Nigeria is set to reap bountifully from the launch of African Union (AU) passport if adopted by the National Assembly as it would make the country’s tourism and hospitality industry overtake the downstream sector of the petroleum industry by 2021.
The disclosure was made by the Country Manager of Africa’s leading booking portal, Jumia Travel Nigeria, Mr. Kushal Dutta, who further said the Pan-African Passport would allow free movement of domestic tourists into the country.
Dutta spoke on the potential of the Nigeria’s tourism and hospitality industry as an alternative to boosting the country’s economy. According to him, the opportunities presented by the unified African passport supersede the threats, especially now that Nigeria’s mainstay, which is oil, might not be sufficient to grow the economy; if the country’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be achieved.
According to him, the reality of the dwindling oil prices as a result of the fall in foreign exchange is now being felt across all sectors and as such, many industry experts are daily brainstorming on diversification opportunities to prevent the country from going into recession.
This came at a time the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed, said the uniqueness of tourism as an important sector is also evident in its ability to employ skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manpower, adding that despite wars, international trade in tourism revenue has grown in geometric progression since the 1980s.
Mohammed said there is urgent need to build a resilient and dynamic economy that is well placed to harness the country’s abundant resource endowment.
According to Duttal, “In Nigeria, industry leaders have highlighted the hospitality industry among the sectors with the most opportunities for growth in the next five years. Breaking the barrier of free travel for other African countries to come to Nigeria is a potent way of enhancing the growth of the hospitality industry. Although, there is no gainsaying that the unified AU passport will also have some demerits such as unmonitored inflow of migrants and perhaps criminals from one country to another,” he said.
Duttal also highlighted the opportunities the AU passport would bring to the African continent. He stated that there would be an increase in domestic tourism in the continent which he reiterated would pave way for increase in job creation.
He cited the 2015 report on Travel and Tourism Industry in Africa which indicated that the industry generated approximately 9 million jobs directly (3.0 per cent of total employment) and a growth forecast of 0.3 per cent in 2016 (2.9 per cent of total employment). This, he said, includes employment by hotels, restaurants, travel agents and airlines among others.
It is predicted that by 2026, the industry would account for about 11.7 million jobs directly in Africa – an increase of 2.5 per cent annum over the next decade.
It will be recalled that the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently rolled out a number of measures, including technical assistance, capacity building and the revision of the country’s Tourism Master Plan, as part of efforts to ensure the development of tourism in Nigeria.
Just recently, President Muhammadu Buhari, at the 2016 National Summit on Culture and Tourism in Abuja, stated that Tourism and Culture, which had been neglected in the past, would soon be the bedrock of Nigeria’s economy.