Vacationing is foreign to the typical Nigerian, and it has a lot to do with culture as much as it does poor economy and infrastructure. In a country of 180 million, one would expect that local tourism from holidaying alone would fuel the Nigerian travel industry, but the sector is driven primarily by business and corporate travels with Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt being the most popular destinations – hosts to conference-bound men in suits, hosts to travelling hustlers doing the buy-and-sell.
Apart from travels for business, the only other blips in our otherwise travel flat line are for religious pilgrimages and excursions – yearly trips to Mecc and Jerusalem, and the famous trips back to the village for Christmas or Sallah.
Ask the regular Nigerian why he doesn’t travel or go on vacation, and you’re sure to hear a quip or two about money, bad roads, “London is expensive”, or the classic, “I don’t know. I just don’t”.
Money – In a country where the minimum wage is 18,000 Naira (about 45 USD), Nigerians are right to think of travel for recreation as luxury, and one month long holiday classes for their kids as Eldorado. For the middle class Nigerian however, money, or the supposed lack of it is still a top factor in his decision to relegate recreational travel. To him, travel is expensive because he can’t afford plane tickets and lodging for his family from Lagos to London! To him, vacations mean European capitals or fancy sounding far off destinations. This brings the narration to lack of awareness, infrastructure, and then culture.
Awareness and Infrastructure – The average Nigerian thinks vacationing equals destinations abroad because our local tourism and holiday destination sites are relatively unknown to even Nigerians. The travel destinations are mostly poorly developed, maintained and promoted. In 2016, when Governor X cleaned up tourist sites in Y, developed complementary tourist-tending infrastructure, and systematically promoted his state as the place to visit for vacation in the face of the falling Naira, Nigerians listened, they travelled to Bauchi, and local tourism was given a big boost.
In spite of one-offs like Cross River and Governor M.A. Abubakar’s Bauchi, the entire local tourism sector suffers a great deal from poor national infrastructure. The roads leading to potentially enjoyable sites are often terrible, trains are slow and noisy, local flights are expensive and often unreliable, car hire services are scarce, and travel logistics are a nightmare.
So has it been all bad news for the Nigerian tourism sector? Apparently not. The country’s current government administration is taking significant steps to address the above listed problems facing the individual and the industry as a whole. Power sector reforms, minimum wage review, ease of business policies, among others. It might take a while for these efforts to start yielding results, but surely we will get there.
By Jogbojogbo Abdulrahman and Sam Adeleke