With a holistic approach to tourism development, Nigeria can advance its tourism sector to account for a significant part of the country’s GDP.
According to Adun Okupe, Founder and Senior Advisor of Redclay Advisory, Nigeria’s tourism is still at a point where attention is only being given to sightseeing.
“People spend a lot of time to get to these locations, so the experience should not only give them value for money but also enhance guest experience and encourage return visits. We need to have a holistic approach to tourism development so that we can create enough attractions to keep tourists busy for days. We need well-trained tour guides who can really tell the story of the place and give a sense of wonder. We need amazing samples of the local foods too, a calendar of programme and events to keep them busy for an entire weekend or week,” Okupe said.
Speaking during the weekly Nairametrics Business Half Hour show, Okupe explained how some locations currently have just one or two attractions, so that after a tourist has travelled hours to get to the location, he is done sightseeing in less than 2 hours and begins to wonder what next.
Tourism revolves around an entire value chain, and tourism development goes beyond building a hotel where tourists can stay when they come around on sightseeing. A robust tourism sector can create an amazing experience for tourists, thus encouraging domestic tourism first, before attracting international tourists.
Okupe who also teaches sustainable development and strategy at the Lagos Business School noted that even though Africa has great tourism potential, the industry has been lacking in focus on what and how to harness them.
A new concept – rural tourism for Africa
For Africa and Nigerians, there appears to be a pull towards international tourism with people travelling past their national borders to explore the world, while leaving their world behind still undiscovered.
A focus on rural tourism will not only encourage migration from the crowded urban cities to the rural areas but also open up the rural economies and improve living standards.
“We should start looking at how we can develop our rural economies and rural tourism so that we also start a lot of the rural to urban migration. I will say that we can also work to mitigate the challenges and address them.
The average person knows that there is a world out there and a world to be discovered, but it is also important that before you go out there, you understand a bit of your own world. We need to stimulate domestic tourism and create that sense of wonder in who we are and in our culture. We need to start to showcase more of our culture through domestic tourism,” Adun advocated.
She noted that countries like India had domestic tourism accounting for a larger percentage than international tourism, and African countries could do the same by exploring choice locations and historical sites across the region.
What about security challenges?
While insecurity is a challenge in several parts of Africa, it is also a challenge in other parts of the globe, but it can be addressed.
“I think we can start from identifying the more secure cities and towns within the African region and develop them, while the government tries to address the insecure locations. South Africa for instance has a high crime incidence in some locations but this has not stopped them from developing their tourism industry,” Okupe explained.
She added that for specific locations, a security infrastructure could be looked into to make it more secure for tourism. This would require a lot of collaboration among the private sector players to improve advocacy and base recommendations on data.
Before starting Redclay advisory five years ago, Adun Okupe PhD had worked with KPMG London. Redclay Advisory works with a closely-knit team of four core members, pulling in resources from a network of advisors, consultants and contractors, as each project demands. In the last five years, Redclay has handled projects across Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic and Cote d’Ivoire.
Okupe noted also that there is a dearth of tourism professionals in Africa’s tourism sector, and so there is a need to build more expert tourism advisors across tourism law, tourism financing, tourism development, policy advisory and data analysis.