The stark reality is that while plane loads of foreigners come to Nigeria on a daily basis, majority on those plans come strictly for business and are usually holed up in their hotels until they return to base. Nigeria is hardly mentioned as a destination to travel to for leisure. On the flip side, Nigerians are known to be avid travellers, going to the furthest parts of the planet not only for business but also for pleasure.
The reasons for this phenomenon are usually given as lacking infrastructure, poor security and ill-maintained tourism sites. While some of these reasons might have some merit, the biggest problem has to be that of perception; a focus on the negatives, rather than the possibilities. Nigeria is neither the murder capital of the world, nor its kidnapping or terrorism. Some of the cities that bear these tags still welcome hundreds of thousands of leisure travellers annually.
The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), believes that the way to stimulate travel to Nigeria â€“ while infrastructure is being upgraded â€“ is to change the perception that Nigeria doesnâ€™t have much to offer leisure travellers. This will be achieved through â€˜Tour Nigeriaâ€™, a new brand name to market the countryâ€™s tourism assets.
Established in 1992, the NTDC is an agency under the Ministry of Information and Culture and the apex tourism agency in Nigeria. It is charged with marketing and promoting Nigeriaâ€™s tourism and make tourism a major pillar of the economy.
Speaking at the Tour Nigeria brand launch in Lagos last week, the Director General of the NTDC, Mr Folorunsho Folarin-Coker, said; â€œThe brand is an ambitious attempt at promoting tourism in Nigeria that aims to shape the narrative on Nigeria as a major destination for tourism, hospitality, arts and entertainment in Africa.â€
At the core of Tour Nigeria is the belief that domestic leisure travel is the key to the tourism industryâ€™s revival in Nigeria. According to Coker, the Tour Nigeria brand was conceived to drive domestic consumption of Nigeriaâ€™s tourism products, create new tourism markets, add to the nationâ€™s GDP, create employment, and increase spending in the economy.
Part of his mandate when he assumed office he continued, was to reverse the negative conversation about Nigerian tourism, galvanize commercial tourism, promote Nigeriaâ€™s diverse multi-cultural heritage, innovate new channels of tourism markets whilst promoting Nigeria in a positive light and shaping a positive perception of its citizens.
To help achieve this, the NTDC has prepared a roadmap with short, medium and long-term objectives. This is distilled into a five-point action plan with the acronym CHIEF.
CHIEF represents Corporate Governance & Regulations; Human Capital Development; Infrastructural Development; Events and Marketing; and Finance & Investment. Narrowing down further, some of the plans under CHIEF include;
A review of the NTDC Act of 1992 and all tourism laws; a review of the National Water Transportation policy and seek the support of the National Inland Waterways Authority to promote and monitor tourism on the waterways; ensure the ease of entry and exit of tourists in and out of the country with prompt, accessible and affordable access to visas; recommend the introduction of tourism education as a course across secondary schools and higher institutions in Nigeria; champion the upgrade of beaches and waterfronts across Nigeriaâ€™s coastline; empower a business development team to manage and optimise internally generated revenue, among many others.
An interesting tactic under the CHIEF strategy is to harness digital and online communities like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote destinations and tourism activities in Nigeria.
The impact of these social media platforms cannot be overemphasised, with their speed and reach of dissemination a boon in helping to project world-class Nigerian assets like the Wikki Warm Springs in Yankari, Bauchi.
The digital space has given birth to a new movement; young Nigerians connect through social media, travel the country and post pictures which in turn stimulate more travel. Some budding brands selling tours include, Social Prefect Tours, Irinajo.com, Tripzapp, Naija Nomads, Unravelling Nigeria among others.
Part of the NTDCâ€™s strategy is to co-opt these private enterprises and others in the tourism value chain to work together and drive the Tour Nigeria brand.
â€œThe brand will leverage on the best of Nigeria. Nigerians are known to be intelligent hard-working people, we are also known for our â€œcan-doâ€ and â€œnever-say-neverâ€ attitude, which is complimented with a friendly and accommodating spirit. We are proudly the most populous black nation on Earth, home to the second largest film industry on the globe whilst also being the fashion, technological and creative hub in Africa.
â€œWe have designed and populated our calendar of events with unique festivals and events that cut across the various entertainment channels of food, music, sports, religion, fashion and cultural festivals,â€ Coker said.
To create further public awareness for the Tour Nigeria brand, the NTDC will embark on a bus tour across the six geo-political zones from the first week of August. This and other events will peak with the year ending â€˜Countdown Nigeriaâ€™ celebration.