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With incentives from the government, Nigeria’s vast potential for tourism is set to bloom.
The tourism industry is one of the Nigerian government’s main targets for development as it plans to diversify the economy away from its dependence on crude oil production and export.
Nigeria’s tourism potential is vast. It is endowed with scenic geographical features, a beautiful tropical climate, fascinating beaches, waterfalls, warm springs, hills, temperate plateaus, beautiful mountains and a range of unique species of tropical wildlife.
“The tourism industry has the potential of becoming a huge foreign exchange earner for the country,” says Goodie Ibru, Chairman of Ikeja Hotels and Tourist Co. of Nigeria.
The total number of international air visitors to Nigeria in 2004 – the benchmark year – was estimated at 190,000. The level of spending by international tourists in 2004 was estimated to be $280 million.
While the incidence of domestic leisure travel may be low, the sheer size of Nigeria’s population of 160 million means that there is a significant contribution to the demand for tourism services from domestic travel activity.
The potential revenues that can be generated from domestic tourism are high. For example the revenue generated from travel within the country by employees and staff of government departments and agencies generates an estimated demand of $68 million in the transport and hospitality sectors.
“The Nigerian hospitality and tourism industry is in its infancy with huge growth potentials to improve and grow to international levels,” says Duke Edem, Minister of Culture and Tourism, adding that the government aims at using its tourism potentials to generate foreign exchange, encourage development, promote tourism-based rural enterprises, generate employment and accelerate rural urban integration and cultural exchange.
Nigeria has put in place incentives to encourage domestic and foreign investor’s participation in the tourism industry. The tourism sector was accorded preferred sector status in 1991. This makes the sector qualify for incentives (available to similar sectors of the economy) such as tax holidays, longer years of moratorium and import duty exemption on tourism related equipment.
Nigeria has also established a specialized training institute – the National Institution for Hotels and Tourism Studies in Bagauda, Kano – where middle level manpower training is provided.
State governments are also prepared to facilitate acquisition of land through issuance of certificate of occupancy for tourism development purpose. Some states have specific areas as tourism development zones, thereby making acquisition of land for such projects more viable.
The combination of factors, both geographical and socio-cultural, makes Nigeria a good tourist destination. Nigeria, because of its size and physical location, spans several climatic and vegetation belts. The equatorial climate provides radiant sunshine most of the year.
There are airports in the major cities of Nigeria. Several domestic airlines and major European and African airlines, such as Nigerian Airlines, combine to link Nigeria with the rest of the world through the international airports in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Abuja and Maidugiri.
Nigeria offers a variety of tourism investment potential from overland safaris, national parks, game and gorilla viewing, deep sea recreational fishing, lake and river fishing to archaeological tours, beach resorts and hotels, transportation (water, land and air), surfing and snorkeling, theme parks and exposition centers.
Nigeria has been inhabited since 9000 BCE and is rich with archaeological relics and fine collections of arts and crafts showing historical civilization. Fascinating reminders of Nigeria’s ancient past can be found in all branches of Nigeria’s national museums. However, many of Nigeria’s historic sites are in a dilapidated state presenting great investment opportunities.
Similarly, the country has eight natural attraction sites developed as national parks, but only a few have been properly exploited.
Conference and business tourism is another area that presents opportunities. More than 70% of the visitors to Nigeria are on business trips. Nigeria is the capital of Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), housing its administrative headquarters in Abuja.
Nigeria’s cultural assets are among the most fascinating on the continent. Cultural celebrations and festivals are major generators of internal and international tourism in the country.
Festivals include the Argungu fishing festival in the northern Sokoto Caliphate, the Kano Durbar or traditional horse riding in the ancient city of Kano, the Eyo festival in Lagos and the annual Calabar carnival. These festivals are performed annually attracting both local and international tourists. State governments have begun investing and collaborating with private investors willing to promote these festivals.
Nigeria also holds strong potential in the area of sports tourism. It hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2009, the All Africa Games in Abuja in 2003, and a World Beach Soccer tournament, Copa Lagos, in December 2011 on the beautiful Lagos beachfront, which attracted visitors from all over the world. Nigeria is bidding for the 2015 African Cup of Nations and is favored to host other sports tournaments in Africa, including the All African Games and athletic championships.
Nigeria’s prime natural tourist attractions include the following:
- Ikogosi Warm Springs is a natural warm spring that flows and mixes with cold water issuing from another spring.
- Owu Falls in Kwara State is the steepest natural waterfall in West Africa and is surrounded by a tropical rainforest in which can be found a wide range of animals and plants not seen in other parts of the world.
- Niger-Benue Confluence is where the Rivers Niger and Benue join at Lokoja. It can be toured by boat, canoe or viewed from a closeby hill giving a panoramic view of the confluence.
- Assop Falls is located about 40 miles from Jos city and is a place for picnicking, swimming and enjoying the grand view of the scenic landscape.
- Wikki Warm Springs is deep inside the Yankari Game Reserve. The warm water stays the same warm temperature day and night.
- With a coastline of about 350 miles, Nigeria has natural sites with tropical coconuts, mangrove and other seaside vegetation for vacationers and visitors to enjoy the Atlantic. Several beaches are open to visitors including Badagry, Lekki, Bar, Eleko and Calabar.