Mrs Bilkisu Abdul, National President of National Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), on Thursday said that the challenges of insecurity should not discourage governments investment in the nation’s tourism industry.
Abdul, the Chief Executive Officer of BBOOG Travels and Tours, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that it was imperative for the Federal and State Governments to invest in tourism development as an avenue for generating revenue.
“Insecurity is not enough to discourage us from developing our tourism, and it should not scare tourists away from Nigeria.
“ Some of those countries that receive huge tourist population yearly also have one security challenge or the other,’’ she said.
She also enjoined the governments to ensure that adequate security was provided in the country to attract more foreign tourists.
Abdul also said that it should be the responsibility of tour operators to protect the nation’s tourism potential to local and foreign tourists.
The NATOP president said that it was important for the governments to encourage tour operators in the country.
“The tour operators are the ones that sell tourism. They know the tourist attractions and they know where exactly to take tourists to.
“We are the ones to take the tourists around. We, as tour operators, are ready to sell Nigeria’s tourism potential to the outside world, but the government should provide what we can sell.
“This can be done by developing the tourist attractions and by providing necessary infrastructure around our tourist sites to attract foreign tourists. It is very important,’’ she said.
According to her, many Nigerians do not know that there are national parks in this country.
She added there was no interest in developing parks in Abuja and in other parts of the country.
The NATOP president said that different states in the country were endowed with different tourism potential that should be developed to attract local and international tourists to Nigeria.
“Government is showing interest but the commitment is not as strong as it should be. Nigeria’s tourism potential in each of the 36 states in Nigeria is huge.
‘’We have to engage the governments and ensure that they show a strong commitment to tourism.
“If the 36 governors in Nigeria show enough commitment to tourism, Nigeria would become the most desirable tourist destination in Africa, and one of the top global destinations of choice.
“Government needs to show more interest and much more commitment to tourism.
“If you look at countries such as Turkey and UAE, their focus on tourism is yielding them immense economic results,’’ she said.
Abdul also called on Nigerians to support the government in selling Nigeria’s tourism to other countries.
“The job is not for the government alone. Private citizens can do a lot to sell Nigeria’s tourism potential by engaging their foreign friends.
“ The Calabar Carnival, for instance, is a great opportunity to sell our tourism. Delegates from across the globe come for that carnival annually, and they have memorable experiences.
“As tour operators, it is no longer enough to just package foreign trips for our clients, we also have to package foreign tourists to come to visit our sites,’’ she said.