Harnessing Tourism Potentials for Economic Prosperity

Dec 28, 2023 - 09:20
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Harnessing Tourism Potentials for Economic Prosperity

From empirical findings, tourism has evolved from a mere voyage of fun-seekers around global destinations to a lucrative investment option with viable prospects for top foreign exchange earnings if prudently managed or explored .

Tourism now encompasses the art and science of luring people around borders, ferrying them to preferred destinations, accommodating them, and catering to their peculiar needs and wants in pursuit of leisure and business.

Statistics abound on how countries such as Egypt, South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Botswana, Isreal, Indonesia, the United States, Cuba, and Spain among others have raked in hundreds of millions of Dollars from tourism to boost revenue indexes thereby enabling the government to successfully execute development initiatives.

However, in Nigeria, apart from few cultural and religious festivals, the enormous endowments, and the myriad of economic opportunities that abound in the sector, this viable alternative to oil money has remained grossly untapped, year after year.

The skewed federalism obtainable in Nigeria's presidential system of government, where governors of sub-national entities frequent the center with caps in hands for crumbs by way of statutory allocations, has continued blurring the vision and any mode of thinking outside the box by most of such political leaders, unabated.

A holistic appraisal indicates that apart from agriculture and mining, which hold huge potential for Cross River state awaiting exploration to accelerate economic prosperity, another viable sector with comparative advantage for the state is, unarguably, tourism.

Such advantageous status emanates from its rich but diverse cultural dynamics, enticing culinary reels, warm hospitality, and above all, a litany of unique breathtaking tourist attractions stretching from the creeks of Bakassi to the cloudy hills of Obanlikwu.

Given its rich historical antecedents as a trailblazer in multiple sectors of human endeavors, Cross River, under the visionary and pragmatic then-governor, Donald Duke took the sector by storm by unveiling the tourism master plan showcasing the rich tourism endowment of the state to the tourism world.

That rare feat etched the state on the global tourism map with Carnival Calabar, Obudu Mountain Race, Leboku New Yam Festival, Calabar Boat Regatta, and the Ekpe masquerade festival, (known among the Efiks as Nyoro Ekpe), dovetailing into an alluring signature tune announcing Cross River as the Ultimate Destination for leisure and investment in sub-Sahara Africa.

Like a wildfire, the tourism agenda, conceived as an alternative revenue source to boost IGR by exploring natural endowment in a bid to checkmate over-dependence on statutory allocation, succeeded in transforming the state from a lowly civil service state into an investment hub and tourism destination with tourists, investors, and MDAs scrambling for flight tickets to the Paradise City within a short space of time.

To institutionalise the Tourism agenda, the Cross River State Tourism Bureau Act was passed into law with the Bureau saddled with the bureaucratic schedule of promoting, regulating, and protecting business transactions within the industry and its subsidiaries. As synonymous with evolving political trends where continuity is anathema, the sector plummeted shortly after Donald and Imoke, resulting in unprecedented decay in virtually every aspect of the industry 

However, with the beacon of hope arising from the dawn of the Season of Sweetness, the trending mantra of the new administration, there is likely hope for total rehabilitation. With the modest achievements so far recorded in the drive to bring the industry back on track, there is an urgent need to address prevalent lapses to guarantee complete rejuvenation.

The renovation of the Marina Resort needs to be replicated at the Obudu Mountain Resort, Tinapa Lakeside Hotel, Agbokim Water Falls, National Museum, the hanging bridge at Boki, etc to bring the various tourist sites to the bar to give expected tourists a full dose of the unique tourism menu available in the state.

Given the fact that tourism is like cobwebs interwoven with security, health, transportation, and other basic infrastructure, we implore the state government to map out a comprehensive tourism strategy to address challenges emanating from the component sections to ensure all-round readiness to welcome expected visitors and investors.

This paper proposes that the one million naira grant be extended to ten hostels to upgrade facilities and aesthetics should be scaled up to a revolving loan scheme backed by relevant financial regulations to curtail abuses. Such gesture, along with tax rebate for fresh investors in the sector and eradication of multiple taxation, is urgently needed to bolster activities in this vital subsection