By News Desk, with Agency report
The Director-General, Budget Office of Federation, Ben Akabueze, has said that tourism is capable of creating job opportunities and driving short-term growth and longer-term structural change.
He hinted that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) recognised that rich bio-diversity in Nigeria’s ecosystem, her cultural diversity, historical cities and arts and craft wereyet to be fully tapped.
At the 20th Annual General Meeting and Election of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria, Akabueze made a presentation with a title: “Financing as a Catalyst to Sustainable Tourism Development”, and noted that the tourism was recognised in the ERGP as one of the ingredients needed to achieve economic growth.
“By addressing under-developed infrastructure, security challenges, lack of attractive options for vacationing at home, and insufficient investment, the sector is expected to contribute to government revenues and foreign exchange earnings,’’ Akabueze said.
According to him, the objectives of the policy was to enhance contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), increase numbers of visitors to Nigeria by 10 per cent annually from 2017 and increase volume of domestic tourism.
“It is also to promote and encourage patronage of local agricultural, creative industry and manufactured products by operators in the industry and strengthen backward and forward linkages and conserve foreign exchange,” The former Lagos State Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget added.
Akabueze further said that the strategic activities to ensure the realisation of the objectives include infrastructure connectivity to promote tourism.
He said policies and strategies to support the sector as well as investment in physical, security infrastructure and skills developments were required.
“Promote national calendar of festivals and events in short term and develop value proposition around major clusters, launch awareness campaign to promote tourism and ease visa requirement to increase tourist arrivals.
“Improve security to encourage domestic and international mobility and review tourism legislation and eliminate overlapping functions among regulating agencies,’’ he said.
The budget office head, who was represented by Technical Assistant, Olayinka Babalola, disclosed that the sector’s contribution to employment was relatively closer to the world average but significantly higher than the SSA average.
Akabueze gave a comparative analysis on main trends in the tourism sector in Africa and emphasised that tourism’s contribution to 2016 GDP in Nigeria was less than half the world average but significantly higher than the Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) average.
“Visitors export (spending within a country by international tourists for leisure and business travel) in Nigeria is low, close to the SSA average. However, travel and tourism investment in Nigeria in 2016 was higher than the world average, close to the values for South Africa and Egypt and much higher than the SSA average,” he said.
He stressed that there were challenges that made it difficult for the sector to achieve the desired results. He, however, maintained that there was the need to finance tourism destinations, adding that investment had to be made.
“Airports, seaports, rail and roads need to be developed through financing; we also need to finance good quality hotel and security infrastructure.’”
Akabueze reiterated that the tourism industry was a small segment of service sector but had the potential for job creation, expanding foreign exchange earnings and national output.