Opinion Editorial by Olukayode Kolawole
Travel & Tourism’s impact on the economic and social development of a country can be enormous; opening it up for business, trade and capital investment, creating jobs and entrepreneurship for the workforce and protecting heritage and cultural values. To fully understand its impact, however, governments, policy makers and businesses around the world require accurate and reliable data on the impact of the sector. Data is needed to help assess policies that govern future industry development and to provide knowledge to help guide successful and sustainable Travel & Tourism investment decisions.
The industry generated US$7.6 trillion (10% of global GDP) and 277 million jobs (1 in 11 jobs) for the global economy in 2014. Recent years have seen Travel & Tourism growing at a faster rate than both the wider economy and other significant sectors such as automotive, financial services and health care. Last year was no exception. International tourist arrivals also surged, reaching nearly 1.14 billion and visitor spending more than matched that growth. Visitors from emerging economies now represent a 46% share of these international arrivals (up from 38% in 2000), proving the growth and increased opportunities for travel from those in these new markets.
One of such countries to learn from is Seychelles. The direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to its GDP was 21.3% of total GDP in 2014 and it’s forecast to rise by 6.0% in 2015 and to rise by 4.9% pa, from 2015-2025, to 24.7% of total GDP in 2025. In 2014, Travel & Tourism directly supported 10,500 jobs (22.9% of total employment). This is expected to remain unchanged in 2015 and rise by 2.5% pa to 14,000 jobs (28.1% of total employment) in 2025.
This included employment by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services (excluding commuter services). It also includes, for example, the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists. By 2025, Travel & Tourism will account for 14,000 jobs directly, an increase of 2.5% pa over the next ten years.
What has been largely responsible for such growth and enormous contribution to the country’s GDP? Seychelles relies on its local experts in drawing up a Masterplan. It doesn’t solicit the support of a global agency, or foreign expertise to grow its tourism industry. Nigeria as a country can take learnings from Seychelles if it is to make any significant progress in turning the tourism and hospitality industry into a melting pot for the economy. The tourism industry remains the pillar of the Seychelles economy, which is why the Government continues to consult to ensure the industry is consolidated for the long term. The country’s tourism strategic plan set out for the upcoming five years covers strategic areas pointing to policy formulation, product development, human resource development and risk management.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has been assisting Nigeria in drafting a Masterplan for moving the country’s tourism forward. Worthy of mentioning is the fact that this Masterplan hasn’t been able to contribute greatly to its growth. Experts have stated that some of the factors crippling the successful implementation of the Plan may include: Nigeria’s difficult governance environment, local conditions were not taken into consideration and the political implication of that error crippled the project to a point where it could not take off since 2006. Sadly, the country’s tourism minister had gone back to the UNWTO to seek for help in making the unworkable Plan work.
No doubt, the action plans suggested by the apex tourism agency are indeed virile to boost any country’s tourism industry. Some of the actions include: technical assistance, capacity building and the revision of the country’s Tourism Master Plan, organisation of international conferences in Nigeria and the certification of tourism courses, widening access to the e-library for Nigerian tourism officials and offering support for relevant tourism institutions and agencies in Nigeria; data collection for the elaboration of tourism statistics, rural tourism development, hotel classification and in designing programmes to create awareness for tourism.
Whilst all these plans are plausible, there is need to allow the local expertise to draft a Masterplan for promoting this sector with a view to turning it into a melting pot. Besides, these local experts understand the Nigerian environment better than any foreign agency. This is not to say that the intentions of the apex global agency is bad. Rather, this is a call for inclusion of more local experts who also have international exposure.
Additionally, there is also need to collaborate with industry players within the sector. Such players will include hoteliers, travel consultants, hotel booking portals like Jumia Travel, channel managers and many more.
Growing Nigeria’s tourism and travel industry will definitely require some time. The determination to get it right once-and-for-all should propel the honourable Minister to accommodate more local experts to drive the tourism agenda, as against seeking to have the Masterplan revised by UNWTO.
*Data Source: World Travel & Tourism Council