Natural sites can boost local tourism, experts say

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Security and infrastructure gaps in Nigeria notwithstanding, concerned stakeholders have urged the government and practitioners alike to pay closer attention to the export potential of natural tourism sites across the country.

They reasoned that the sites, in their raw state, are unique and of higher potential to the world than artificial destinations.The First Deputy President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, told reporters in Lagos that the authorities had for too long been focused on how to compete with leading tourism destinations like Dubai, Singapore, and United States, forgetting the that the country has an edge in natural sites.

“But we keep missing it, Tourism is not trying to impress anybody. Tourism is who you are and selling what you have at the state that it is. You don’t even need to finetune. Sell it raw but in a packaged form. That is tourism.

“We may not have the high-rise buildings or roller coasters of the Disney world, but we have our culture, food, festivals, music. Let us market them and it will bring the world to us.”

Akporiaye, who spoke at the unveiling of her candidacy for NANTA president and programmes for the body, said global tourism was fast craving for new attractions and Nigeria should be a major beneficiary.

“When anyone mentions Nigeria, the person should not be thinking of roller coaster. But something like our unique food, fashion, and music and so on. Different things take people to different places. We too should have an area of strength.

“Tourists travel all the way from U.S. to visit Rwanda, just to feed gorilla. That is their area of strength and they are marketing it vigorously. It now costs $1500 just to see the gorilla in their natural habitat. What is our own strength? Let us sell it. Let us not bother with competing with anyone but to focus on what we have and market to the world.” She said her tenure at NANTA’s helm of affairs, if elected at the elective general meeting holding next month, would draw attention to unique opportunities and better cooperation among the stakeholders for mutual value.

She said it would begin with the work-hard to bridge and mend cracks, reach-out, share solutions, increase membership profile, but will not encourage divisive tendencies, nor empower cult ship, unbridled cut throat competition and acts inimical to the unity of the association.

Akporiaye reassured members and stakeholders that the body, after 43 years of existence, would refocus and retool for a new generation of trade business and political realignment that can make it stand above its pears.

“Over the years, NANTA has grown to attract the attention and respect of the government. We shall innovate on this approach and get NANTA to play a key role in women affairs without which homes today would be in trouble”. She was confident that a new NANTA would emerge in Kano to prioritise the welfare of members through zonal town hall meetings to capture the deep feeling of members on sundry issue.

She said the same intent would also manifest a hospitality engagement not just in the drive to diversify the NANTA investment profile, but support the growth of the Nigerian aviation and tourism sectors.

Managing Director of HEC travel agency, Ihe Chima James, added that NANTA had done a lot in identifying the cultural tourists’ sites but the government should be unrelenting in tackling insecurity, road infrastructural challenges and policy flip flops.

James noted that the outgoing NANTA administration had set machinery in motion to partner with relevant government agencies. But going forward, “we need to extend such cooperation beyond the country to export what we have. We have to package it well and improve on accessibility and security. You cannot market Obudu Cattle Ranch when there is no road between Port Harcourt International Airport and Calabar. We need very good road network. With the kidnappings in the east, government need to do something,” he said.

The Guardian

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