Happy 60th Independence Day, Nigeria!
As with any major milestone achieved in life, there is always a time for self reflection. Today we want to look at the progress of the tourism industry since Independence. The fact is, the story of Nigeria cannot be told without tourism.
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Despite being communal prior to colonization, migrations were not uncommon. For instance is the migration of the Urhobos from the Benin Kingdom to the Delta Region or the Tuaregs from Niger to Kano City. This happened during times of tribal conflicts or religious wars. But the most notable migration was the slave trade era (particularly Transatlantic and Sub-Saharan) which dates as far back as the 15th Century. Foreigners who came into the region initially as tourists influenced these trades.
During the colonial era, international tourism bloomed. Places like Mount Patti became great vantage points to enjoy the beauty of the nation. Some visitors came for the artworks, which dated around 500BC – 200AD. The likes of the Nok terracotta figurines, Ife bronze art, Benin bronze and ivory works, and the Igbo Ukwu bronze castings. Others came to witness the festivals such as Durbar, Argungu fishing festival, and Osun Oshogbo festivals.
But with Nigeria’s independence in 1960, business tourism became the order of the day. Investors came in to set up businesses that tapped into the tangible part of our natural resources. The oil boom was a major factor in attracting people and companies to Nigeria. This began the slow crawl towards leisure tourism.
Nigeria officially kicked off its tourism drive by 1962 when the government created the Nigerian Tourism Association. Its membership included Nigeria Airways, other foreign airlines, Nigeria Tobacco Company, Shell Petroleum Corporation and some hoteliers. By 1964, we officially became part of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Back then it was called the International Union of Travel Organizations (IUOTO).
By 1976, the government formed the Nigerian Tourism Board (NTB) as the first regulatory body for the industry. And by 1990, a tourism policy was formed and adopted. This policy led to the setting up of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) 1992, as the government’s attempt to diversify the economy. That was the same year the government created the National Council on Commerce to coordinate planning and development of tourism in Nigeria.
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However, during the military rule, the tourism industry was neglected until 1999, when democracy was re-established. It was in June 1999 that the Federal Ministry of Tourism and Culture was carved out of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Tourism. In 2004, the ministry added a new portfolio of National Orientation. By 2007, the government merged all the above ministries into one which is now headed by Lai Mohammed.
From 1995 to 2018, Nigeria got two major tourist destinations on the UNESCO World Heritage List and 16 sites more on their Tentative List. During that period, the expenditures of international tourism by inbound visitors increased. Also, the industry has thrived through a private-public partnership of major destinations like Obudu Mountain Resort and Yankari Game Reserve. These days, the industry is mostly driven by private individuals who create SMEs around tourism. The new wave of tourism in Nigerian since 2010 is domestic. More Nigerians and foreigners are eager to explore within while taking part in activities like urban tourism, voluntourism, and adventure tourism.
Just like our growth as a nation, the tourism industry, too, has come a long way. But there is still room for growth. With proper support in areas of infrastructure, provision of constant electricity, and a conducive environment, beyond the sky is our limit.
Featured Image Source: Destinali
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