1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Tourism is a rapidly growing phenomenon and has become one of the largest industries in the world. The impact of tourism varies extremely. On one hand, it plays an important and certainly positive role in the socio economic and political development in destination countries by, for instance, offering new employment opportunities. Also, in certain instances, it may contribute to a broader cultural and understanding by creating awareness, respecting the diversity of cultures and ways of life. On the other hand, it is a tool to create jobs. Tourism has been a major driver of socio-economic development in Western society; it is an alternative strategy for sustainability and diversification of economy for important policy of a good government.
Perception is a mental process in which an individual chooses, organizes and interprets a stimulant as a mean-ngful and distinctive picture of the world (Awaritefe, 2003). Studies such as Awaritefe (2004) related to environmental perception, image and preferences in tourism differ in terms of scale. Tourism literature such as Awaritefe (2017) argues that the mental images of actual tourists and potential tourists concerning resorts are crucial in their decision-making process. He added that tourism and recreational development in Nigeria is faced with serious challenges and setbacks.
In recent times, tourism is one of the largest industries that have contributed to the socio-economic growth of many countries especially countries where tourism is the mainstay of her economy, World Tourism Organization (WTO, 1998; cited in Ejaetal, 2012 and Ojo, 2014). Despite the fact that that industry is a vehicle for promoting cultural exchange that enhances international understanding and goodwill among the diverse peoples of the world, it is also a catalyst for enhancing many country destination employment opportunities, foreign exchange and infrastructural facilities (ESCAP, 2002; cited in Eja, et al, 2012).
The development of tourism as a critical sector of the economy has gradually assumed a centre stage in the economic agenda of most nations of the world. In the past few decades, international attention on tourism as a critical sector of the economy has greatly increased. This is in view of its capacity to quickly stimulate income growth, generate foreign exchange and contribute to domestic earnings of government through fees and taxes (Vanguard Newspaper, June 24, 2011). The interest in tourism by the Nigeria’s government started way back in the 1960s with the Obasanjo’s regime in 1976 establishing the Nigeria Tourism Board (NTB) now Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) via Decree No. 54 of 1976 reviewed to Decree No. 86 of 1991 and giving it a ‘preferred sector’ status respectively. Master Plan on tourism development in Nigeria started in 1982 with a tourism development policy first rolled out in 1990. To further consolidate the quest for quality service delivery in the tourism industry, the government created the Federal Ministry of Tourism and Culture to actualize the dream of catching up with the global train in tourism development (Munzali, 2011).
Tourism has always been regarded as a means of economic modernization, but has not been seriously considered as a means of social and cultural modernization. The concept of socio-economic modernization emphasizes improvements in various indicators, including improvement in living conditions and the quality of life and well-being of populations (Owan, 2012).According to Boo (1992), tourism has recently been assumed as the world largest employer of labour and most safe of all the industries with regards to atmospheric pollution. Tourism has been describe by Cross (1998) as an industry of globalization which has witnessed people of different nations. As this happens, new friendships are established, interpretation of cultural differences resulting in greater tolerance occur, and global diversities are better appreciated and understood. Thus, the emergence of a synthetic global culture has been largely predicted since 1956 to become a reality (UNESCO, 2007).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Although tourism plays an important role in the economy of some countries, tourism in Africa continent is yet to reach its full economic maturity (Nwosu, 2002). It has been observed that tourism in Nigeria still suffers from neglect because the local, state and federal governments of Nigeria are still indifferent to tourism development despite the preferred status accorded the accorded the sector (Edun, 2009). Based on this, Nigeria as a country has several potentials that have not been given attention.
Onicha-ugbo town is a state in the country endowed with avast land of tourist attraction which visitors will find it trigging and captivating. According to Ayodele (2002), resources such as beautiful climate with good sunshine, pleasant beach fronts, cultural values and historic potentials abound; but for varied reasons, these potentials are neither fully exploited nor turned to good advantage. Various tourist attractions and most species of flora and fauna adapted to the state are threatened not withstanding their economic importance. Few of these sites have only being are creation center with array of flora, fauna and tourism features that have being neglected; while most are yet to be discovered and developed.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objective of the study is to assess the benefit of hospitality and tourism industry in the socio-economic development in Onicha-ugbo Town. Specific objectives of the study are:
To explore tourism potentials in Onicha-ugbo Town..
To examine the challenges facing hospitality and tourism industry in Onicha-ugbo Town.
To assess the socio-economic impact of hospitality and tourism industry in Onicha-ugbo Town.