By Jimoh Babatunde
Major countries of the Â world host sporting Â events not only to boost their images but to attract attention to their tourist attractions, so it is not surprising that many European countries struggle to host major sporting events.
South Africa after the multi-racial election in 1994 has hosted many sporting events as a way of selling and promoting its varied tourism attractions and today, millions of dollars have gone into promoting the South African brand as a tourism destination of note ahead of the coming World Cup.
Sports tourism is a multi-billion dollar business and one of the fastest growing and most intriguing of modern day service industry.
Driving the growth of sport tourism has increased global interest in sporting events on the back of the massive expansion in satellite and digital television coverage over the last decade. Combined with more leisure time, more disposable income and cheaper travel has meant that sport is no longer just an add-on for travellers. It is the entire reason to travel in the first place.
Today, Nigeria is hosting the cadet World Cup which is one of the major events in the FIFA calendar, but little or nothing was done by the local organising committee to promote the nation as a tourist destination.
But trust Nigerians, when those in power fail to do what they are expected to do, there are ordinary Nigerians who take the challenges on themselves to do things and one of such is Mr. Taofiki Balogun, the owner of Fiki Marine Boat Club in Lagos.
Fiki Boat put together a boat cruise for the Swiss delegates to the current U-17 World Cup as they were taken round the beautiful coast line of Lagos State.
Lagos StateÂ popularly referred to as Centre of Excellence has various tourist destinations. Lagos has coastal lines extending along the Guinea coast of the Bight of Benin on the Atlantic Ocean, which makes it home to many exotic beaches which are good for fun, parties, relaxation and meditation. Records have shown that Lagos State has about 180 kilometres of coastline with beautiful beaches to behold and relax.
Some of the notable beaches include Victoria Beach otherwise called Bar Beach, lying adjacent to Ahmadu Bello Way on Victoria Island. Indeed, it is the most popular to both foreign and domestic tourists; Lekki Beach is situated at Maiyegun village, attracting more thanÂ five million tourists yearly but famous for its musical jamborees.
On Sunday, theÂ young lads from Switzerland were at the Ishahai beach toÂ loosen up after their match against Mexican team on Saturday. The cruise afforded theÂ lads the opportunity to feel Nigeriaâ€™s natural endowments. They have been continually amazed at the abundant potentials of natural resorts that Nigeria and Lagos in particular, have been endowed with.
Speaking before the tour which took off from the Fiki Jetty in Victoria Island, Mr. Taofiki Balogun saidÂ â€œAs a matter of fact, two members of the contingent have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with us.
The whole idea of the MoU has taken our company to task and we are expected to install the multimillion nairaÂ state-of-the-art floating jetties imported earlier this year, latest December 2009. These are similar floating jetties enjoyedÂ by tourists/fun seekers around the world like Juimerah Beach in Dubai; Florida Keys, USA; Cape Town, Durbar in South Africa among others.
He said the installation of the floating jetties will attract tourists/fun seekers from Switzerland and the entire European Union. â€œThis is achievable because if Ghana is presently enjoying a lot of income from visiting tourists, Nigeria with more tourist destinations should earn higher from visiting tourists.â€
Balogun said his company is ready to give Ghana a good competition by installing state-of-the-art floating jetties as the companyÂ has secured the approval for the installation of the edifice through the Federal Government agency, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
But he regretted that they are yet to get approval from Lagos State Government to install their jetties. While pleading with the Lagos State Government to grant them theÂ approval, Balogun said apart from creating a new vista of opportunities in water transport system in the city, it will truly make Lagos aÂ mega city.
â€œOur boats/ferries are still waiting to be utilised. This is because the befitting floating jetties (Marina) that would have been a proper hub for passengers is yet to be installed. We have submitted all the required and relevant documents to facilitate the processing of the approval. We have also secured Lagos State Government licence to legally allow us to operate our ferries.â€
The Fiki Boatâ€™s boss said they are out toÂ promote marine transportation, beach tourism and the development of tourism in Nigeria through the provision of light vessels and cruise lines for pleasure seekers.
â€œOur vision is to create enabling water transport system for Lagosians to move about their daily activities. The water transport system will go a long way to ease the recurring decimal of traffic bottlenecks in and around Lagos.â€