BY OLAYINKA AJAYI
Austine Eneduwa-George, a tourism and hospitality consultant, in this encounter, bares his mind on tourism challenges.
What is your stand on the view that despite many tourists attractions, Nigeria is not a tourist destination?
Tourism industry has been facing my challenges that call for urgent solution . One of the problems could be traced to the adverse economy in Nigeria which has seen everybody struggling to eke a living; nobody wants to recreate anymore. If you go to the villages where tourist attractions are, the only recreation you observe there is sex because by 6pm-7pm, the whole town has gone to sleep. Gone are the days of the moon-light stories, all they do is just farming in these villages where the Tourists attractions are . It will beat your imagination to know that the major problem facing tourism sector in Nigeria is traceable to the fact that despite all the attractions, Nigeria does not issue tourist visa. We have business visa as well as visiting visa . How does a tourist travel to a country that does not have tourism visa? It is the responsibility of government to educate the immediate community where these tourist attractions are by giving them the story you are sending out so that when tourists come visiting, the views of the elderly people should not contradict what the youths in that same community would say to the tourist. If I should visit the Oranmiyan staff in Ile-Ife, everybody in the town should be able to tell the me same story .
What are the major challenges in tourism sector?
We have lots of things wrong for us. When an average Nigeria is establishing a hospitality business, what comes to his mind is how to attract a white man, whereas your biggest market is the domestic tourist needs. For instance, I should be able to leave my house in Lagos for Ekiti State to relax in Ikogosi. In tourism business, you need repeat customers because they are the main people, you can generate a group of customers from just one satisfied customer. It is easier for a man living in Enugu State to partronise you than a man from Europe because of the trouble of visa . Also you will find out that some Yorubas are yet to visit some Eastern State in Nigeria before. We live in a country of over 150 million people and over 35 universities , research institutes and we don’t any functional zoo. Where are they doing their research; even Eko-Tourism is nowhere to be found. Many Europeans believe that in Africa lions and elephants roam our streets, but is it not shocking that at my age many Africans have not seen a giraffe? These are some of the issues we ought to address in a conference, we aim to educate investors and make create awareness about the green opportunities that will light up the Nigerian economy apart from the oil and gas sector. For instance; why would I want to visit water parks in United Arab Emirate Dubai if we have the same facility here in Nigeria ? Go to Asaba in Delta State or Abuja on public holidays, you will marvel at the sight of massive crowd that throng the hotels just to swim. Does that not tell a business man to wake-up one day to set up a water park? You can be certain that it will attract massive crowd and they won’t be lining-up in these hotels anymore for swimming.
How do you aim to cub the challenges in the sector?
These are some of the issues we noticed that propelled the championing of Tourism Alive, an annual conference that have been fully endorsed by the Minister of Tourism, Edem Duke. It is a forum where investors and experts in tourism and hospitality sector would converge to brainstorm on issues hindering tourism in Nigeria. There are many wealthy Nigerians that can invest in hotels and hospitality business but their fear is who will run it. How lucrative is the sector? We will bring in foreigners to enlighten us on tourism. We also want to bring in government in order to create an enabling environment for investors to plug in.
The issue of security will be addressed which is one of the fears of investors. Also we want to bring in the banks to come finance tourism projects. The Ibadan zoo that is ideally ought to be for the public can be resuscitated. I have seen what banks do here, supporting music, entertainment that do not really add value to the lives the people other than the practitioners. I belong to a renown international tourism board and most times in our meetings they tend to ask when will Nigeria be ripe enough to attract tourists around the World? Everybody wants to come to Nigeria. With a country like Nigeria with population over 165 million people, you can’t go wrong doing any business. In some of these business you only need about 500 peoples patronage while others may require about 3,000. Amusement parks are lacking and you are wondering why our youths are jobless. So we thought of what we can bring down that will add value to our dear country . Go to Calabar there are many things lying fallow, Most things are not functioning in this sector because everything we have done have been tailored towards the white man coming. What have we designed to suit our co-country man? If you look at the Calaba festival, as beautiful as it is, it has adopted the Brazilian culture and costumes; even the FELABORATION celebrated recently in Lagos State in honor of our own Afro-beat Legend Fela Anikulagbokuti also embraced the Brazilian costume . You can hardly see them wear any costume reflecting their state or neighboring states or speaks Africa. If we can galvanize our traditional attires into trendy costumes, it will shock you the huge impact it will have globally.