Today is an exciting day for tourists, tour operators, travel enthusiasts and all over the world! It’s World Tourism Day! The UN agency dedicated to tourism, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) celebrates this day annually and Accessible Tourism: Tourism for all, is the theme for this year with official celebrations taking place in the vibrant city of Bangkok.Over the years, tourism has become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world and the revenue generated from tourism cannot be over emphasized. To put it in context, according to the UNWTO, “the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles”.
“Tourism has boasted virtually uninterrupted growth over time, despite occasional shocks, demonstrating the sector’s strength and resilience. International tourist arrivals have increased from 25 million globally in 1950 to 278 million in 1980, 674 million in 2000, and 1186 million in 2015. Likewise, international tourism receipts earned by destinations worldwide have surged from US$ 2 billion in 1950 to US$ 104 billion in 1980, US$ 495 billion in 2000, and US$ 1260 billion in 2015” – source World Tourism Organization. Over the decades, tourism has experienced continued growth and deepening diversification to become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. Modern tourism is closely linked to development and encompasses a growing number of new destinations. These dynamics have turned tourism into a key driver for socio-economic progress.
The figures above are mind boggling to say the least and you wonder why
any country Nigeria, blessed with natural sites, is yet to see potential in this sector and seriously consider tourism as a revenue generating stream. I had a funny discussion with Fola, a fellow travel blogger who blogs here and that inspired this post. We discussed how so many sites all over the world had replicas in Nigeria and yet we are at the bottom of the tourism food chain. From stories of the white Hippo murdered in Gombe State two years ago to managers of Idanre Hills trading of artifacts that have been there for hundreds of years, we both agreed that Nigerians clearly do not appreciate what we have. There is no point telling the government what to do to make the country more attractive to tourists, they know what to do. Before I turn this post into a crusade against the government, here are some tourist destinations in world you can find in our neck of the woods.
MACHU PICCHU/IDANRE HILLS: In 2013, about 1.2 Million tourists visited Machu Picchu and a two trip to Machu Picchu costs about $415 (inclusive of transportation, accommodation, entrance ticket). Our very own Machu Picchu, Idanre Hills, attracted only 9098 visitors in 2012 and tour guides charge an average of N25,000 for a two day trip from Lagos.
NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK/YANKARI GAMES RESERVE: I remember visiting Nairobi National Park with my family and my mother inlaw told us how Yankari Games reserve was once the it destination for Nigerians and foreigners. It was the perfect location to be at one with nature and everyone wanted to visit. In comparison, Yankari Games Reserve boasts of more added features some of which include warm springs, water falls and natural caves but Nairobi still remains the worlds wildlife capital :). Good enough the current Bauchi State Government is putting in effort to revive it and our friends at Irin Ajo are planning a trip there for the Independence day holiday (see flier details below).
KIGALI GENOCIDE MEMORIAL CENTER/NATIONAL WAR MUSEUM UMUAHIA: I still do not understand why a place like the National War Museum in Umuahia gets little or no publicity. I know the Nigerian civil war leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth and people do not want to talk about it, but its an important part of our history which needs to be passed on from generation to generation. Its not enough that authors such as Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Adiche have written novels about the Biafran war, an improved and well managed national war museum is not too much to ask. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is listed as #1 of 53 things to do in Kigali on trip advisor and a reviewer described it as ” a very powerful well done memorial with good historical background”. In giving her account of her trip to the national war museum, Amarachi of chapterone.com.ng stated thus:
“Like most museums in the country, photography isn’t allowed inside the galleries. I didn’t think there was much to photograph anyway, plus the interior was poorly lit but I did appreciate that the museum had undergone a bit of a face lift when I visited in 2015 and a tour guide was provided to escort us at no extra charge”.
VICTORIA FALLS/FARIN RUWA FALLS: Farin Ruwa Falls, located in Nassarawa State is arguably the most beautiful waterfall in Nigeria. The waterfall lives up to its name Farin Ruwa meaning “white waters” as the waters are clean and crystal clear. During its descent, the drop from the water fall is at 150 meters which is higher that the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe which drops a height of around 108 meters. Quoted from victoriafallstourism.org,
“By the end of 1990 nearly 300,000 people were visiting the falls each year. Victoria Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the citizens of both Zambia and Zimbabwe no longer have fear of the “the smoke that thunders”, and are successfully developing the tourism on both sides of the river.”
In 2007, the Government of Nasarawa State embarked on a project called “Farin Ruwa (white snow) Eco-Tourism Resort project” with a vision to create an international eco- tourism resort and the biggest tourist attraction destination in Nigeria. We are still waiting on this project.
JEITA GROTTO/OGBUNIKE CAVES: Jeita grotto, a limestone cave, is the longest cave in the Middle East with an overall length of nearly 9 kilometers. The attractions in Jeita Grotto include cable cars, trains, miniature zoo, gardens. an air conditioned theater, several restaurants, souvenir shops and snack bars. Covering over 20 hectares of land, the Ogbunike Caves located at the Uyi Local Government Area in Anambra State “boasts” of One Million bats and a lengthy walkway made up of 317 steps constructed by the Anambra State Government in the mid 90s.This is quite depressing to say the least.You need to watch this video here to understand the state of the Ogbunike Caves.
LEEDS CASTLE/KAJURU CASTLE: Kajuru Castle is definitely one my favorite tourist locations in Nigeria and it is comparable to any castle built in medieval times. If you follow me on any of my social media platforms, you know I STAN for Kajuru as it is not your average Nigerian establishment. They have maintained their impeccable standard throughout the years and people who visit have positive feedback.Well maintained facilities, great customer service, affordable, perfect getaway, what more could a tourist ask for? The only thing missing is additional facilities around the castle. For example, Leeds Castle has loads of attractions such as zip slides, a maze, segway tours, castle trains etc. If you haven’t visited you should check out our post and join Globe Jaunters on their day trip scheduled for 8th October, 2016.
WHITE RIVER/RIVER ETHIOPE: The only difference between white river in Jamaica and River Ethiope in Abraka is a government that recognizes tourism potential and invests in it. The source of River Ethiope can be traced to roots of a tree in the Umuaja community which flows into the Oloku Stream and then becomes the Ethiope River. This water producing tree is seen as sacred and worshiped by the locals. The Ethiope River cuts across three Local Governments in Delta State and then flows into the Atlantic Ocean. River Ethiope is definitely on my list of places to see in Nigeria.