Thursday, 17 December 2015 00:00

Developments in Nigeria’s Tourism Industry (1975 to 2015)

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It was comforting when, in April 2012, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) released an analytical report on Nigeria’s tourism that read, “travel and tourism generated 838, 500 jobs directly in 2011 (1.4 percent total employment), and is forecasted to grow by seven percent in 2012 to 897, 500.

This includes employment by hotels, travel agents, airlines, and other passenger services excluding commuter services). It also includes, for example, the activities of the restaurants and leisure industries directly supported by tourists.”

The report went further to say, capital investment in the tourism sector was N252.5 billion (Naira), adding that it would rise by 2.3 percent in 2012. It said a rise of 6.5 percent per annum was envisaged over the next 10 years. And forecast that domestic travel spending was expected to grow by 1.5 percent in 2012 to N119.4 billion (Naira), and rise by 2.4 per cent per annum to N151.5 billion (Naira) in 2022. Pertaining to GDP, the WTTC concluded that total contribution of travel and tourism was N1.232 trillion (Naira), being 3.3% of Nigeria GDP in 2011. Adding that GDP was expected to rise by 10.8 percent in 2012, and 7% per annum to N2.691 trillion (Naira) by 2022.

Despite the impressive potential of Nigeria’s tourism as highlighted by the WTTC report, Nigeria has failed to evolve into a prominent tourism destination in Africa, let alone in the world. Yet, the country is enormously blessed with several resource-based tourist attractions, including some United Nations World Heritage Sites. Nigeria officially became a member of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in 1975. 

Statutorily, tourism started gaining momentum in 1988, when the ruling military government promulgated a decree establishing the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), and by the year 2000, the Federal Ministry of Culture & Tourism was created; thereby according tourism a priority status in Nigeria’s quest for national economic development. 

Over the years, the need for conservation caused the federal government to create some national parks and reserves. To date, Nigeria has eight National Parks and some State Governments nature reserves. But these parks are not adequately funded, neither are they strategically managed to attract spending tourists. Because these parks were set up for conservation purposes only, they have not added any value to tourism development. Little wonder these parks are under the Federal Ministry of Environment, instead of the Ministry of Tourism – as obtained in other climes.

More so, ‘Cultural Tourism’, which is the most significant brand of Nigeria tourism, is not strategically marketed to attract international tourists either. Come to think of it, the bane of tourism development in Nigeria has been the lack of concerted marketing strategy for both domestic and inbound tourism. Consequently, the industry’s growth has been at a snail’s speed.

Notwithstanding the accolades that heralded the establishment of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, there been no significant development in the industry afterwards. No thanks to the mediocrity perpetuated in the administration of tourism in Nigeria. Since its creation, the Federal Ministry of Culture & Tourism has had ‘tourism-illiterates’ as substantive ministers. In fact, the ministry had been the dumping ground for career politicians with no tourism know-how.

Over the years, experts had perennially posited that, the bane of Nigeria tourism development, amongst other things, is the lack of world-class marketing and promotion programmes, targeting both local and international travel source markets.

The 2005 Federal Government of Nigeria and UNWTO facilitated Tourism Development Masterplan for Nigeria concluded that,

“The current marketing approach is very weak. The marketing of Nigeria as a tourist destination is underfunded and lacks a strategic marketing

approach. The marketing collaterals are not up to international standards; while they are informative they are not customer friendly.

A survey of tour operators in the UK, Europe and the United States of America indicated a lack of information or knowledge about Nigeria

as a  tourist destination. The adoption of a niche marketing approach will be critical to the success of any future marketing strategy and therefore the success (or otherwise) in developing tourism in the country.”  

Consequently, no meaningful advancement was recorded in developing Nigeria’s tourism industry, and the same fate bedevilled the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).

Amazingly, the most significant development of a tourist destination in Nigeria came from a state government in the South-South region. Between 1999 and 2007, the then Governor Donald Duke of Cross River State successfully revamped and enriched the hitherto moribund Obudu Cattle Ranch and instituted the now celebrated Calabar Festival. He single-handedly turned Cross River State into the most renowned tourist destination in Nigeria. His administration also built the Tinapa Business Resort to rival Dubai.

After Obudu Ranch Resort, now called, Obudu Mountain Resort, the next notable tourist destination in Nigeria is the Bauchi State owned Yankari Game Reserve. The park is endowed with several natural warm springs and diverse plants and wildlife. It is also rich in prehistoric – early man’s - archaeological attractions. Notwithstanding the sterling ecotourism quality of Yankari Game Reserve, successive governments have done little to build world class facilities and promote the destination to attract domestic and international tourists.

In 2012, the World Bank and most international development organisations reported that Nigeria’s economy will grow at 7% in the coming years. But it did not. No thanks to the fall in the price of crude oil in the international markets that started in 2014. And by 2015, the same Bretton Wood Institutions are projecting a not more than 4% annual growth. Insisting that Nigeria’s economy must diversify to other sectors like tourism and agriculture.

The World Bank advice fell on deaf ears. Sadly, successive governments in Nigeria have no appetite to develop Nigeria’s tourism into a major domestic revenue and foreign exchange earner. And it is not because of easy crude oil money hitherto. Rather, it is due to sheer insufficient knowledge of tourism economic development potentials.

Though the clamour for economic diversification became intense in the five (2010-2015) years of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, he left no indelible footprint on Nigeria’s tourism development. He produced Nigeria’s longest serving tourism minister, Edem Duke, a Calabar hotelier, who did nothing but throw his fat weight around!

As if the industry has not suffered enough, Goodluck Jonathan’s successor, President Muhammad Buhari in October 2015, chose to scrap the Ministry of Tourism and re-assigned the former ministry’s agencies to a new Ministry of Information and Culture! Now Nigeria’s tourism industry development opportunity is back to square-one!!

After all said and done, Nigeria Tourism development would only be transformed by visionary and transformational leadership. Political leadership that makes tourism a central part of Nigeria’s national economic development strategy, and not an after-thought – which is presently the case!  The approach to managing tourism in the country should be orchestrated to benchmark on the tourism comparative advantage of each geo-political zone. Each geo-political zone in Nigeria presents a different tourist opportunity, in terms of the local people’s tradition, cultural heritage, vegetation belt, landmark attractions, and socio-economic environments.



This updated article ‘Developments in Nigeria’s Tourism Industry’ is written by Joesef Karim. It is an excerpt of his book, “Travel and Tour Operations in Nigeria”, (ISBN: 978-978-922-703-7) 2nd Edition, 2013. Mr. Karim is a tourism destination marketing specialist and the Co-Founder of Afro Tourism Expo, an annual travel and tourism conference and exhibition that holds in Abuja Nigeria.

Read 3778 times Last modified on Saturday, 15 April 2017 15:36
Joesef Karim

Joesef Karim is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Nigeria Travel Digest - an online magazine that started in September 2012. 

Joesef Karim is a graduate of Tourism Management and has an MBA in Marketing. Mr. Karim is an Africa travel specialist and a tourism business consultant. He has been a leading Nigeria tourism stakeholder for over two decades, and is on the Board of some travel and tourism companies in Nigeria.

Joesef is a certified advertising practitioner (APCON) in Nigeria, whose specialty include strategy conceptualization, communication planning, advert scripting, copy writing, and media buying management. 

In April 2013, Joesef authored a book: "Travel & Tour Operations in Nigeria". The book has since been adopted as a course material by some tourism departments in Polytechnics and Universities across Nigeria. Additionally, every quarter, he provides hands-on trainings on 'Tour Packaging & Sales Strategy' for travel agencies in Nigeria. 

Presently, Joesef is the Public Relations Officer of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) - the umbrella body of the organized private sector in Nigeria's tourism and hospitality industry. 

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