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By Olamilekan Okeowo - The Culture Newspaper

Select key stakeholders in the tourism sector have developed a new roadmap for the development of domestic tourism in Nigeria. The roadmap, they posited, would develop the Nigerian tourism sector into a thriving business and the best means of diversifying the nation’s economy as it has been established that tourism is the largest employer of labor, with a multiplier effect.

This roadmap, which was unfolded recently by the group during a webinar conference, is expected to serve as the fulcrum for growing the vast and diverse potential of the sector into a money-spinner. The group said tourism can only develop through the concerted efforts of the private sector hence the new move, which enjoys the support of one of the leading banking institutions in the country.

Members of the group, which is made of some of the most experienced and successful tourism entrepreneurs and marketing professionals, are Otunba Olawanle Akinboboye; founder/CEO, La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, who heads the team, Isaac and Nneka Moses; founders, Goge Africa Worldwide Limited, Efetobo Awhana; founder/CEO, Nigeria Travel Week, Dr. Mohammad Adamu, founder, Bauchi Friends, and Brian e Ebden, Strategic Director/Brand Consultant, TEOO Universal Concepts, as well as Sterling Bank, as the financial institution backing the entire project.

The group in its document, ‘Collaborative tourism practitioners’ roadmap for the development of domestic tourism in Nigeria,’ noted that Nigeria as a country is blessed with diverse potentials dotting the 774 local government areas, spanning 923, 768 square kilometers and supported by over 200 million population made of a growing middle class and vibrant youth force, which makes the country a rich market to be explored by both investors and tourists.

It also noted that for meaningful development to take place in the sector, a bottom to top approach mechanism must be adopted and that Nigerian domestic scene must also be aligned with what obtains in the international tourism scene, with Nigeria adopting a central theme or focus as it is obtained in the global tourism ecosystem, for which the international tourism, including the domestic market, should know Nigeria for.

Based on this, the chairman of the group, Akinboboye, disclosed that the central theme for Nigerian tourism as recommended by the group should be Cultural and Heritage Tourism, on which other sub-themes revolve.

Noting that Nigeria boasts suffusing and effervescent cultural heritage, which is quite unique and pristine.

According to Akinboboye: ‘‘that is our strength, we want to be known as the cultural capital of the world as no other country has such abundant and unique cultural heritage as we do. So, we need to build our destination on that central theme and then other aspects would evolve around it.’’

He further stated that it is only when this is done and Nigeria becomes noted for its cultural heritage as the East Africans are noted for safari and wildlife (Ecotourism) tourism, that real development and marketing of the tourism sector for the benefits of the people and country can be achieved.

Therefore, he said that the group has developed a tourism roadmap for the development of domestic tourism in Nigeria, adding that anybody is welcome to participate in this new move as the document, which has been made public, is expected to form the basis or foundation for participation and investment by interested entrepreneurs and stakeholders.

As a result of the adoption of this central theme for the country’s tourism sector, the group in taking a holistic view of the global tourism ecosystem listed some of the tourism products that can be developed in tandem with the central theme and other sub-themes in order for the country tourism to fit into the global tourism ecosystem.

The document further stated that Nigerians should focus more on developing tourist destinations as opposed to tourist attractions as attractions are not what ignite the interest of the tourists in a country but the destinations which offer the tourists the opportunities to explore and spend money on the activities generated by the destinations.

On this score, the group in the document recommended the creation of destinations across the six geo-political zones of the country based on the peculiarities, cultural affinities, and other elements of states within these zones. To set the ball rolling for others to follow and join, they outlined the creation of destinations such as Destination Oodua, Destination Arewa, Destination Kwenu, and Destination Carbd.

It would be recalled that Sterling Bank had earlier made N5 billion seed fund available for investment in tourism. Following this, investors with bankable proposals are expected to benefit from the initial disbursement of between N250, 000 and N500, 000 funding for approved projects. The funding is expected to be increased as the project progresses.

Already, the project has attracted the support and participation of some of the state governments, with Bayelsa, Osun, Nasarawa, and Lagos states signing up while the Senior Adviser on Tourism to Governor Babajide SanwoOlu of Lagos State, Solomon Bonu, has been made a member of the group’s steering committee.

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