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Hospitality expert, Sandra Ogbahor makes case for dev’t of Nigeria’s tourism sector to boost economy

A key stakeholder in the Nigerian hospitality and tourism sector, Sandra Ogbahor has called on government at all levels to partner the private sector in tapping the untapped resources of the nation’s tourist sites an industry she described as money spinner if given desired attention.

She made the above assertion as one of the resource persons at a workshop which came with the theme, “Tourism/Hospitality Industry As An Alternative to Oil & Gas in Revenue Generation” on Saturday, 5th August, 2023 at Lekki, Lagos.

Sandra said apart from oil and gas industry which serves as major source of foreign exchange earnings, the tourism and hospitality sector if well harnessed can boost the economy of the nation.

According to her: “In developed countries of the world and some African countries, tourism is a big business and creates employment opportunities for many people. Aside from direct jobs at the sites, those in the hospitality business such as hotels and restaurants also make a lot of money through the influx of tourists.

“Nigeria being a monolithic economy it is our responsibility as critical stakeholders in the Nigeria’s tourism and hospitality industry to advise the government to show commitment and partner the private sector in building the sector.

“Government and other investors within this lucrative and revenue generating space need to work our better ways of handling tourism business in the country and of course Nigerians too need to believe in their own, instead of travelling outside the country for leisure.

“It is really mind-boggling so see that our country Nigeria is losing billions of dollars annually due to lack of focus on the sector, whereas this is a money spinner if really given desired attention.

“According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), hospitality and tourism industry is one of the largest industries in the world for socio-economic gains. It is an important component which caters for tourists in any given destination, as such it is a valuable asset of the travel and tourism industry today and that is the simple truth.

“Even a layman understands that that tourism is travel for recreation, leisure, or business purposes even as it is defined as activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business, and other purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the places visited. However, we must always find out ways on how to turn leisure to wealth creation and deepen human capital development or what I can still call employment opportunity” She stated.

Fielding questions from her audience at the well attended workshop, Sandra who is the Regional Manager at BON Hotels Nest Bodija, Ibadan Oyo State, noted further:

“The focus of hospitality is welfare. It is an aspect of tourism that looks out for the wellbeing of tourists. Service delivery and guest impression are the common dynamics that holds the industry together. In lieu of this, the field of tourism and hospitality is not excluded from the concept of sustainable development given the close relationship between the natural environment and tourism.

“Tourism is vast, its potentials and the values it adds to any nation that is ready to boost her economy is enormous and I appeal to the government and other key stakeholders not to rest on their oars, but to do more in giving the industry its place of pride.

“As we all know, tourism is in different categories. We have Medical, Business and Religious Tourism, etc. Let me speak more about Religious Tourism. From time immemorial, religious obligations have become a fashionable trend all over the world as a means of expressing beliefs and faith in the ability of God to protect and guide

mankind. Religious practices under the auspices of Christianity, Islam and Traditional practices have in no small way contributed to the development of tourism in the world and Nigeria isn’t an exception. People travel from one part of the country to another to attend religious programs, look at the number of people that usually attend programs organized by churches like RCCG, CAC, Winners Chapel, Deeper Life, Synagogue etc in Nigeria. This opportunity must never be taken for granted if we’re truly serious in business and profit making.

“It is a known fact that the Christian pilgrimages to Israel and the convergence of Islamic faithful twice in a year at Saudi Arabia have formed an economic platform for empowerment of the localities and contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the host countries. In Nigeria, beyond several allusions by the government to the promotion of tourism, religion has continued to play a pivotal role in the development of tourism in the country.

“Many dignitaries have in recent times found Nigeria to be the essential balm to many of their spiritual problems, with many past and present heads of government from across the world visiting Nigeria to seek solution.

Sandra who again spoke about infrastructure deficit within the Tourism and hospitality space has this to say:

“Nigeria’s lack of infrastructures is most pronounced in the rural areas where incidentally most of its tourist sites are also located. Nevertheless, efforts at developing infrastructure to

support tourism in Nigeria, paltry as these may be, stakeholders will have to nip these identifiable challenges in the bud as quickly as possibly and our government across board has a major role to play, through budget financing and bridging the deficit gaps, building excellent symbiotic relationships with the host communities and creation of relevant policies and legislations.

“Rural areas are where tourism is expected to have its most impact on economic development given the infrastructure and income it can attract to rural Nigeria to spur economic growth, and development in rural areas and the regions. In this regard, tourism can facilitate the replication of infrastructure to the regions and the rural areas of Nigeria, which are usually the areas which lack the required amenities.

“While tourism presents developing countries like Nigeria with huge opportunity and scope for economic diversification, efforts should be made to manage possible adverse social and environmental impacts. Although the quality of the environment, both natural and man-made, is essential to tourism, this cannot be taken for granted given their complex nature and peculiarities.” Sandra disclosed.

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