Friday, August 18, 2006

Tourism in Nigeria

A lot of fluff appears in the press about various attempts by the government to create a viable tourist industry in Nigeria. The problem is, tourism doesn't come naturally to most Nigerians. The idea of travelling for trade or shopping yes (or 'study trips' for civil servants), the idea of travelling to stare at things or simply do nothing and relax, no. One is tempted to think that internal tourism only takes off given a certain stage of socio-economic development (according to the Maslowian hierarchy of needs thesis), however, this argument falls flat when we consider the levels of internal tourism in places such as India and Morocco (most of those visiting the Taj Mahal at any one time are Indians).

Rather, the failure of internal tourism to get off the ground is, apart from a mercantile or functionalist attitude to travel, also a product of the inability to value what is here. It has been in the press that the magical sacred forest of Osun Grove in Osogbo has recently been made a UNESCO World Heritage site (whether this leads to a more organised Osun festival, we'll wait and see). However, how many Nigerians know that Osun Grove is actually the second World Heritage site in Nigeria?

In fact, the first such site is at Sukur, off the beaten track in the North East. Click here to find out about it from Unesco's site, or click here to go to Sukur's very own web page. Sukur is pictured above - it looks like a cross between Machu Picchu and a Balinese terrace, but it is above all a unique community in a unique landscape of the Mandara mountains. Adventurous travellers long to visit Papua New Guinea, walk among the Wodaabe or the Dogon and experience human communities from another more sacred era when humans knew how to revere and respect nature; or they long to visit pre-historic monuments or walk in pristine landscapes. Nigeria has all of these and more, including ancient cities that have yet to be explored by archeologists. Until the immense value of what is here is appreciated, its hard to see how internal tourism will get off the ground, apart from the odd trip to the beach or Obudu for those that can afford it.


fola 2:06 pm  

Nigeria has many exotic tourist attractions that can generate tremendous revenue. However, the only a dedicated and serious government can make this a reality.

The primary problem is security, and as it is the solution lies in a drastic move from what the policy makers and politicians are willing to make.

Other sites that have escaped the radar are the Sugbo/Eredo Rampart- a reminant of an ancient civilization that probably existed 100 miles from Lagos, and the Esie Figurines (kwara state)- a sleepy town that has thousands of hand-crafted stone figurines dating back to hundreds of year. I visited the site many years back without a camera! I have been looking for some pictures of the figurines since then.

Anonymous,  3:19 pm  

the only travellers to visit Nigeria, now or ever are the ones brave enough to venture into unknown territory (ie: they would go anywhere the masses wouldn't go). Mass tourism will never happen there, certainly not Lagos anyway. It just does not have what Westerners (who make up most of conventional tourism) want in any way shape or form. Nigeria will always have high crime, incredible filth, poor sanitation, horrendous customer service, beggars, the list is endless. Yes other successful vacation spots have that too, but they compensate with other qualities. Tourists certainly do not want any of that with their precious holiday time.

John,  3:28 pm  

As you say tourism is not in the Nigerian Blood. Can you imagine creating a 'Have a Nice Day' ethos as they have in the US?

St Antonym 3:38 pm  

Naija people prefer ariya to running from one waterfall to another. And poverty is not the excuse (the India is a good counter-example).

And if we're going to travel overseas, abeg, give us London o, where we can find other Nigerians. And once we're there, we'll stay in the suburbs and cook our jollof rice and moinmoin.

I have a friend who lives in "London" (has done for ten years) who never goes to the city to see the sights, and who has no curiosity about doing so...much less field trips to Yorkminster, Edinburgh or Salisbury.

And, naturally, he has no oyinbo friends. Goes to a Nigerian church, attends Naija-only parties.

And in such "safety" the years of a man's life fly before his eyes.

Shango,  5:45 pm  

Reverence for nature is not a traditional human characteristic. I wager that if the Papua New Guineans or Aztecs'd had heavy machinery, they'd have used it to build their cities and temples as well, destroying the undergrowth, etc., etc.

Cf. Agent Smith's speech to Neo in the original Matrix about human beings as virii.

But YES, I remembered thinking that one reason Nigerians in the south don't trust those in the north, don't trust those in the east (guess what comes next?) is because they simply don't know each other, relying instead on their "leaders" (or whomever) to provide the missing picture, many times to the edification of those leaders' egos and purses. Internal tourism is one way in which they can rectify this problem. Not going to happen though, sorry.

oguchi 6:22 am  

with the kind of problems africa faces, no reasonable person would want to risk their life in the name of, i went on vacation forgive the bad english

Matt 10:23 am  

There seem to be so many places in Nigeria which as Fola says are worth visiting but are "under the radar".

Somebody needs to set up a site dedicated to Tourism where a comprehensive list of destinations including pictures and reviews/advice can be posted.

It seems to me that Transport / Security are the two main draw backs to Nigerian tourism. Until those are in place it's just too much hassle for the average person.

culturalmiscellany 11:47 am  

I wouldn't say security is a problem for the tourism industry in Nigeria. However, I would agree with the transport issue. It is not the quality of the roads that are the issue but the inability to travel independently using public transport that hinders tourism. This was the main reason I had to go to West Africa with an organised travel company rather than independently as I would do in outher areas of the world. The type of tourists that would be attracted to Nigeria at first would be independent travellers and/or backpackers but their journey is hard at present although not impossible as I met many people doing it on my travels there.

other anon,  4:09 pm  

I have to agree with you on the notion of no inbred culture of tourism. I have lived in the west for quite a while and I still do not do the touristy things. I lived in London and never went to Madam Troussards(sp)or Buckingham Palace or even Trafalgar Square just to see the statutes, I now live in Chicago and have never been to Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, the planetarium, Museum of Science and Industry, DuSable Museum or any of the other attractions, I went to NY and never bothered with the stuff, ditto SF, Florida, Arizona, Detroit, San Diego and other places.

I do remember growing up going by myself to go visit places like Biney Zoo, The Zoo at UI and some other places. The only place as an adult I have bothered to visit along with my family is the Historic Slave trade sites in Badagry.

It is funny cos I keep teling my siblings when they go on these tourist thingy's that I am not going to pay to go places just to look at buildings and scenery. Go figure

Jeremy 12:05 pm  

we can consider NYSC as a form of internal tourism - and it often works. My partner's sister (from Lagos) was posted to Gombe for her NYSC. It was an eye-opener for her, and she enjoyed being in the North. She's now moved to Abuja and would not consider living in Lagos again. It seems to me that NYSC is a GOOD THING in principle for this very reason (even though there might be organisational issues in practice)..

Sampson Shiloba Zhiya,  2:45 pm  

With tourisms several dimensions and Nigerias great size, one would expect that we are living on tourism and not oil.
Plateu State alone if harnesed would give Naija a fortune. Talk much less of the whole of western Nigeria, Kogi, Benue, Niger, Cross River (Thank God for Gov. Duke), Adamawa States to mention just a few.
I agree with Matt "Somebody needs to set up a site dedicated to Tourism where a comprehensive list of destinations including pictures and reviews/advice can be posted", may be we would have private developers pick interest and do something make we forget about Nigerian Government.

chika,  8:15 pm  

i did a research/project on problems facing Nigerian tourism. and all the comments posted here were helpfull.

Chika Nwagbara

Anonymous,  7:14 pm  

Great job you're doing here. If the Nigerian government can muster the political will, tourism, sure, will earn the country huge capital in relation to oil and gas. This is a challenge and a great responsibility.

Eddy Nwokorie.

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