Nigeria Can Earn Big From Tourism-Alesa Monarch
His Royal Majesty, Sir Emperor J. D. Nkpe the King of Alesa Eleme in Eleme Local Government of Rivers State is a widely travelled monarch, who has savoured the allures of hospitality and tourism in various parts of the world. In this first part of interview, he shares his experiences and suggestions for the growth of the Nigerian tourism sector.
Your Majesty, you are widely travelled, how would you describe the Nigerian tourism industry?
Before we delve into the Nigerian tourism industry and its potentials, let me first of all tell you that many countries all over the world are making fortune from the tourism industry. The GNP of Kenya is derived from tourism. There is a place called the Island of Mars in London, it is attracting thousands of tourists to the country and contributing to the revenue of United Kingdom. Kenya for instance lives on tourism in revenue generation.
The wild life in Tazania, Kenya and other East African nation attract a lot of visitors from all over the world. Some of the visitors just come to see and behold animals like giraffe and pay money for it. In the United States, there are numerous places. In Dallas you have the Atlantic Forest in Denvy Dallas where you can go and see the aborigines and natural sits. They generate huge amounts of revenue for the state and country.
In Nigeria, we pay more attention to hospitality tourism, but we should also be calling for ECO tourism. We have a lot of forest here, like the one close here, the oldest forest in Nigeria which can be developed into a tourist site and it will yield money for the local government.
Nigeria is channeling a lot of its investment in tourism development only on the hospitality in the hotel industry Even the hotels as an aspect needs to be categorised because what will attract a visitor to a place are many. No tourist will venture into a war torn, violence or criminal infested area. So the attitude of the people towards tourists matters. We must caution our people to always have broad mind on how to receive visitors into our communities and the country. People work all round the year and are looking for places around the globe to go and relax and enjoy. Therefore, the Nigerian Tourism Board must then come up with laws on how to attract tourists to the country.
You majesty, in what way do you think investment in ECO Tourism can be encourage and made beneficial to Nigerians?
ECO Tourism is a huge revenue earner in many countries. It is a place where you see nature in its natural state. In Kenya you will see where the French man who developed coffee started and where he stayed is still being maintained for people to visit and know how coffee production started and it is generating money to the government of Kenya. People go to Bahamas to have a taste of its ECO system and wild life environments. The US has a lot for taste of nature spaces where you still see the original state of when God created the earth; you are adding more value to the people as people visit there.
In Cameroon, in a place called Bulb, they are developing mega city there for people to come and spend time and money for the government.
In Nigeria, we can also have such here. In Rivers State, there is a small river around OPM Church, which flows down behind the State Government House. This river can be developed into a tourism site what we call an ECO site where you have boat ride. See what the Rivers state government has done on the pleasure pack.
It is a wonder land, comparable to what you have in the United States between Washington and Virginia Beach, and the seven sisters in Dallas. People need places to relax and heal hypertension which is one of killer diseases in Nigeria where people have little time to relax.
The government can invest in the tourism industry, in ECO system and wildlife development at least in partnership with individuals and organizations especially in the rural areas. People can move to the rural areas and relax and spend time on the local infrastructures in the areas.
Nigerian’s love good life and need local areas where they can spend their money. This is where the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and other information units of the country should do more because Nigeria image has been dented all over the world because of negative things reported against the country. But, Rivers is a happy place. The state ministry of information needs to repackage our image to show it to the international community that we are peaceful state. We have contributed a lot to the development of this country and we must not be left behind in the development of the country. I am indeed proud to be a Rivers man.
Do you think Nigeria tourism has capacity to generate as much as the oil industry?
It is important we begin to think of developing the tourism sector because one day oil will cease to flow and it will have only the agricultural and tourism sector that will remain as our source of revenue. You can imaging the total revenue Kenya made from the beautiful and attractive hotels that tourists book all year round; not that they don’t have oil. Nigeria tourism is hampered by a lot of government and individual bottlenecks. There was a time I brought in some investors to Nigeria. I know what I went through trying to have the government accept my proposals to establish and develop a hospitality industry in the state. So tourism is one of the people and earn good revenue for the country.
Your majesty, where do we place the blame in the slow development of the sector, government or the private sector?
If you quantify what the Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike has put into the development of magnificent Pleasure Park, you will know that it was a good investment well made. If he replicates these in the rural areas, it will bring peace to many local areas. You may ask how? When you take youths into such employment in the pack or they go in there to relax, they will not have the time to engage in kidnapping, cultism and other criminal acts so government should think of partnering with the private sector to develop tourism.
We have other tourist sites like the Port Harcourt Tourist beach, the Isaka games Village and others, How can government develop these?
The Port Harcourt tourists Beach should be given attention by the government so that those in the town area can have a place to relax just like the Pleasure Park. It can also be concessional to a private organization to mange and pay revenue to the government. The Isaka Games Institute can also be developed into a tourism centre but government must provide security for tourists and visitors. Security is key to tourist development. Infact every hotel in Nigeria should have a designed security system (CCTV) because a tourist who is staying in a 5-star hotel needs adequate protection.
In places like Las Vegas, everything you are doing is under surveillance and being monitored by the security technology covering the areas. Also Hotels are properly supervised and highly equipped. People in the hotels are checked and monitored by health personnel to ensure the health and safety of the people and the environment. How many hotels in Nigeria do you have health officers checking the health of staff and visitors before providing them access to the premises of the hotels, and also to ascertain the hygienic condition of the food provided by the hotels? This is done to ensure that no visitor develops health challenges after holidaying in a country and eating their food. This is why the hotel environment must be monitored. Food sold and consumed by tourists must be monitored, to avoid food poisoning and other health challenges. This is what we should be showcasing in the tourism industry and the sector will generate huge resources to the country.