Nigeria not among top 5 African countries for international tourism in 5 years

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THE tourism industry may have contributed N1.7 billion ($5.5 million), about 4.8 per cent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the third quarter of 2016, as shown in the Nigeria Hospitality Report of 2016, on the global stage, however, Nigeria is not captured as one of the top five African destinations for international tourism between 2010 and 2014, as data from African Development Bank (AfDB) showed.

The World Bank Open Data report on tourism on the continent shows that Nigeria ranked sixth largest air passenger traffic in Africa after South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria and Kenya in 2015. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the most populous black nation on earth, with a population figure of 183,523,432 in 2015 and a GDP of $494 billion in the same year.

Out of 1.133 billion arrivals in worldwide tourism activities recorded, Africa saw 65.3 million arrivals, representing 5.8 per cent of total international arrivals in 2014 alone, thus, earning the continent $43.6 billion in receipts and guaranteeing Africa 3.5 per cent of market share in the same year, according to AfDB.

The number of international visitors to Africa increased significantly over the years, growing from 17.4 million in 1990 to 65.3 million in 2014, as AfDB’s data showed.  Despite this growth rate, Nigeria was not captured among the top five countries which welcomed international visitors to its shores, according to a 2015 report from the development bank, Africa Tourism Monitor: Unlocking Africa’s Tourism Potential.

Nigeria, however, featured in top 10 African countries for direct employment in the tourism industry for 2014, creating 883, 500 jobs, according to AfDB.

By 2015, Nigeria ranked the sixth largest air passenger traffic in Africa after South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria, and Kenya in 2015, according to a report by the Open Data Research Centre, School Of Media And Communication, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, citing World Bank Open Data. However, its international tourist arrivals stood at 1.2 million in 2015, up from 600,000 in 2013 and 770,000 in 2014 respectively. Although International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) data shows that Nigeria had a total of 3,857,424 in air passenger traffic in 2015, data from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) contradicted this with a record 14,330,857 in the same year.

Doyinsola Onadipe, author of the Open Data Research Centre, in the report said: “Whatever the case, the fact that countries like Algeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt and South Africa are ahead of Nigeria in terms of aviation infrastructure is rather puzzling since, on paper, it has more economic means, human capital and financial resources to build its aviation sector to be of world class standard. For example, Kenya and Ethiopia, though relatively poor countries in comparison with Nigeria, are faring much better.”

How does tourism aid development?

“Tourism continues to be one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic sectors of Africa’s economy. In spite of recent challenges, including the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during 2014, the sector has tremendous potential to create jobs, boost inclusive economic growth across the continent, and reduce poverty,” Dr Charles Leyeka Lufumpa, Director, Statistics Department, AfDB Group said in the report.

According to Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer, the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, “tourism, perhaps more than any other sector, has the potential to achieve the vision and objectives of NEPAD and the AU Agenda 2063 as it can dynamise other sectors of the economy.

“Africa remains one of the fastest-growing bases for the travel and tourism sector globally. It is just behind the leading tourist destination, South-East Asia, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report of 2014.”

One of the goals of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is that “Africa develops and implements effective poverty eradication programmes and accelerates the pace of achieving set African development goals, particularly human development,” according to its Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki; while the African Union (UN) Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. “It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development,” the union says on its website.

According to Taleb Rifai, Secretary General, World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), “tourism is one of the Africa’s most promising sectors in terms of development. In 2014, Africa received 56 million international tourists up from 26 million in 2000. International tourism receipts amount to US$ 36 billion or seven per cent of all exports in the continent.”

What this means, therefore, that tourism can help Nigeria “foster development and increase its participation in the global economy,” as Rifai puts it.

The future – where is Nigeria?

Nigeria is regarded the richest African country and the 29th richest country in the world with the GDP of $478.5 billion in 2016. However, Nigeria is captured in the projected growth rate in the continent’s tourism sector.

International tourist arrivals worldwide are expected to increase by 3.3 per cent a year between 2010 and 2030 to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, according to UNWTO’s long term forecast Tourism Towards 2030. The report added that market share of emerging economies which increased from 30 per cent in 1980 to 45 per cent in 2014, and is expected to reach 57 per cent by 2030, equivalent to over one billion international tourist arrivals.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s projection in its 20-Year Air Passenger Forecast released is that air traffic in Africa would increase by 5.1 per cent, but the growth may not come from Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, as IATA expects that top 10 fastest-growing markets in percentage terms will be in Africa. Those countries are: Sierra Leone, Guinea, Central African Republic, Benin, Mali, Rwanda, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Madagascar.

By 2035, 18 years from now, IATA expects that over 7.2 billion passengers would have travelled Africa, almost doubling the 3.8 billion air travellers in 2016.

Lack of infrastructure or infrastructure deficit is one of the major issues responsible for Nigeria’s lack of competitive advantage on the continent. In fact, “key constraints that limit the effectiveness of the tourism industry to play a greater role in the national economies and hence the development and transformation of the continent is that of transport infrastructure and services,” Mayaki said.

“The first challenge in the tourism industry is infrastructure. We also have security. I do not know which one to put first between infrastructure and security because these are two critical areas that must be given topmost attention. If this is done, our tourism industry will grow phenomenally,” the Managing Director of Desigo Tourism Development and Facility Management Company, Abigail Olagbaye, said in an interview with Punch recently.

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