For many years and decades, tourism or destination branding, has been identified as one of the most viable means of a country’s economic growth. Countries the world over, depend largely on tourism to. This was the crux of discussion at the just concluded three-day second annual conference organized by the Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria in Osogbo, the capital of State of Osun. Stakeholders in government, tourism, media, advertising, marketing and public relations had interactive and brain-storming sessions on the conference theme, Tourism marketing as a catalyst for economic development, and came up with recommendations that could help governments in all levels reposition tourism. Speaking on the choice of the topic for the conference, Mr Goddie Ofose, Chairman, Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria, noted that tourism is a critical and fundamental component that makes up the DNA of any country and this aspect is overlooked in a country as great as Nigeria. According to him, ‘When we look at the critical selling points that have been infused into the marketing of this nation, we must notice some essential missing links. One of these is the absence of deliberate destination brand recognition’.
‘Those who will invest in any economy usually come in first as visitors. They may come to look at other things. But when they do, certain things either makes them stay, return or run away. For them to either stay or decide to return later on, certain things about certain parts of the country must hold certain attractions. This is where destination marketing comes in. The argument has been out there as to which should come first between branding a nation and branding destinations in a nation. It is like the chicken and egg argument. What you want to achieve would determine which one you consider as the one that came first. Here, we state that without properly branding the country’s destinations, branding the country may achieve little’, he added.
For Mr Femi Adesina, MD/Editor-in-Chief, The Sun Newspapers/ President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigeria’s huge dependence on oil as her major source of economic development, is lethal as many countries are now beginning to discover their own oil in commercial quantity. He added that the present austerity witnessed by the country is as a result of the global fall in the prices of oil, which has stifled the country’s financial projections. ‘Tourism has been identified as one of the veritable alternatives to oil as a major revenue earner for the country. Many countries of the world do not have natural resources, and depend largely on earnings from tourism. Israel, despite being beleaguered politically and surrounded by hostile neighbors, thrives on the marketing of its historical sites. All year round, tourists and pilgrims troop into Israel to visit sites venerated and considered holy by the major religions of the world. In 2003-2004, Australia’s inbound tourism consumption to GDP was 7.6 billion dollars. The same happens in many other countries of the world. But here in Nigeria, our potentials lie fallow, dormant, and in most cases, untapped’. He further recommended that in order to get the best from our tourism resources and potentials as a country, the time has come to reposition and re-create ourselves as a tourism destination.
In his welcome address, Mr Sunday Akere, honourable commissioner for information and strategy, state of Osun, said that narrowing on getting alternative income through Tourism might be Nigeria’s solution as some countries today rely solely on this sector as the bedrock of their economic survival. ‘Osun today can boast of over 60 tourist attraction centers which the government is now concentrating development on to help cushion the shortfall from oil revenue’.
In a keynote address by Mr. Feyijimi Awosika on the ‘imperative of effective advertising in growing viable tourism ecosystem’, stated that tourism is a powerful vehicle for job creation, economic growth, national development and protection of the ecosystem the world over. He added that according to the World Tourism & Travel Council, the Tourism sector is directly and indirectly responsible for 8.8 percent of the world’s jobs (258 million); 9.1 percent of the world’s GDP (US$6 trillion); 5.8 percent of the world’s exports (US$1.1 trillion); and 4.5 percent of the world’s investment (US$652 billion). ‘Tourism can also act as a catalyst for the development of small businesses in related production and service sectors while offering a path for employment generation to the growing younger population. Managed sustainably, as it is in Kenya, South Africa, United Arab Emirate, Greece, Israel and Saudi Arabia, Tourism could become an effective tool for economic development and job creation. When tourism’s environmental, social, economics and other ancillary constraints are addressed, the industry energizes economies. Given the full knowledge that tourism is a complex sector with tentacles into a myriad of other economic activities, all of which require careful management, Nigeria as a country with an abundance of tourism assets, would only be wise in deciding to prioritize tourism as a development too’, he added.
The forum assessed the current crude oil price situation in the international market and called on the governments at all levels to immediately consider tourism as another major source of revenue. It cited countries in Europe, Asia and Africa which have used tourism as a major source of revenue and recommended that Nigeria should borrow a leaf from those countries. The conference called on the media to help in setting an agenda for tourism repositioning by highlighting the importance of tourism and economic consequences of continuously relying on “Abuja feeding bottle” as major revenue earner.