There seems to be bright prospects for the Nigerian tourism sector as international arrivals improve from less than 800,000 tourists this time last year to about 1.2 million at the end of the first half of 2018. The figure is expected to reach between 1.8 million to about two million by the end of the year, representing a growth of 1.5 percent, and contributing about N3.63 billion to the gross domestic product of the country.
Also, the domestic front of the tourism sector, which grew by about 5 percent last year, is set to improve as more Nigerians travel within the country for leisure and business purposes.
Moreover, the Nigerian Immigration Service has granted visa on arrival to over 12, 000 foreigners for business or vacation in Nigeria in the last six months at the Murtala Mohammed Airport Lagos.
With no fewer than 500 foreigners issued visas on arrival on a weekly basis and the number climbing to 1000 on several occasions, the country is likely going to receive more foreigners this year courtesy of the improved services, especially the seamless procurement of the once stressful Nigerian visa.
Speaking on the development, Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture, attributed the improvement on foreign visits to effort by the federal government at expanding the visa on arrival policy beyond Africa to more countries across the world.
“We used the hosting of the over 100 delegates at the 61st United Nations World Tourism Organisation Commission for Africa meeting in Abuja last June to further test run the visa on arrival policy and it worked perfectly. Now, we expect more visitors as visa is no longer an issue for visiting Nigeria”, the minister said.
However, a source from Nigerian Immigration Services noted that the policy is working, though it started in 2012 with Nigeria and nationals of Kenya until in 2017 under the Ease of Doing Business, the government decided to extend the scheme to cover all countries travelling into Nigeria on two categories of business and tourist.
But Omolara Adagunodo, managing director of Jumia Travel Nigeria, thinks that domestic tourism is also improving, especially with the improvement on tourism enabling infrastructure, product offerings and service. In her views captured in the 2018 Nigeria Hospitality Report, leisure and business; the two components of domestic tourism, both grew at 2.7 percent and 2.8 percent with N1.98 billion and N1.92 billion contributions respectively to domestic earnings in 2017.
She also noted that the growth in domestic tourism is expected to creation about 3.4 million jobs in the sector this year, as well as, offer more investment opportunities in hotels, tours, car hire services, destination management, flight and road transportation, art and craft among other related businesses.
Jemi Alade, a Lagos-based tour operator, noted that destination managers are springing up across the country and repacking attractions to appeal to the Nigerian travellers unlike before where tour operators demand on hype to market destinations instead of the experience, which the present generation consider to buy into tour packages.
For him, though recession is over, the impact still lingers as some Nigerian who couldn’t travel abroad for holiday at the peak of the recession and who also resorted to domestic destinations, now want to explore more local offerings. “All we need is repackaging, improving on products and services culture and more Nigerians will travel within for leisure”.
Speaking on the fear that instability courtesy of security concerns and the fact that Nigeria is going into election year in 2019 may deter foreign visits, Martin Akah, a globetrotter and security expert, assured that Nigeria has passed the stage of such fears as events in the past have always been resolved without threat to the visitors in the country.
“There is crude oil, huge population, biggest market in Africa, cheap labour, relaxed tax regime, coupled with the improvement on ease of doing business. All these will woo investors and tourists no matter the security situation in the country. Foreigners here hardly leave the country in drove”, he said.