Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic activities and a veritable tool for foreign exchange earnings. Most nations pay particular attention to this sector because apart from the economic potentials, it is a means for promoting the cultures and traditions and bringing to global attention the rich heritage of nations. Countries like United Arab Emirates, France and Kenya finance quite a sizeable portion of their budget from tourism.
According to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), tourism is the third-largest export category (after fuels and chemicals), and in 2019 accounted for 7% of global trade. For some countries, it can represent over 20% of their GDP and, overall, it is the third largest export sector of the global economy.
Though in Nigeria, the travel and tourism sector contributes between 5.2% and 5.5% to the GDP and overall economy of the country, the sector has the potential to become a big foreign exchange earner just as the oil and gas.
The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, the government body responsible for tourism development in the country, aims to “promote the country as a domestic and international tourist destination for leisure, business, religion, festivals and commerce.” To open up Nigeria and transform tourism into the fastest route to development and economic growth in the 21st century, the Corporation claimed to have developed a roadmap that lays the foundation that will open up the country as a major tourism destination in Africa through the development of international tourism and promotion of domestic tourism. The commission has developed a 30-item calendar of events listing tourism events in different parts of the country and the date, and, likely time the event will hold. The list, however, is not exhaustive and hardly qualifies to be called a calendar as it is not very definitive. The marketing of the listed events also needs to be re-jigged intensively and extensively.
To transform the potentials to actual and re-position the tourism industry to global competitiveness, Chief Abiodun Odusanwo (FITPN), President National Association of Nigerian Travel agent (NANTA), believes that practitioners need to invest heavily in marketing. Suggesting that, at least, 10% of the income of the industry should be spent on marketing to create awareness and promote various tourist destination sites and the natural hospitality of Nigerians, he said: “There is much to be done by the industry in terms of investing on needed promotional marketing.”
He emphasised the need to start with domestic tourism saying, “We need to do lots more when it comes to promotion, in particular what the industry needs to focus on is the area of domestic tourism because the Covid-19 pandemic is a serious discouragement for international tourism So we need to promote domestic tourism, and a lot needs to be invested in digital marketing. So that people can be aware of what they have within their locality. Much needs to be done in terms of online presence”.
He said further that, “The state government needs to also do more in terms of promoting their individual state. State governments should invest in tourism and e involved in the management, maintenance and development of tourist sites in their individual state. There should be synergy between the state tourism boards and the Tourism Commission, industry should do more in terms of promotional marketing so people can be made aware of what they have within their county.”
Apart from tourist destinations sites, Nigeria has a lot to offer the world in terms of values, culture and tradition. This cultural aspect of tourism is expressed through ceremonies and festivals. If effectively managed and marketed, this is a niche Nigeria can explore to quickly catapult itself into one of the tourist destination countries of the world.
“The state government needs to also do more in terms of promoting their individual state. The industry should do more in terms of promotional marketing so people can be made aware of what they have within their county.”
Speaking about online marketing and effectiveness of it in the tourism sector, he stated that tourism is a mobility industry, where the industry promotes connectivity. The essence of online marketing is to get people familiar with the offers they have but it is enough if people cannot visit. “For tourism operators really our interest is best served when travelers can actually visit our establishment. Yes, there are avatars available whereby people can view what we offer but it is not the same because if a hotel packages what they have online for people to see, they still need physical contact to begin to earn some income, he said.”
He said further that “Tourism is a mobility industry; we are an industry that promotes connectivity. So it does not matter how much you do through avatar, online the fact that there is no movement is not good for our industry. Over the past few months or year, we have had to look into the ad spend on connectivity either through online advert or other medium because it is not good enough for our industry if there are no physical contacts available.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Rabo, National President, Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN) has charged the tourism corporation and boards to rise up to the challenge of marketing and promoting the industry effectively. According to him, “marketing of a country’s tourism is mainly done by the tourism board of a country however, in the case of Nigeria, but private sectors are the drivers of tourism.” He believes aggressive marketing during this pandemic era may be what the country needs to have a break in tourism. e pandemic is actually the way forward since some countries are still on lockdown and traveling is still restricted in some other countries and also there are lots of protocols by travelers.
Indeed, tourism marketing is intended to promote the business, make it stand out from rivals, attract customers, and generate brand awareness. For Nigeria to lift up the tourism industry, turn it into a foreign exchange cash cow and leverage it for positioning in international relations, the country must involve professionals. Thankfully, Nigeria is blessed with several egg-heads in the Integrated Marketing Communications profession. These are people with the required skills and experience to fashion and implement a marketing plan that is capable of catapulting Nigeria into the top tourist destination countries in record time.