Nigeria is blessed with waterfalls, caves, hotels, parks, sandy beaches, large lakes, and historic sites, which offer a range of tourism experiences applicable to the general holidaymaker as well as the traveller looking for something off the beaten track. To invest in tourism in Nigeria, there must be clarity on how people can invest their tourism dollars for a fixed period, how they can monetise this tourism investment and how they can see a clear path for exit or sale of their investment if need be.
According to the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Uwechue-Mbanefo, on her plan to turn tourism into a world-standard investment in Nigeria, “my idea is to identify tourism projects for investment, aimed at specific tourists and to create an enabling environment that respects and encourages this investment.
The first step, she says, is to identify one project each in the six geo-political zones, which can attract investment that can become world-standard. I see a roadacross for Nigerian tourism with countries like Morocco, Tanzania, Vietnam, Zambia, Rwanda, South Africa, parts of the Caribbean and even Peru, in terms of creating a unique experience, not to mention beach and golfing experience, where, with the right type of investment, will provide alternatives to Morocco and the Caribbean.
Once identified, “I intend to put the six (specific) projects into a prospectus, which forms the compendium of investment opportunities that would give Nigeria a world standard tourism experience. To do this, we will target the cooperation of those with the experience managing emerging markets, tourism experiences and turning same into benchmarks that attract hundreds of millions of tourism dollars annually.
“Tourism in Nigeria is now where telecommunications was about 20 years ago, but, today, as an investment proposition, Nigerian telecom is, probably, the best in the world. The same will be said of tourism in five to ten years from now, if appropriate measures are taken. Investors will be given long term tenure for their investment and, where applicable.
“The underlying asset will either revert to the government, after the project investment period lapses or continue with the pioneer investor, once revenue has been created for the government and a generous return on capital achieved for the investor.With this plan, we can achieve Nigeria’s goal of being a tourism hot spot, where people visit to spend foreign currency and this is achievable within the next five–ten years.
But what can Nigeria do to achieve this laudable project?
For example, according to her, “a tourist may want a well-planned tour of durbars and festivals, but, know that at each place he will be spending the night in comfortable world-class accommodation that enhances the experience. We want to create familyholiday destinations, whether these are at beaches; water parks or even focused around Nigeria’s numerous lakes. There are ideas that we need to focus and galvanise to create a product that meets all health and safety requirements”.
What’s the way out?
To achieve the aforementioned, NTDCintends to launch a Tourism Bond, which would be a revenue stream generated from a prospective tourism development levy on departures. “The bond will give us the money we need for investment in the six projects and these investments will create jobs and the right product.
‘Potentials for Tourism Bond abound in Nigeria’
In Lagos, for example, there is the Lakowe Lakes Golf and Country Estate, a growing Epe Health Resort and Spa, that aims to be a market leader. We have Old Lagos, which we should use to create a heritage experience of small cafés. We can partner with Lagos State to make Old Lagos a heritage site with good access and paved roads and sidewalks. There could be a law that protects the heritage of those (historical) buildings in old Lagos and whose architecture tells a compelling story that will interest many people around the world. In Abuja, for example, we have Jabi Lake, which is a tourism gold-mine, which must be developed by tourism investors that the bond targets.
In Obudu Mountain Resort in Calabar, there are the ecological experiences that require further investment to make them comparable with those in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.
In Rivers and Bayelsa, we have hotels to be renovated and turned into real five-star standard. We have riverine communities where their boating experiences can be turned into a world-class product.
The festivals and durbars of the North are a rich and vibrant tapestry of colours and enchanting mystery sought after around the world.
The vast geographical features of Nigeria have long been an object of fascination to people around the world, who want to spend time enjoying their inherent assets.
Others, according to her, include Sports Tourism. For example, Polo is a huge selling point for Nigeria, but, we need to make it world standard, because Polo lovers are passionate and can travel anywhere for a polo game, like the famous Kaduna 5thChukker.
Art Tourism is another area that can attract investors. If properly nurtured the bespoke tourist, looking for that experience, would pay the money to be in Nigeria to enjoy that experience.
We have a fast growing middle class that wants to spend and have value for the money through well-thought out and developed top quality tourism products.
NTDC already has a well-organised private sector as partner, including the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), a body for all hotel owners and travel agencies and it is also targeting state and local governments in this direction.
There is an urgent need for Nigeria to create and exploit its other natural resources, because this is the time to make tourism a considerable contributor to our Gross Domestic Product.