The total contribution of travel and tourism to the global economy was estimated at over $7.6 trillion in 2016, around 10 percent of the global GDP of $75.6 trillion. In Nigeria, the contribution of the tourism industry is estimated at around $1.5 billion, figures that are not only a tiny fraction of the global industry but also demonstrate the gulf between the present reality and the potential of tourism for Nigeria.
Over the years a number of tourism based organisations have been have been at the forefront of driving the narrative for the Nigerian government to step up by creating programmes and policy that could help harness the massive potentials of the Nigerian tourism industry. one of such organisations is Waka About Africa, one Nigeria’s leading travels and tourism magazines. Last years, when Waka About Africa turned five, it decided to do something even more special in support of the industry and so it organized the Waka About Africa Conference and Exhibition.
The event which held on Wednesday June 7, 2017 at the prestigious NECA House in Alausa in Lagos provided a platform for robust brainstorming and debate as stakeholders in the tourism and aviation industry challenged government and private sector to do more for the growth and development of the tourism sector in Nigeria. the main. The one day event attracted the cream de la Cream in the local tourism sector including the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, who delivered the keynote address.
Prof. Dambatta’s speech explored the theme of the conference which was ICT and Finance as Catalyst for Tourism and Culture. He provided insights that offered even deeper perspective and perception to the subject of discussion. The NCC EVC made it clear in his speech that there was an healthy intersection between ICT and culture adding that a nation that projects their cultural heritage and tourism potentials with ICT, inevitably improves its cultural potentials.
But despite this possibility, Prof. Danbatta regrets that the poor state of development in the local tourism sector makes it difficult for ICT to achieve desired growth. “ICT can provide a major catalyst for harnessing the potentials of tourism and culture. While this is true, ICT cannot do much on itself for a nation which has low tourism potential. Nigeria is said to have ranked 131 out of 141 countries with tourism competitive index in 2015. With this level of your competitiveness, it might be difficult to truly measure the catalyst role that ICT plays for the development and growth of culture and tourism. We can therefore highlight how ICT can improve the culture and tourism potential so that as government refocuses to make the industry very active, it will find ICT as an enabler,” he said.
Speaking about hotels and the hospitality industry as a major component of the tourism industry, the NCC boss said that ICT has become an indispensable partner in hotel management and attraction of patronage. “it is now a common practice for those who embark on tours to remotely select appropriate and cost-effective hotels, accommodations, make reservations and also pay for such services,” he said.
According to the Prof Nigerian tourism outfits are also keying into some of these technological inventions to improve the level of service offering t tourists. He noted that thanks to ICT, Nigerians are able to project Nigerian hotels from even the remotest parts of the country. Some of the sites that offer these services include, Jovago Travels, Jumai Travels, 9jahotels.com, agoda.com, hotels.ng, nicestay.com,.
Also commenting on the nexus between ICT and finance Prof Dambatta said ICT has enabled financial transaction as it related to tourism. He noted that international and Nigerian tourists can travel to any part of the country with their cards in their wallet and re then able to successfully transact business. “we hardly forget that an TM machine which dispenses cash to visitors is connected to phone network. We can easily engage in online and real time shopping in online malls like Kumia, Konga, OLX, Yudala etc.”
In his closing remark the NCC boss said the commission was concerned about the deployment of ICT in the country, “that is why we declared 2017 as the year of Nigerian Telecom Consumer .”
Though the NCC CEO’s speech was one of the major highlights of the conference but it was not the only highlights. Several other tourism and travels stakeholders took turn to deliver their own speeches, which pointed to the opportunities and challenges in the Nigerian tourism sector.
There was a general consensus at the conference that the country was blessed with abundant tourism resources but the potentials have not been adequately harnesses for the economic good of the country.