Tourism is one of the most important growing sectors of the Nigerian economy due to its inter-relativity to other sectors like Transportation, Infrastructure, Construction, Real Estate, ICT and the food industry. The government gave priority status to the Tourism Industry as far back as 1990 when the National Tourism Policy was launched, with the main policy thrust being to generate foreign exchange earnings, create employment opportunities, promote rural enterprises and national integration, among other things.
The Government’s Vision 2010 had set year 2005 as the nation’s year of tourism though not much was actualized due to crumbled infrastructure and the government's poor implementation. However, today the tourism policies and programmes will now be aimed at making Nigeria the “Ultimate Tourism Destination in Africa” with a particular focus on boosting private sector involvement with investment incentives. Nigeria is blessed with a vibrant culture and multiple festivals with international marketing potentials, historical sites and naturally stunning sites ranging from tropical forests, magnificent waterfalls, beaches and climatic conditions with resort potentials conducive for holidaying.
A few well known ones are: Yankari Game Reserve where a wildlife diversity can be experienced, Cross River National Park - a haven of florafuna, waterfalls and naturally stunning landscape which stretches upto the boarder of Cameroun, Obudu Cattle Ranch, Kainji National Park, Tarkwa Bay, Coconut Beach, etc. Traditional African Festivals with potential for international spectors include the Argungu Fishing Festival, Eyo, Sharo, Igbo Yam Festival, Osun Festival and the All-in-one Calabar Carnival which now happens towards the end of December each year. Also bewildering to foreign travellers and explorers are historic sites like the Ancient Kano City Wall, Gidan Rumfa, Daura Emir Palace, Benin Wall; and traditional industrial processes like Kano Dye Pits and Leather Works, a few to mention.
However, many of these attractions are still largely untapped, undeveloped and remain as hidden tour gems enjoyed by a few. The shortage of modern infrastructure in some parts of the country has also contributed to the challenges in developing and popularizing these exotic places to global tourism standards. As a result of these impediments to tourism, the government has opened up to the private sector with favourable policies, programs and incentives to both local and foreign investors to revive the tourism potentials in the country. The diversity of Nigeria’s tourism resources along with economic liberalisation policies provides investment opportunities in various areas as follows:
Beach Tourism potentials Establishment of boating and sport fishing facilities
The provision of incentives in the 1990 National Tourism Policy were also to enhance private sector participation. Among many other general incentives applicable to all industries, The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation's policy states that 25% of tourism income in convertible currencies is exempted from taxation. Section 37 CITA (Corporate Income Tax Act) provides that such income must be generated from tourists and be put in a reserved fund to be utilized within 5 years for the building and expansion of new hotels, conference centres and new facilities for the purpose of tourism development.
Along with the core tourism business come other opportunities in related economies.
Transportation: The Nigerian Government is working to attain standard transportation network system to interconnect tourism sites, especially by Air, Road and Water. However, investment opportunities are open in all areas including water recreation transportation and rail services. An inter-modal transportation system linking roads, railways, air and maritime services is being promoted by the Government as part of the massive programme of infrastructural development and investment attraction.
Hospitality: The hospitality sector of the tourism industry seems to be the most competitive when it comes to hotels, resorts, other accommodation and intercontinental restaurants. With international brands like Starwood Hotel Groups - owners of Sheratons, Hilton, Le Meridien, Shangra Lai the Asian Hotel giant already having a presence in the country indicates the industry's health. Meanwhile, most of Nigeria’s beautiful beach locations are still largely without accommodation facilities, which are good targets for investors in most tourism destinations across the globe.
Local Eateries: Just like in every other tourism industry, customers largely demand for exotic experiences including local food. Nigeria has a shortage of standard local eateries around tourists sites which avails a gap and a massive opportunity for local chain or franchise.
Local arts and craft: The souvenir culture among tourists and travellers is one that is hard to ignore. In other exotic tourism regions such as South East Asia, experts estimate that souvenir sales contribute as much as 15% of the local tourism revenue. However, in Nigeria, this add-on tourism potential was largely abandonned in the early 90s along with the entire industry. With a little revival and investment, this largely underestimated industry could make a significant come-back.