Tour Nigeria: A world in stride towards recovery

It is no misplaced optimism to construe this juncture in the collective history of mankind as one of a world in steady strides towards recovery.

It’s is a reality that has been fundamentally impacted and disrupted by an invisible adversary, the coronavirus; yet the lessons of these past months have shown how connected we are as people, despite our differences of geography and economic location.

It has more so affirmed the need for a sense of community and collaboration to solve human problems.

The rise of hope and recovery have been bolstered by the exertions of scientists in finding a cure for the coronavirus, with the creation of a raft of vaccines in the various research centres of the world. Of these, two appear most promising, as they have already been considered as demonstrating 94 to 95 per cent success rates, after rigorous clinical and human trials.

One of the vaccines is being produced through a partnership between the American pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, and the German biotechnology firm, BioNTech; and the other, by Moderna, an American biotech firm. Both vaccines, as said, could be ready to be administered to the public in a matter of weeks.

As such, the pervasive climate of fear that has come to characterise our experiences as humans at the start of this year is lifting in a sure-footed manner.

Hence, as the world gradually heals and moves into a phase of recovery, this signposts a more broad-based healing and recovery for the global and national economies, and the possibility of humankind’s resumption of contact-based activities that are crucial to its survival.

Even then, all the caution and lessons of how we have lived for close to a year are bound to stay with us for a while, as we persist in observing all the protocols of safety, in a world not yet free of the coronavirus.

We have attained a durable hope, but it is still the early break of a new dawn.

National economic recovery

While the outlook on the Nigerian economy gave rise to apprehensions in past months, with the weakening of global demand for oil, the loss of foreign exchange earnings, also compounded by the withering of global remittances to Nigeria from its various Diasporas, it has not been one relentless tale of woe.

The federal government has been quite proactive in creating shock buffers for the economy through the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan.

This encapsulates a range of multi-sector stimulus packages that will drive recovery, particularly on the back of MSMEs, which are the engines of economic activity and growth.

The ripple effects of this positive targeting holds out much hope for the hospitality and tourism industry that I am a crucial stakeholder in.

It was rather unfortunate that on the cusp of the death of oil, which was the decades-long commodity of national wealth and sustenance, tourism as a sector of vast growth, which contributed as much as $8.9 trillion to the world GDP, about 7 per cent of total world trade, and accounted for some 330 million jobs across board in more recent years, could become a shell of its former self and potential.

With the disastrous impact of coronavirus, world tourism has eroded by close to 80 per cent, resulting in the loss of tens of millions of jobs globally, and almost $1.2 trillion in international visitors’ spending. This has portended an attrition of up to 2.8 per cent of the world’s GDP, which is projected to contract by 4.9 per cent this year.

In Nigeria, here was a sector generally estimated as being responsible for about 34 per cent of GDP and 20 per cent of jobs, and which has been under the serious threat of unravelling.

Yet, as economic recovery is hitched up to science, there is further hope and conviction that the Economic Sustainability Plan of government is injecting life and reflating economic activity, whilst presently emplacing a durable safety net that is forestalling massive negative impact. This is geared towards a redoubtable spill over effect on the tourism sector.

Tourism as catalyst for economic recovery

In Nigeria’s operative medium-term fiscal strategy, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), tourism is recognised as one of the ten priority areas of focus for national economic growth and development.

This certainly holds sustained relevance in this period of economic recovery from the disruption occasioned by Covid-19, as was in the original outlook of the ERGP. In the plan, there is acknowledgement of the enormous commercial potentials of the natural environment, the Nigerian ecosystem, cultural and bio-diversities, coupled with the arts and crafts, which need to be enhanced for greater productivity.

Also, the identified possibilities of tourism feed directly into the capabilities of the creative industry, patronage of local agriculture alongside its expansive value chain, goods and services, which reinforce forward and backward linkages for a broader base of economic activities.

Together with the extensive opportunities of business tourism, which directly impacts the hospitality and related sectors, this is seen as qualified to increase revenue, create jobs and earn the country foreign exchange.

The ERGP definitely foretells of Nigeria’s rise to a tourist hub and destination in Africa, and an impressive financial entrepôt. This is the journey that has been resumed.

With over 7,000 tourist locations, part of which are acclaimed UNESCO heritage sites, and in consideration of previous activity in the sector, which saw to a large numbers of inbound and domestic tourists, at over 1.3 million visitors in 2015, on its rebound, tourism in Nigeria has the capacity for greater economic opportunities.

Its large commercial prospects are evident in the range of activities on offer in hospitality and hotel business, tour operations, airport services, the marketing of consumables, etc.

These are equally in sync with other frontiers of wealth creation in construction, and the building of infrastructure, which are bound to accelerate demand for telecoms and financial services, crafts, clothing, etc., that are immense industries in themselves.

Tour Nigeria as a new economic frontline

As a programme of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) that I lead, Tour Nigeria draws attention to the need to witness all that makes the country tick and stand out.

Nigeria stands out, not only in terms of the uniqueness of its natural environment and sights, but also the vibrancy and continuous innovation around our music, films and other cultural productions.

It is about the very peculiar form of energy that drives our business and leisure. For instance, when the poet, Odia Ofeimun, talks about how the people of Nigeria are Lagosed to great extents, he was referring to a vibe, a dynamism, an energy, an essence, a spirit that needs to be witnessed to be felt; and connected to.

One certainly needs to tour Nigeria to understand this peculiar transformation of a name into a form of energy and spirit. With all the diversity on offer, wouldn’t we rather Tour Nigeria?

Coker is Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC)

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