The fact that Nigeria has countless tourist gems like Yankari Game Reserve, Bar Beach, Millennium Park, Nana Living History Museum, The Ancient Nok Settlement, New Afrika Shrine, Abuja Arts And Crafts Village, Kainji National Park, Lekki Conservation Centre, River Ethiope, Gobaru Minaret, Turunku Hills, Dumi Hills, Porto Minijibir, and Alok Ikom Monoliths, among many more, means that any visitor to the country would need to return several times to get the full picture of what the country can offer.
Even with such an allure of attractions, the country has not had support from international tour operators about selling its attractiveness to outsiders.
One Nigerian tour operator who has been selling the continent’s most populous country as a major tourist destination to the world is Tolu Adesanmi, Creative Director at DubaiAfrika Tourism, which specializes in promoting to an area falling in the non-traditional big source markets.
He said that Nigeria has some of the best tourism gems in Africa, though its tourism potential was yet to be fully appreciated by outsiders.
“Without doubt, Nigeria is naturally blessed with a lot of tourist attractions, although most of them are still relatively untapped, that notwithstanding, we can’t deny that Nigeria possesses interesting tourism gems”, he said.
For him, the gems include the Lagos coast area where there are a lot of private beach houses for events and vacations, and international tourists can come to enjoy the coastal line. His travel company also runs a travel brand in the form of their own private beach house which is available for rental all year round, all adding up to the experience.
In addition to the above, other tourist attractions include the Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, an ancient tourist destination where tourists can learn a lot about the culture of this traditionally rich and populous nation. Here, there is also the opportunity to do a bit of rock climbing and there are tour guides on the ground that will give tourists brief information and history/stories surrounding the ancient rock. There is also the Idanre Hills and Olumirin Waterfalls, availing interesting options and that have been a huge draw card for visiting Nigeria.
Adesanmi explains that on a typical tourist visit to Nigeria, one must certainly land in Lagos first, and what you can’t miss is the hustle and bustle of the city. “Lagos is a metropolitan city, a mixture of everything, as a first-timer, you can’t miss the Lagos entertainment life, the nightlife is something all tourists needs to experience, every day is a fun day in Lagos, although the weekends are more intense, lots of locations for tourists to explore and experience. As a first time in Lagos, you can’t be disappointed, you will love the city.”
Despite the multiplicity of the prevailing allure, which is quite attractive to any international tourist, this part of the world, has not, according to Adesanmi, yet been fully embraced as an option for the international visitor. It is still viewed as something that industry players feel a need to jump on to sell on their tour packages.
“Unfortunately I don’t think we have a lot of international tourism companies providing Nigeria tourism services to the outside world, so I really cannot pinpoint a particular foreign source who is big in terms of bringing tourists to Nigeria. It is an aspect that we are also trying to explore at our company. We are working on selling Nigeria tourism to the outside world and giving tourists seamless travel services to Nigeria.”
Like most of the world, the West African destination had to rely on domestic tourism during the lockdown, this as international travel was limited or non-existent.
“Yes during the pandemic and lockdown, travel companies in Nigeria had no choice but to re-strategize, most travel service providers started selling more of local destinations and activities, from beach house vacation to inter-state packages, I can say for local tourism, the lockdown was a blessing in disguise, more local tours were sold during that period”.
To help tourism recovery, DubaiAfrica responded to the new normal similar to other tourism companies. It ensured that clients were well advised to take vaccines or get tested and get the Covid 19 negative results before travelling. It also came up with travel deals to destinations with lesser travel restrictions, and this strategy resulted in the selling of more local tours. As is obvious, sales of international packages were relatively low compared to before the pandemic.
While he noted that the destination of Nigeria was not popular with visitors from the Middle East countries, he revealed that his company was doing its best to open the country to the Asian market.
“Well Nigeria as a tourism destination might not be that popular in the Middle East, we are constantly strategizing on how to sell Nigeria tourism in the Middle East. We are working on a package that will be appealing to the outside world, good enough to convince them to want to come to Nigeria,” he said.
He highlighted that local experiences that the outsider should look out for when visiting Nigeria were many and chief among them was the country’s exciting and multi-layered entertainment industry.
“The entertainment life in Nigeria. Nigeria is the home of African entertainment, then the nightlife, and of course other ancient tourist attractions around Nigeria,” he said.
However, he is of the view that his country has a lot that is yet to be explored since most tourists usually end their visit to Nigeria in Lagos and or Abuja. There are other interesting places to visit in Nigeria, like destinations mentioned above, he notes. Stressing the obvious fact that you can’t explore or experience his country in one visit.
Touching on the major challenges encountered in selling the country as a destination to the outside world, he said that the major challenge was the wrong perspective about the destination. He lamented that the international media has painted Nigeria as a whole in a very bad light, such that most prospective tourists are discouraged and therefore not comfortable coming to the country because the media already made it look like the entire country is not safe and secure.
“Some tourists don’t even know the real history of Nigeria, some feel Nigeria is all about terrorism or kidnapping or scamming, something of Nigeria as a village, so the only way out to see more of our tourism is to be deliberate about the approach we have, to keep putting out there a different narrative. Celebrities needed to travel more to local destinations, take pictures and videos and post on their social media, and let the world know Nigeria is an amazing place. With time Nigeria tourism will be appealing worldwide.”
He pointed out an interesting thing about how locals had become creative as most of the locals around tourist sites were not tour guides. They simply do their research by gathering facts about the history of those tourist attractions, and they get paid by guiding tourists around the monuments. Also, the locals open local food outlets around tourist sites, and some manufacture ancient or local souvenirs and sell them to interested tourists.