President, National Association of Nigeria Tour Operators (NATOP), and also Managing Director, Remlords Tours, Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, says the tourism industry in the country can contribute to the nationâ€™s economy if the federal government returns a full-fledged Ministry of Tourism.
He said: â€œGovernment should stop trivializing the sector that is capable of contributing so much to GDP especially now that the country is going through difficult times; Nigeria with huge tourism potential can reap the benefit of tourism.
â€œWe want a full-fledged Tourism ministry. Itâ€™s not about the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. We donâ€™t have any problem with him. â€œIt is about a separate ministry that will pay more attention to tourism. It is imperative to revisit and commit ourselves to the diversification of the nationâ€™s economy. Tourism can earn Nigeria the much-needed foreign exchange. Growth and development of tourism would guarantee poverty alleviation and lead to social and political harmony and stability.â€
The current arrangement where tourism is lumped together with Ministry of Information and Culture (the ministry supervises about 17 parastatals), is said to be harming the nationâ€™s fragile tourism industry.
Nkereuwem regretted that Nigeria had become a source market for other countries where Nigerians are travelling to anytime they want to enjoy themselves.
â€œNigeria is richly endowed but we have low level of awareness among the generality of the populace and opportunities in the country. This makes people travel out. NCAA told us that Nigerians spent about $1.5 billion on airline tickets on 2015,â€ the leading tour operator said.
The First Vice President of Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), who went down memory to bemoan how Nigeriaâ€™s over reliance on oil destroyed its economic growth, said all was not lost.
â€œIt was on this note that we reiterate the need for the government of President Buhari to consider restoring our Ministry of Tourism. It will improve on public-private sector partnership.
They need to recognise tourism as a major factor in socio-economic development. This will promote and enhance activities within the value chain. We are also saying that in restoring our Ministry, link the national parks to the ministry, it is what obtains in most countries,â€ he said.