may be the effective mechanisms, for ensuring that local communities derive economic benefits from tourism resources in their communities while minimizing leakages.
When people travel to learn about the history and culture of a destination, it is called cultural tourism. It is another key tourism market that demands creative goods and services, including cultural products such as handicrafts, performance arts and music, which can be harnessed for economic growth. Handicrafts are key cultural products consumed in the tourism industry. Owing to low entry barriers, and as handicrafts require a low level of capital investment, there is potential to develop viable linkages between tourism and local handicrafts sectors that create economic opportunities for local artisans. On the demand side, hotels and restaurants can create business opportunities for local artisans who can supply handicrafts to furnish such establishments. Backward linkages can create business opportunities for semi-skilled and unskilled artisans in the informal sector. The demand for handicrafts can help to ensure a sustainable market for locally made handicrafts, and increase incomes and improve livelihoods in local communities (United Nations Conference on Trade & Development Report 2017). Tourism establishments can also facilitate market opportunities for local handicrafts by organizing markets on their premises, and through coordinated visits to local markets that allow tourists to source handicrafts, directly from local artisans. Moreover, engaging directly with local artisans and informal enterprises with few or no intermediaries allows for a greater capture of tourist expenditures by local artisans and encourages the utilization of local skills and materials, with tourism. Thus, it can generate an important source of income for semi-skilled and unskilled workers, while contributing to the preservation of local cultural heritages. Governments can play a role in helping to create an appropriate incentive structure, and an enabling environment for firms (such as hotel and guest house operators), to actively engage in integrating local artisans into local tourism value chains and ensuring that they benefit economically from the sector.
Although a small share of tourist expenditures is on handicrafts, several studies suggest that the economic benefits that accrue to the poor are comparatively high. For example, in Ethiopia, the crafts sector captures the largest share of tourist expenditures; $7 million (55 per cent) of $12.7 million in tourist expenditures on crafts benefits poor households, through income earned from employment or business opportunities (Mitchell and Ashley, 2009). In 2007, in Ethiopia, the average tourist spent $50 on handicrafts, half of which was income accrued by local artisans (International Trade Centre, 2010). Trade in cultural products can play an important role in driving informal business tourism, a substantial and important dimension of such tourism in regions such as Southern Africa (Rogerson, 2016).
There are quite a number of rich cultural heritages in Nigeria which may be harnessed to increase demand for diverse products, experiences and create markets based on cultural and recreational elements. Events and visits such as the following may be leveraged for income generation through employment and business opportunities, with cultural tourism thereby contributing to economic growth: music & film festivals in Osun Osogbo; visits to cultural heritage sites, such as Olumo rock in Abeokuta; Idanre hill in Ondo; Ancient Kano city walls; Ogbunike caves; and visits to museums and galleries. Cultural events contribute to local economies while supporting cultural diversity. Heritage tourism is a growing market segment with significant potential in product diversification. Heritage and cultural sites, which are often located in rural areas, can play a role in promoting local economic development. With regard to demand, heritage tourism can stimulate local employment, directly through the employment of tour guides and indirectly through the conservation of sites and the development of infrastructure such as cafes, restaurants and other facilities, as well as the maintenance of associated infrastructure, such as upgrades of roads.
Heritage tourism also offers opportunities for product development targeted at different market segments. In connection with visits to heritage and religious sites, there is potential to develop complementary sites, such as scenic routes and trails, aimed at adventure, leisure and business tourists, along with students visiting heritage sites. These have significant potential for the creation of linkages with, and boosting the competitiveness of local tour operators and other businesses providing services to tourists, while ensuring that young people and local communities benefit through employment and other revenues. Economic opportunities arising from heritage tourism have the potential to transform underdeveloped regions in which related sites are often located, and provide an impetus for regions to strive to overcome economic stagnation and decline (Rogerson and van der Merwe, 2016).