James Emejo in Abuja
The Managing Director, Cruises International, Mr. George Argyropoulos has called on the federal government to tap into the fortunes of the global cruise industry as a way of diversifying the economy and creating job opportunities for Nigerians.
According to statistics, the global cruise industry generated over $36.27 billion in revenue in 2013, after the industry made significant recovery after revenue fell below 25 billion during the 2009 global recession.
Speaking to THISDAY in Abuja during a forum on “Exploring the Potentials of Cruise Holiday Packaging” which was organised by Foshizi Tours Limited, Argyropoulos said the global cruise lines are currently exploring new frontiers, particularly the African continent and urged the Nigerian government to take advantage of the emerging scenario to woo cruise ships into the country.
He said: “It’s a project I have been working on for a number of years with a number of the cruise lines. We are running out of places to put new ships and the African market is becoming mature and more interesting.
“The African continent has not been explored by cruise lines and cruise line passengers. I won’t be able to tell you when but in the very foreseeable future, we would see ships coming around the African coast, hopefully home basing for a while in places like Lagos or PortHarcourt and do more regular cruises out for Nigeria.”
Interestingly, he noted, that it doesn’t necessarily cost a fortune to woo cruise ships in the country and boost tourism.
He said: “When I say infrastructure, you don’t have to have the fanciest cruise port as long as it is safe, functional and covers the basic needs.
“I am always skeptical when countries that want to get into the cruise line spent millions of dollars building these fancy terminals, that’s really not what will convince a cruise line to come. Yes, a functional and safe terminal plays a role but it’s more important what happens outside the terminal that counts more.”
He added:”If we provide what the cruise lines and cruise passengers require, particularly international cruise passengers to come and visit the west coast of Africa and Nigeria in particular, we have to tick some boxes; first of all, do we have ports that ships can approach and dock safely and securely?
“Can they be provided with provisions; pure water, fresh produce, repairs; is there immigration and customs facilities at ports that it is safe for people to get off and on the ship using some kinds of basic cruise terminal that they could be serviced in?
“And then, what happens beyond the ports? Where do we take our guests to and what is there to see in Lagos or other coastal regions or nearer coast that will require few hours travel by bus; do we have insurance, do we have medical facilities and is the safety of customers guaranteed. Are their cultural events or and cultural experiences or any natural experiences for our customers? Maybe a game park, a reserve or a national park or anything else that Nigeria as a nation can offer. These are really the kinds of basic criteria that a cruise line is going to look at in order to decide to bring his ship here.”
Also speaking at the occasion, Managing Director/Chief Executive, Foshizi, Mrs. Ifeoluwapo Olanrewaju said government partnership with private investors to make cruise ships navigate the Nigerian waters would go a long way in improving tourism in the country.
She said: “People will fly in here to cruise and when they come here, they will pay for hotels and others and then the cruise line also benefits. We have the waterways, and we hoping that if big investors can investment into this cruise line and buy a ship, it could go along way enlighten Nigerians.”
According to her:”If Dangote can invest in buying a ship and the cruise line today and the cruise ship goes from Nigeria to Accra and Banjul and back to Nigeria, I am sure after a while, people will begin to subscribe to it as a form of holiday.
“I believe this will improve and create jobs. The thing is that despite everything that is happening, people are still traveling, people are still going on holiday; so we are saying instead of you going on a normal holiday, do this type of holiday-and it would create jobs because the cruise ship will recruit staff and they have duty shifts and all that-it has a ripple effect on the economy and tourism. And tourism will always sell anytime, any day.”