Mr Ben Akabueze, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation says the tourism sector is capable of driving short-term growth and longer-term structural change in the country.
Akabueze said this while making a presentation; “Financing as a Catalyst to Sustainable Tourism Development’’ at the 20th Annual General Meeting and Election of the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja.
He noted that the tourism sector was recognized in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the Federal Government as one of the ingredients needed to achieve economic growth.
“The sector offers the opportunity for job creation, especially among youths in Nigeria.
“Also, the ERGP recognizes that the rich bio-diversity in Nigeria’s ecosystem, our cultural diversity, historical cities and arts and craft are yet to be fully exploited.
“By addressing under-developed infrastructure, security challenges, lack of attractive options for vacationing at home, and insufficient investment, the sector is expected to contribute to government revenues and foreign exchange earnings,’’ Akabueze said.
Akabueze explained that the objectives of the policy was to enhance contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), increase numbers of visitors to Nigeria by 10 per cent annually from 2017 and increase volume of domestic tourism.
According to him, it is also to promote and encourage patronage of local agricultural, creative industry and manufactured products by operators in the industry and strengthen backward and forward linkages and conserve foreign exchange.
Also speaking, the former Lagos State Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget said that the strategic activities to ensure the realisation of the objectives include infrastructure connectivity to promote tourism.
“Promote national calendar of festivals and events in short term and develop value proposition around major clusters, launch awareness campaign to promote tourism and ease visa requirement to increase tourist arrivals.
“Improve security to encourage domestic and international mobility and review tourism legislation and eliminate overlapping functions among regulating agencies,’’ he said.
He gave a comparative analysis on main trends in the tourism sector in Africa.
According to him, tourism’s contribution to 2016 GDP in Nigeria was less than half the world average but significantly higher than the Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) average.
He said the sector’s contribution to employment was relatively closer to the world average but significantly higher than the SSA average.
“Visitors export (spending within a country by international tourists for leisure and business travel) in Nigeria is low, close to the SSA average.
“However, travel and tourism investment in Nigeria in 2016 was higher than the world average, close to the values for South Africa and Egypt and much higher than the SSA average,’’ he said.
Akabueze noted that there were challenges that made it difficult for the sector to achieve the desired results.
He, however, he maintained that there was the need to finance tourism destinations, adding that investment had to be made.
“Airports, seaports, rail and roads needs to be developed through financing; we also need to finance good quality hotel and security infrastructure.’’
“A key reform in the 60-Day National Action Plan implemented by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council is easing the entry and exits of people.’’
The D-G of the Budget Office of the Federation reiterated that the tourism industry was a small segment of service sector but had the potential for job creation, expanding foreign exchange earnings and national output.
He said policies and strategies to support the sector as well as investment in physical, security infrastructure and skills developments were required.
“Public and private financing must `meet’ with deeper understanding of inter-linkages between investments and returns to unlock the sector’s potential.’’
Akabueze was represented at the event by his Technical Assistant, Miss Olayinka Babalola.