We’ve got the culture and the nature but we need more than just these things to boost tourism in our beautiful country. In other words, Nigeria needs to solve these challenges to seriously discuss tourism growth!
This is the century for African tourism even though Nigeria, Africa’s giant, is still merely crawling in the industry. There is so much potential upon which our country can build yet we see that this growth is crippled by several challenges. We know that once people visit Nigeria, they never stop talking about how amazing their experiences were. But so many others have not come because they have never considered Nigeria as one of the tourist destinations in Africa or they have heard all sorts of negative stories.
It is therefore important for Nigeria to develop a tourism road map that will allow the industry grow and sustain itself. A successful road map is one that will be upheld by states and commissioners, irrespective of which political party comes next. We need to ensure that the following challenges are addressed in the road map:
- Nigeria does not make the news…for good.
What a bummer that the many excellent stories coming out of Nigeria rarely make international news. Perhaps, this is because Nigerians are not taking the storytelling bull by the horn. We need to control our own narrative or else, only sensational news will make it to the world — giving the impression that these stories are all we have. We need to sell our grit, our wit, our innovations, our exquisite fashion, our tourist attractions, Africa’s longest Canopy Walkway, the home of Africa’ largest movie and music industries, Fela’s home and even West Africa’s highest mountain (yes, Chappal Wadi in Taraba State is West Africa’s highest point).
2. Getting into Nigeria could be simplified.
Nigerians have unending tales about how difficult it is to get some visas with a Nigerian passport. Indeed, certain countries have embassies on Victoria Island that resemble fortified cities at the height of war — a miracle to get into. On the flip side, Nigeria is notorious for an incredibly bureaucratic visa process. I have not heard of many people who were denied a Nigerian visa but many times, the process is long and the required documents are unclear. Recently, one of our TVP Adventures clients was tossed back and forth the embassy because the documents listed on the embassy’s site in their home country was different from what the officers requested at the appointment. She was exhausted and discouraged by the time she got the visa. In theory, Nigeria has a visa-on-arrival process that serves as an alternative to a traditional application but in practice, this is tedious, expensive and unnecessarily complicated. In order for Nigeria to compete with other tourism giants on the continent (look at East Africa), we have to work on a true visa-on-arrival process that is secure and seamless at the same time.
3. Anything for the Boys?
Have you ever arrived at the airport and had someone ask you ‘anything for the boys?’ Most of us have. It is appalling how these officers brazenly request money from people as they arrive (and depart) the country. For those who are not familiar with this practice, it can be overwhelming. In many cases, visitors do not know how to circumvent this question and have surrendered some of their money for fear of not being granted access into the country. How incredibly discouraging to then get on the streets only to find a police officer asking for ‘something for his boys’ or ‘dollars for the holiday’. There are many delightful officers throughout the country, but a handful of the scheming ones can discourage travelers from returning to the country or from recommending Nigeria to their friends.
4. Our music and films are already everywhere!
We’ve got perhaps the double advantage that many countries wish for. Our film industry — Nollywood — is already well celebrated across Africa and the Diaspora. In terms of music, Nigeria is standing on the center stage of the world. These two industries are points of contact for us to sell the beauty of our country to the world and attract them here. We must take the opportunity to present our musical, historical, theatrical, natural and cultural assets in entertaining forms that make viewers eager to see these things for themselves. Remember the first time you heard about America? It was probably from a film or show or song you heard as a child. The world already revers Fela and Davido and King Sunny Ade; isn’t it time to bring them to the home of these icons?
5. Engage Nigerians with Nigeria
Any country that is serious with tourism will start with its citizens. It is Nigerians who will present their country to the world. It is for this reason that TVP Adventures has curated an unending list of group, family, private, corporate and custom tour packages across Nigeria. Got a summer break? How about visiting the hills and waterfalls of Western Nigeria? Off for a week? How about a day tour of Lagos or a trip to the former slave town of Badagry? Want to go hiking? Let’s hike the lush hills of Erin Ijesha. Want to go on a Safari? Yankari Game Reserve has got you covered. Looking for a romantic beach resort? Lagos’ La Campagne Tropicana is all you’re looking for. In every country I have visited (with decent tourism revenue), the cab driver knows the hot spots to visit and the people at the hotel front desk know where to recommend, depending on budget and available time. Does the average Nigerian know what to sell to their guests when they visit their town? At TVPAdventures we are always excited to show locals and foreigners how exciting this country is with our wide variety of tours.
Nigeria is not just Lagos and Lagos is not all of Nigeria. Sometimes, we tend to forget that life and living exists beyond Abuja and Lagos. How do we show people the West or the South or the East or the North when it could take unending hours to drive from one state to the other? Tourism thrives on having pockets of activity available in close proximity to each other. On a three day trip out of Lagos, I may want to visit Erin Ijesha Waterfalls, Idanre Hills, Ikogosi Warmsprings and the Ooni’s Palace in Ife. It is important that these locations are interconnected with good roads and up-to-date information.
7. Customer Service
If you successfully treat your visitors / clients right, they will go on to tell the story. We have got to upgrade from I-am-doing-you-a-favor style of customer service and truly go out of our way to treat people right. Nigerians are generally warm and receptive people and that’s overwhelmingly consistent with the report from visitors. Nonetheless, many hotels and service companies could do better to upgrade their attention to detail.
What are your thoughts? What can we do as a country — public and private entities — to ensure that we build a sustainable tourism industry? Share your thoughts in the comments below.