Nkem Oduah

Having over-flogged the issue of tourism being a major foreign exchange earner, which, according to Tourism Development International (2006), is a major asset to the quest of Nigeria becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020 (wait a minute, aren’t we in 2017? Oh! Okay, three more years to go right?), let us look at the situation on ground in the country.

The business of tourism is acknowledged as a viable commerce and business globally. With the recent call for the diversification of the economy, one would think that aside from agriculture, of course, more prominence and focus would be given to the sector. Aside from its economic benefits, the importance of tourism is far-reaching and all-round. Amongst which are the following: It serves the general health and well being of individuals and families by catering to their leisure inclinations; it also aids in the development of culture and encourages resource profitability.

Tourism attractions abound in most of the 36 states that make up Nigeria; let us make an illustration, The ‘Big Heart’ as Delta State is dubbed, which happens to be the state I hail from. It comprises 25 local government areas, which include Asaba which is the capital and Warri, Sapele, Agbor, Ughelli, Abraka, Oleh, Ozoro, Koko, Oghara, and Burutu, which are other major towns.

Aside from the state being a major producer of oil in the country, it is also a potential tourism destination where beaches, historical monuments, festivals, dances and beautiful resorts, as well as facilities for conferences abound. Other tourist attractions to be found in the town are: art, local cuisine, traditional dance, festivals, wildlife hunting, the Bembo game reserve and so on.

Aside from the general state of insecurity, such as, kidnapping and terrorism facing the country, there is also little or no knowledge of Delta State’s tourism attractions. Despite the many tourist attractions in the town, some still think it does not classify as a tourism destination.

Tourism destinations abound: for this reason and to stay competitive, potential tourism destinations like Delta State have to do a lot of groundwork, especially in the area of infrastructural rehabilitation as well as promotions, to attract the right clientele and thus reap the derivable benefits. From various studies carried out, communication has been recognised as a major tool in the promotion and growth of tourism all around the world. Thus, most tourism destinations and potential ones, invest hugely in promotional activities that will boost the business.

The key bodies that are responsible for the promotional/communication mix and its application at the destination level in Nigeria are the state tourism organizations, while at the national level, and when promotional activities are directed towards foreign countries, the responsible body is the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC). Although, both the national tourism organisation and state tourism organisations in Nigeria are oriented towards the domestic market.

The Delta State Tourism Board with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in the state, as well as the Ministry of information and Culture have direct responsibility in selling the state’s tourism potential, while it generally falls within the purview of the state government to ensure the development of the industry.

Tourism is a major, soaring industry in most developed and some developing countries, where it has contributed tremendously to the economies of those countries, such as Australia, Spain, Italy, Canada, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Seychelles, Egypt, Gambia, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, USA, the Bahamas, Canneries Island and many other Countries, notably in the Caribbean. Thus, the tourism sector in the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been identified as a priority area for development in recognition of these benefits and also the fact that, more than entertainment, tourism offers education of our rich historical background and our journey to civilisation. It is sad to note that in a culturally diverse state such as Delta, very little is known about the culture and traditions of neighboring towns within the state.

One of the key steps is to engage in within-bound marketing and promotion of tourism in the state to break the lack of awareness and educate the people on the wealth of the cultural diversity in the state. Other steps that have to be taken in Delta State and Nigeria as a whole are the provision of reliable statistics and market information for the tourism sector; initiatives taken on by the government, as well as those in view, for tourism development and sustainability should be measured and incorporated in a promotional plan; library and online sources on the tourism destinations and attractions should be regularly updated and monitored; and more importantly, infrastructural deficiencies should be taken care of.

Upon examination of the promotional activities that will enhance the salability of Delta State and most other tourism destinations within Nigeria, it is found that top of the list of the promotional strategies that will be most suitable in this case is, public relations, because of the need to deal with the poor perception and counter the low awareness level of the tourism destinations as well as to manage the “Nigerian factor” of inadequate management system. Some other key promotional strategies have also been ascertained.
The issue is whether the stakeholders of tourism in Delta State, and Nigeria as a whole are playing the right roles to achieve organisational effectiveness. Although kudos has to be given to the stakeholders of tourism in Cross River and Lagos State for the effort they exert in reaching out to their target audience (which is evident in their success story) via various communication tools.

It is recommended that at federal and state level, the bodies concerned with tourism should undertake massive investments in its development. From study, areas such as, road networks, lighting and security, have been identified as needing urgent attention. Besides developments in infrastructure, more tourism options should also be developed.

In conclusion, there is no over emphasising the need for promotional activities, which will fill the perceptual and informational gaps that exist between suppliers of tourism (industry) and the tourists (market). A well researched and thorough promotional strategy that will include an integrated programme of communication methods and materials should be designed to present the tourism destinations and attractions to prospective customers; to communicate need-satisfying attributes of their services to facilitate sales and thus contribute to long-run profit performance.

· Oduah is a tourism media practitioner and also the executive producer and host of the tourism television magazine show, Accesscode, currently showing on DBS Station on Startimes 115 on Sundays