By Folorunsho Coker
To say that tourism is one of the sectors worst hit by the COVID-19 epidemic since early 2020 is rather stating the obvious, as the pandemic disrupted, in a fundamental way, the traditional modes of human convergence, whether around economic, social or other forms of activity.
It has been rather unfortunate in the past year that tourism, which was positioned as one of the sectors of outstanding growth for a Nigerian economy seeking to diversify from its mono product base, mainly hinged on the extractive industries, had to bear one of the severest brunts of the coronavirus offensive.
Prior to COVID-19, the growth trajectory of Nigerian tourism was looking towards double digits, as many of the country’s tourism assets were being revitalised, while our music and creative industries were equally gaining more universal appeal and patronage.
Our framing and implementation of the Tour Nigeria brand was in stride to inspire newer levels of interest in the many unique national destinations and sights, as much as it was poised to expand the uptake and consumption of Nigerian tourism.
The Tour Nigeria value proposition was anchored on the secure premise of diversifying and substantially growing the country’s economy. This was, logically, bound to stimulate the creation of millions of jobs, both directly and along tourism’s massive value chain.
One of the crucial liberating outcomes of the adjusted living and ‘new normal’ attendant upon the coronavirus invasion has been the increasing migration onto digital platforms, which offer and afford solutions to most things vital to the human, from e-learning to e-commerce, telemedicine, and also the connection to desire, as in experiencing reality that had been withheld by circumstance.
At the NTDC, we have been at the frontline of marketing the wonders of the Nigerian world as a peculiar destination through a most vital collaboration with the technology giant, Google. Through this, a global online audience has been availed the opportunity to Tour Nigeria and witness the stories and cultural treasures of Nigeria.
In its online manifestation, the Tour Nigeria brand is leveraged to become a premier destination for authentic Nigerian content in a way that deploys creativity, arts and culture, all driven by technology, to advance the new national agenda.
As laid out in Nigeria’s national economic plans, including the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) targeted at the post-COVID era, tourism has great potential to become a new and more inclusive economic frontier.
Our country’s over 7,000 tourist destinations, including renowned world heritage sites, and a myriad of attractions, comprising festivals – from the traditional to the more contemporary ones, involving entertainment, food and music fiestas, fashion events, coupled with business and conferencing possibilities – have positioned domestic tourism in the country, at the dawn of the post-COVID era, in the new frontline of Nigeria’s renascent economic development.
The past four years of our endeavours at the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) has erected the sturdy base for the achievement of a more rewarding and sustainable tourism agenda in Nigeria. This was essentially laid out through a Strategic Tourism Development Roadmap/Action Plan (2017-2021), christened the CHIEF PLAN.
In its expanded form, the CHIEF PLAN that encapsulates much of what have been achieved in the past four years is representative of activity around corporate governance and regulations, human capital development, infrastructure, events and marketing, and finance and investment. This has seen to the drive towards a review of the NTDC Act, for a more reflective legal framework for tourism in Nigeria.
While there have been more multi-sectoral partnerships towards the development of tourism in the past four years, we have also fully digitised the Corporation’s activities, in line with global best practices. More importantly, we are in the process of setting up a Tourism Intelligence Unit through which Big Data is deployed for collecting crucial data from customs, banks, airlines, etc., for better sectoral and economic planning.
– Folorunsho Coker is the director-general of Nigerian Tourism Development Council.