…as Nigeria slides down in global ranking.
Despite her boundless tourism potential, Nigeria has once again slipped in the global tourism ranking, leaving smaller sub-Saharan African countries to take the shine.
According to the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017, released by the World Economic Forum this April, Nigeria ranks 129 out of 136 economies across the world, and far below some of the 30 Sub Sahara African countries captured in the report.
Spain leads in the overall ranking, South Africa leads in the Sub Saharan Africa, while Cote d’Ivoire leads the West Africa region at 109; an improvement on its 117 position in 2015 ranking.
Though Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report, remains on aggregate as the region where Travel & Tourism competitiveness is the least developed, only South Africa performed above the world average, while Cote d’Ivoire rose eight places, which is an increase of international tourists’ arrivals from 380,000 in 2013 to 1.4 million in 2015.
The report assessed individual country’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness on 14 pillars, of which Côte d’Ivoire bettered its scores on nine pillars, with a remarkable improvement in international openness since implementing a visa liberalisation policy, increased level of its qualified labour force, improved its safety, security, its ICT readiness among others.
Not surprised at the poor ranking, Ikechi Uko, CEO, Akwaaba Travel Market, noted that Nigeria has not done enough in the development of its tourism in the recent past, as sustainable development in the sector requires long term planning. Uko however observed that Nigeria can improve and sustain better ranking if stakeholders in the industry collaborate, instead of treading blames.
“Tourism cannot develop in isolation, you need collaboration. So, our tourism will grow and impact positively on the economy when all stakeholders collaborate in lifting it, when the business environment is friendly enough to attract the needed investments for infrastructural development, enabling laws are in place, especially to safeguard investments and investor confidence, along with human capital development and an improved service culture”.
Speaking on the development, James Odika, a destination manager and consultant with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, noted that the country should have impressed in the cultural resources and business friendliness; two of the pillars of the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness assessment, going by the huge cultural heritage across the country and as business hub for the west African region, but failed because of the neglect in developing the culture sector away from dancing to revenue earner.
“Nigeria, which prides herself as a business destination, is losing an average of 5,000 tourists every month to her West African neighbours who invested in their tourism. Most of these tourists visit other ECOWAS countries for tourism, after doing business in Nigeria because the country has not been sold to them as a tourism destination, and even if there were such attempts, then where are the products, what are we marketing to foreigners as Nigerian tourism products?” Odika asked.
For him, the countries ranking can improve and be sustained when the significant influx of business visitors are turned to tourist, as obtains in mature destinations such as Dubai and South Africa.
“To continue attracting more tourists, even from the growing business visitors, Nigeria needs to develop a better offer, improve on leisure infrastructure, make airports passenger friendly, improve on service culture, visa, while price competitiveness should also be monitored because Nigeria has become more expensive to visit this year, due to increased airport and taxes which airlines push to passengers”,
But Segun Runsewe, director-general, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and erstwhile director-general, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, insists that it takes only the right and sustained collaborations to change the culture narratives in Nigeria, especially to appeal to tourists and earn foreign exchange.
Runsewe observes that instead of apportioning blame, all stakeholders in the Nigerian arts, culture and tourism should work together to grow the sectors to a level that it can easily woo investors, improve infrastructure, skilled manpower and ultimately woo tourists’ dollars and better Nigeria’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness ranking.
Against opinions, especially by the private sector that government is not doing enough to make tourism count in the economy and global scene, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, said government is making moves to improve on Nigeria’s tourism ranking.
According to Mohammed, winning the right to host African Tourism Ministers in 2018 is one of such initiatives to market Nigeria’s tourism to the world.
The minister pointed out that Nigeria won the hosting right by acclamation, following his presentation of a five-minute video, entitled ”Simply Nigeria”, to delegates at the 59th edition of the UNWTO CAF Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and hopes to do more in that regard.
However, the minster needs to work with NTDC, NCAC, immigration, airlines, tour operators, destination owners, hotels, among other stakeholders, to truly impact tourism development and improve Nigeria’s ranking in global tourism, stakeholders say.