Tourism As A Tool For National Economic Development
MANY developing countries have managed to increase their participation in the global economy through the development of tourism. Tourism development is increasingly viewed as an important tool in promoting economic growth, alleviating poverty, job creation, as well as contributing to national development goals.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that tourism can play a significant role in balanced sustainable development, and that it can be effectively harnessed to generate net benefits for the poor [UNWTO,2002]. Tourism is a principal export for 83 per cent of developing countries, and it is the most significantsource of foreign exchange after petroleum.
Most recent data show that current global tourism contributions to GDP is approaching US$7 trillion, accounting for 9.3 per cent of total global GDP and that the industry accounts for 8.7 per cent of global employment with an estimated annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent.
What is Domestic Tourism?
Domestic tourism is the type of tourism where people vacate within their own country. It is one of the three categories of tourism with the others being inbound and outbound tourism.
Historically speaking, it is in fact the first form of tourism that was practised and today it continues to account for the most part of this activity by far: it is estimated that out of the 4.8 billion tourist arrivals per year [2008 figure], 4 billion, or 83 per cent , correspond to domestic tourism. Likewise, the UNWTO’s economists estimate that at the global level, domestic tourism represents:
73 per cent of total overnights
74 per cent of arrivals and 69 per cent of overnights at hotels
89 per cent of arrivals and 75 per cent of overnights in other [non-hotel] accommodations.
In contrast to international tourists, domestic tourists know the destination, its language, its customs, its laws, its climate, its cultural context. As a general rule, domestic tourists are more demanding, especially when it comes to the quality of products.
Out of the four main motivations of tourists, [discovery, encountering others, experiencing something unique, resting] the last two are certainly more prominent among domestic tourists.
Local tourists also seek a very wide diversity of types of destinations and tourism activities, in other words, the range of product offerings should be as broad as possible and for a country like Nigeria, our size and diversity potentials are of immense advantage.
Under domestic tourism, visits are more frequent and there are more repeat stays, notably with family and land transport is predominantly used: 88 per cent compared to 51 per cent for international tourism.
It was for all the above reasons that when I assumed office, I decided to focus more on domestic tourism.
In order to have full understanding and appreciation of our local tourism potentials first hand, I embarked on tour of some of our known destinations and attractions; meeting with state officials [sometimes chief executives of the states I visited], traditional rulers, tourism administrators and operators with a view to understanding their challenges and jointly seeking solutions to them.
So far, I have visited about 17 states and without doubt, the tour has really helped me understand some challenges that the sector is facing today.
Make no mistake, I was aware even before I became the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC] that Nigerians have ‘panache’ for international vacation due to poor packaging of our local tourism industry for local consumption.
According to available data, Nigeria recorded a total 4,037,808 tourist arrivals in 2013, while US$ 649,468,486 forms their expenditure.
There are several international initiatives that have highlighted the potential of tourism to contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction, as well as to environmental protection, cultural preservation, and job creation.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation[UNWTO] emphasises poverty reduction as one of its primary themes for tourism development, and its Sustainable Tourism–Eliminating Poverty [ST-EP] initiativefocuses onaligning the goals of sustainable tourismwith activities that specifically alleviatepoverty.
However, tourism in Nigeria contributed so much to the GDP, but very little is attributed to it, hence the difficulties of government in recent past seeing tourism as a major contributor to the GDP.
It is however important to note that, a vibrant business environment is supported by a vibrant tourism community which thrives on the financial support of visitor spending and contributes to the quality of life through sporting events, festivals, carnivals, religious tourism, conference/business tourism, wildlife, eco-tourism, beach tourism/holiday resorts all of which we have in abundance.
National Tourism Policy
The policy thrust is to develop sustainable tourism by capitalising on heritage diversity as the basis for promoting domestic and international tourism. This is aimed at competitive sustainable tourism development within the confines of the world tourism market and open up Nigeria as a major tourist destination in Africa through the development of international tourism and promotion of domestic tourism.
Nigeria’s Tourism Potentials
The domestic tourism market has very high revenue and job creation potentials. For instance, 2013 Osun Osogbo festival recorded 21,713 domestic tourists including, 123 international tourists while N 58,230,170 forms the expenditure.
-Abuja Carnival  recorded 19,015 domestic tourists which includes 113 international tourists while N147, 385,250 forms the expenditure.
– Religious tourism recorded over a million domestic tourists and a substantial number of international tourists in 2013.
It is, therefore, estimated that, we have a US$4 billion domestic tourist market. Similarly, the size of the Diaspora market is estimated at US $3 billion annually should we provide them with the right environment considering the volatility of oil revenues which is currently a major source of the nation’s revenue.
There is an urgent need to actively harness this industry’s economic potentials with a view to enhancing its contributions to GDP.
A critical evaluation of the evolution and development of tourism in Nigeria indicates that the country’s tourism industry faces socio-economic problems and structural deficiencies which reduce the industry’s efficacy as a tool for local, regional and national sustainable development.
In order to address these challenges, there is need to have good access roads to the various tourist destinations
– Review the Land Use Act to enable private sector access land for development of tourist sites
– Corporate and multinational organization should adopt tourist sites for development.
– Resolve multiple taxation for tourism operators.
– Establish a Tourism Development Fund [TDF].
– Increased funding from the government
– Need to implement the 2007 Tourism Master Plan.
– Improve travel security as a necessary condition for growing both domestic and international tourist traffic in Nigeria.
Excerpted from an address delivered by Sally Mbanefo during Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition on the 10-11 June, 2014 in Abuja.