An expert and tourism consultant in Nigeria, Mr. Olatunbokun Benjamin has identified low investment in tourism as one of the factors hindering the sector from contributing significantly to Nigeria’s economy, in spite of its enormous natural and cultural endowments, and has called for increased allocation for development of tourism products in the country.

This was contained in a paper, titled, “Domestic Tourism: A Catalyst for Rural Development in Nigeria,” which he presented at a Tourism Expo for the Hospitality Industry to Boost Local and International Patronage as well as Employment Generation, organized by the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation recently at Nanet Suites and Hotels, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

According to Benjamin, Nigeria’s tourism infrastructure was poor and for the country to fix her economy and boost development, and that the country must as a matter of urgency develop, promote and market her tourism products located in the local government areas.

His words: “Tourism is a cross-sectoral activity in which vacationers spend money. Their expenditures, therefore, have a catalytic effect across the economy in terms of employment creation. The fact is that Nigeria’s investment in tourism is low while there are tourist products located across the length and breadth of the country begging for development.”

Speaking on the moribund state of Nigeria Hotel and Catering Schools, formerly managed by the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Benjamin expressed worry that hotels operating in the country have no training schools, just as he disclosed that Polytechnics and Universities where hospitality are taught have no room for people with less education.

He was therefore of the view that Nigerian Tour Operators should, in collaboration with local governments, organize local communities to form associations that could produce a strategic action plan that will guide development and raise money from Micro-Finance Banks to enhance their operations.

While suggesting that cultural events, such as, carnivals, festivals and exhibitions could be created in order to attract vacationers, service providers and tourists to the communities to give the local people ample opportunities to offer their services, Benjamin maintained that artisans must also be encouraged to attend craft schools to upgrade their skills.

He therefore called on government and non-governmental organisations to establish, equip, and promote sites along tourist routes, where producers could sell and tourists would buy; and that because local people are selling directly to the tourists, they would also make more money.

Caleb Nor

Corporate Affairs Unit

NICO, Abuja