The gains of exploring potentials in tourism industry: the Ogun example

By: Oluwaseun Boye

Tourism can be described as the act and process of spending time away from home in pursuit of recreation, relaxation, and pleasure, while making use of the commercial provision of services.

According to Wikipedia, tourism means to travel for pleasure or business; also it is the theory and practice of touring the business of attracting, accommodating, and entertaining tourists, and the business of operating tours.

World tourism organisation on the other hand defines tourism beyond the common perception of tourism as being limited to holiday activity only, it describes it as people “travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure and not less than 24 hours, business and other purposes”.

As such, tourism is a product of modern social arrangements, beginning in Western Europe in the 17th Century, when young nobles from western and northern European countries made what was called the Grand Tour: a trip around Europe (usually covering France, Germany, Italy and Greece) with the main purpose of soaking up history, art and cultural heritage, It was considered a perfect way to be educated.

By the 18th Century, this custom was widespread among wealthier classes and it spread to other parts of the world, such as America. Similarly, religious pilgrimages that were already popular during the Middle Ages continued during this period.

By and large, every 27th of September was earmarked to celebrate World Tourism Day to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value.

World Tourism Day was designated by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in September 1979, while the commemoration commenced in 1980. This date was chosen to coincide with an important milestone in world tourism: the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on 27 September 1970.

Every year, the day is set aside to encourage people to travel, as a way to enrich lives, which is crucial for countries’ economy and politics. Tourism is the best way to broaden horizons and expand knowledge of other cultures, encouraging people to be more acceptable and sociable among themselves. Because of this, World Tourism Day’s aim is also to raise people’s awareness about how travel and tourism need to be made more accessible for everyone.

The theme for this year’s celebration has been tagged “Rethinking Tourism“. It  is geared to inspire discussions around rethinking tourism for development, which includes terms of education and employment, and discussions about the impact of tourism on the sustainability of the planet and various opportunities that can develop sustainably .

The importance of tourism in any economy cannot be overemphasised, it is a  vital ingredient for the success of many economies around the world. Apart from the fact that tourism boosts the revenue of the economy, it creates thousands of jobs, develops the infrastructures of a country, and plants a sense of cultural exchange between foreigners and citizens.

The number of jobs created by tourism is highly significant.These jobs are not only a part of the tourism sector but it also include the agricultural, communication, health, and the educational sectors. Many tourists travel to experience the hosting destination’s culture, different traditions, and gastronomy. This is very profitable to local restaurants, shopping centers and malls.

Today, tourism has become a part of people’s lifestyle especially in the developed countries of the world. It is essential to help fight against stress that leads to some forms of terminal ailments. According to health experts, people take less vacation, work longer days and retire later in life. All of these factors combined provide for a perfect “stress” storm. Taking time away from the job can have physical and mental health benefits. People who take vacations have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve goals, so going on vacation or getaways help relieve stress and make people get refreshed from mental stress.

In Nigeria today, tourism has become a national binding force.

According to the Managing Director/CEO of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, (NEPZA) Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, during his presentation at the the fifth edition of the National Tourism, Transportation Summit and Expo held in April, 2022 with the theme: “Strengthening Connectivity Effects and Partnership; Leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area, AFCFTA” stated that tourism contributed 0.3 percent to two percent of the country’s total Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

He said “Over the years, tourism has contributed $1.5 billion to the Nigerian economy, which was scarcely 0.3% of the total GDP. In 2020 this value dropped, largely due to COVID-19 Pandemic. Tourism presents economic, social and technological opportunities for Nigeria. Economically, it serves as a channel for foreign reserves and investment in the economy, which by extension, leads to GDP growth and economic diversification. Socially, tourism serves to promote tolerance.”

In Nigeria, an increase in tourism could be a uniting force.

Technologically, as demand increases, the sector will be forced to evolve the technology it employs. This would enable those who work in tourism to be able to serve more people, reduce human errors and increase efficiency.

“However, the level of insecurity in the country is also another factor that has dented growth in Nigerian tourism.

Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest number of deaths from terrorism and this has affected the tourism sector through lower investments and loss of natural resources.

“Therefore, the Federal Government needs to increase security surveillance and management as this would help to promote peace and stability in the country. Egypt is also another country that has significant issues with insecurity but has taken measures to curb this action and improve its tourism, the country pro-active measures has turned around the tourism sector which now serves as one of the country’s national income contributing to the its GDP and also rated high amongst the tourist country in Africa” he revealed.

Ogun State, blessed with Olumo Rock in Abeokuta; is rated as the most popular travel spot. The Olumo Rock was used by the people of Egba against attacks during the frequent wars that characterized the ancient city for centuries.

Other historic monuments and landmarks include: Birikisu Sugbo Shrine at Oke-Eri; Yemoji Natural Pool at Ijebu-Ode; Oyan Dam in Abeokuta North; Iwopin Boat Regatta and Ebute-Oni in Ogun Waterside. Similarly, Madam Tinubu Shrine in Abeokuta; Oronna Shrine, Ilaro; Area J4 Forest Reserve; Tongeji Island, Ipokia; Old Manse at Ogbe, Abeokuta and Ijamido River Shrine both in Ota.

However, the Dapo Abiodun- led administration in the State is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the potentials in the tourism industry is given its pride of place, as mercenaries of government were deployed to ensure that the industry continues to thrive in the comity of states, just recently, Ogun again emerged as the overall best-performing State at 15th edition of International Arts and Crafts (INAC) Expo, in Abuja, having bagged the first position with several awards at its 14th edition held last year.

It was not surprising that the closing and award ceremony of the Expo, held between 18th and 20th August, themed “Networking Nigerian Crafts to the World”, conferred the State awards as the overall best performing, Best Product Design in  Pavillion, Textiles, Fabric and Fashion, Metal and Brass Works, the most enterprising exhibitor and a special award for State Day.

According to the Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe in his remarks, said the Expo participation was drawn from 36 States of the federation with the Federal Capital Territory and over 26 countries in attendance.

No doubt, events of this nature will avail various opportunities for trade and investment, promote greater integration and synergy between players in the sector to boost economic and social development, as well as provide platforms for entrepreneurs to showcase their goods and services. It will also further promote peace, social integration, national unity and international cultural diplomacy through appropriate synergy with members of the diplomatic communities in Nigeria.

Speaking after receiving the award, Permanent Secretary, Ogun State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Mr Olusegun Olaotan, stated that the State would always remain at the fore burner in setting the pace in culture with innovations being introduced by Prince Dapo Abiodun’s administration in innovative acumen in E-marketing and promotion of Adire fabric has helped the economic status and foreign investment opportunities as well as enabled small and medium-scale enterprises to grow their businesses in Ogun State among others.

Shedding light on how to improve the tourism business, an expert and Chief Operating Officer of Voyage Afrique Cruise and Tours Limited, Omo’ba Abiola Ogundeko said local tourism should be promoted by engaging more in domestic travel and exploring alternatives to mass tourism, such as sustainable rural tourism, nature tourism, and theme-based circuit tourism.

He is of the opinion that government at all levels must put in place adequate security measures as well as pay attention to illegal activities at tourist sites by putting in place stringent measures to protect the ecological space to preserve tourism, governments should also consider increased focus and investment in capacity building and training of tourism departments as well as inclusion of sustainability taxes for tourists and protecting sensitive communities and Indigenous areas.

As the world celebrate World Tourism Day, government at all levels, individuals and other stakeholders should come up with strategies to transform the tourism industry by thinking out of the box. There is need for new voices as well as new ideas if truly the industry needs to be transformed in order to build a better tourism for all.

Oluwaseun Boye is an Information Officer with the Ogun State Ministry of Information and Strategy and writes via [email protected]

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