A STUDY ON THE PROBLEMS FACING THE TOURISM SECTOR IN EXPANDING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES IN NIGERIA (A CASE OF OAKLAND ENTERTAINMENT PARK ENUGU)
Tourism has become a major source of economic diversification for many countries, underpinning the service sector and forging effective backward and forward linkages with the rest of the economy, allowing new employment and income earning opportunities. Although, the developed countries account for a higher proportion of global tourism, many developing countries are beginning to take advantage of the huge opportunities offered by tourism. However, only developing countries with effective natural and man-made tourism supporting and enhancing infrastructure have been able to develop their tourism sector and seize the attendant advantages. The need for economic diversification in most developing countries is overwhelming because of their defining mono-cultural economic characteristics where only one or two commodities dominate exports and provides the bulk of foreign exchange from which these countries could reconcile their internal and external balances. Nigeria is one such country seeking to diversify its economy away from crude oil production to maximize employment and income generating opportunities. Nigeria has huge tourism potentials, especially given its natural and diversified landscapes but lacks effective and tourism supporting and enhancing infrastructure. While tourism affords huge employment and income generating opportunities, its impact on bio-physical environment is well acknowledged hence the emphasis on sustainable tourism. Indeed, most of Nigeria’s natural landscapes are eco-sensitive areas and exploring them as tourist destinations must be sustainably conducted to enhance the carrying-capacity or regenerative capacity of these landscapes. This paper critically analyses Nigeria’s tourism potentials, focusing on the impacts on the wider economy. By appealing to the qualitative method of research, the paper concludes that the tourism sector has huge potentials yet unexplored, which if fully supported, can contribute significantly to the economic diversification and poverty alleviation efforts of the government.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Tourism is identified as an effective way to revitalise the economy of any destination as noted by Long (2012) and widely acknowledged as one of the fastest growing industry globally. The continuous and rapid growth of tourism is not in isolation of the stable economic growth experienced in the global economy, which lasted from the mid-1990 to 2007. This growth has facilitated increased global disposable income, demand for leisure, and this combined with the global economic restructures in response to globalization that ensured competition in global tourism industry and drastic reductions in travel costs. Thus, tourism has become a major source of economic growth, employment, earnings, and foreign exchange for many countries and considered by developing countries as a main source of development and growth for local economies (Haller, 2012). However, while the growth in tourism owes itself to global economic growth, it is also a fact that tourism has contributed immensely to the growth of the global economy. Indeed, Ozgen (2013) acknowledged that the tourism industry has grown into a major component of the global economy and has become highly developed. In this vein, Nigeria is looking to tourism as a possible alternative income earner (Uduma-Olugu and Onukwube, 2012) and it is believed, as averred by Ajao (2012) that if Nigeria gets its tourism sector right, tourism will serve as an employer of labour besides agriculture.
Given the definition of tourism by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) as an activity involving the travels of persons to places outside their usual environment for not more than once for leisure, it is indicative of how such activities may benefit host and local economies and communities. This is particularly the case as the notion of tourism has grown from the pursuit of the privileged few to the indulgence of the masses (Murphy, 1985). Indeed, tourism has a range of benefits both to the individual tourist, tourism organizations, and the local economies and communities in terms of employment, income, and enhancement to the quality of life (Besculides et al, 2002; Oh, 2005). For some major tourist destinations, tourism has become a major alternative form of commodity export and a significant source of foreign exchange that allows internal and external trade balances to be reconciled.
Tourism development without proper planning and integration with local values and environment can lead to socio-cultural, environmental and economic damage (Long, 2012). Thus, there is no doubt that tourism can make an effective contribution to expanding the economic opportunities in Nigeria but there are problems facing the tourism sector in the process of expanding the economic opportunities.