There is no doubt that Nigeria is yet to get a sufficient foothold on how to drive tourism business. We talk so much about tourism yet do not see to its manifestation in every area of our life.
Nigeria prides and wallows in tourism deception and pretense, making a mockery of an industry that other nations use to grow and create jobs, infrastructure development and legacies of wellness, recreation and discoveries in geography, science, tradition and history.
In other places where local travel and visitation are considered part of development, the gift of recreation and bonding with an end result to help connect national unity, encourage rural economic development, generate and sustain cultural revival, provide platforms for stress-free living and love for humanity, coordinated efforts are usually the bedrock of preparations for such seasons.
In this quest, China remains a veritable example of a tourism nation that has used its huge domestic tourism market, particularly its lunar calendar periods, to power its people to move effortlessly from its big and other emerging cities to the far-flung rural communities, towns and villages, thereby changing the Chinese landscape, spreading economic prosperity and providing sustainable infrastructural windows that help attract foreign socio-economic investment and tourism traffic.
To strategically plan for its New Year calendar holiday, the Chinese government usually provides hard facts, not only on the number of people that would move from one village to another but also on train services, emergency services, road transportation facilities, weather reports with all security organisations, not excluding its army formations, on red alert to help the people enjoy stress-free holidays.
Does anyone then wonder why the Chinese people live longer on earth and have developed effective mechanisms to drive visitation and tourism to their country? Apart from showcasing an organised nation, the Chinese, like other serious tourism nations around the world, do not need to convince any doubting Thomas or social critic that the wellbeing and welfare of their people truly count.
Indeed, domestic tourism forms and showcases globally the power of political and economic maturity of governments that place the needs and welfare of their citizens above political sentiments, which successive governments in Nigeria have elevated to a shameful act.
Our chaotic national planning process, which we keep on defending, and also scapegoat invincible hands is but a huge pot of corruption that has made us a laughing stock in global social and economic circles. What does it take Nigeria to sit down and look at how best to encourage its citizens to move about during holidays across the north and south of this country?
At Christmas, for instance, it is a known fact over the years that the complexities of cultural desires to the South-East, West and South-South provide a huge road map of movement, which demands that adequate federal government logistics cover on security, emergency services, roads, rail and airport infrastructure renewal and maintenance are put in place.
We can take a cue from the Federal Road Safety Commission, which has over the years mounted road surveillance on highways to ensure safety and provide emergency services in times of unavoidable distress. It is sad that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has become the face of deception and pain to ease of movement and travel in Nigeria by not ensuring sustainable presence of petroleum products at petrol stations across Nigeria, particularly at holiday periods.
As with Xmas, same failings are recorded during Ramadan holidays. Tragically, this process has become the face of governance in Nigeria, an oil-producing nation, and to our shame we fail to factor the huge socio-economic dislocations and loss to national development.
We have lost the advantage of our domestic tourism with the madness at our petrol stations, our motor parks and highways with potholes on parade. These are clear signposts that we are still far from getting it right in getting our people to appreciate our diversity in culture and tradition.
On BBC Television two days ago, I saw how a caring community and a rail organisation organised a Christmas outing for the travelling public. It is not beyond imagination to appreciate the immediate and future gains of such efforts to British tourism and patrons of rail services in the United Kingdom.
In Nigeria, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) is dead to good tourism initiatives. It does not collaborate with sister agencies to promote Nigeria neither does it showcase any exemplary tourism initiative other than make life unbearable for its workforce, thereby de-marketing Nigeria and its people.
The new year is here and I propose that the new face of Nigerian tourism must capture the exemplary Chinese content in planning and execution of holiday culture in Nigeria. Let us show practically the ease of doing business in tourism through a mentoring capacity initiated by the director-general of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe.
Indeed, time has come for us to merge culture with tourism, since culture products drive our tourism future. That common sense is supported by the huge value chain in holiday culture economy and to which Runsewe’s NCAC has shown capacity to reposition Nigeria as a tourism nation.
President Buhari has the capacity to support this initiative and support NCAC to restore Nigeria to its pride of place in the tourism world.
Happy New Year to my dear readers, let us join hands to say no to bleak holiday culture in Nigeria.