Op ed

Nigeria’s Seaside(s) can become a cash cow

nigeria-beach_and_sea_7I have just returned from a holiday (18th September, 2010) from a seaside resort, somewhere in the southwestern part of England. This is the third of such seaside holidays in two years. At each holiday, I always wondered, how we Nigerians have failed to develop our tourism industry. Tourism within Nigeria can become a cash cow, and has the potentials of creating massive employment opportunities.

Most Caribbean countries survive on tourism. My cousin, who resides in Saint Marteen (Netherland Anthills), a tiny Island in the Caribbean, tells me that his employer’s make more profits each time tourist(s) ships berths. Another of my kinsmen, who resides inAntigua, makes his money by selling souvenirs to tourists. The interesting part of the story is that, he comes to Nigeria to buy most of the items he sells to tourists. Caribbean Islands are tourists delight, partly because of the beaches, seasides, tropical climates/weather conditions, etc. These tourist attraction centers are in abundant supplies in Nigeria.

The question remains why have we under exploited this important sector of our economy. Another thing that I realized during my vacation was that, there were a lot of hotels (various sizes; 1 star, 2star, 3star, 4star and 5 star hotels) in the city that I was. It appeared all the buildings in the town were, a hotel, pub (beer parlor), restaurant, club, fast food joints, souvenirs shops, casino house, cinema, etc. Imagine a situation where, the entire Victoria Island Lagos is full of hotels etc. Then came the various boat rides. A lot of ferries were present to take people for sailing into the high seas or within the shorelines. All these were for a fee.

There were those surfing the water and those using the small boats for sailing. Two categories of people were involved. Those preparing for sporting activities, and those on leisure trips. I also lost count of flying boats etc. In addition, I noticed that there were many fishing trawlers/boats off loading fresh seafoods. Adverts were displaced all over the place, for those wishing to join the sailing clubs, fishing clubs, and other water related sporting activities.

As I took time to enjoy my vacation/holiday, a thought was going on in my mind, that these activities can be replicated in Nigeria, and perhaps more. Imagine were there are ferry services, for tourists from River Niger to Oguta lake or to River Benue etc. Please permit me to suggest, to fellow Nigerians, to consider investing in our tourism industry. People living near the seasides (Oguta, Onitsha, Asaba, Lagos, Port Harcourt, etc) should think of what, and how to attract people in their areas. Sailing, surfing, and other water related sporting activities should be developed. Nigerians can engage in such sporting events, and train to participate in international tournaments.

In addition to Nigerian seasides, there are other tourists attractions all over the country or places that should be designated tourist centers, examples are; Enugu coalmine, Ogbunike cave, Ojukwu bunker, Obudu cattle ranch, etc. I will suggest villages/towns where these places are located, to do more awareness to attract people. When tourist(s) visits a place, they spend money on hotels, buying souvenirs, local products etc, and these expenditures in turn increase the economy of the local people. I will also suggest to secondary schools, higher institutions, and universities to add excursions (visits tohistorical places, industrial establishments etc) as part of their academic curricular.

As a young boy in secondary school, our teachers arranged an excursion for us to visit Port Harcourt Petroleum Refinery at Eleme. Members of our class learnt a lot from that excursion. Since then (over twenty years), I have not revisited the refinery again, but its still fresh in my memory.

Cultural dances/festivals taking places within various communities should be made known to people (thru adverts, leaflets, etc). Village heads should make their contacts available to the public. Communities/towns with tourist centers should nominate trusted people as tour guides.  I suggest a directory of cultural festivals to be compiled. Individuals and government should start investing in our untapped tourism industry. May God bless Nigeria.

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