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Private sector looks to diaspora dollar to boost tourism inflow - BUSINESSDAY

APRIL 19, 2019

By OBINNA EMELIKE & IFEOMA OKEKE

 

The growing remittances from Nigerians abroad in the past few years are raising a new consciousness in the organised private sector that these inflows can be turned into tourist dollars.

Remittances by Nigerians in Diaspora into the country have been increasing progressively in the last couple of years, hitting $25 billion (about N9 trillion) in 2018, up from $22 billion in 2017. The remittances averaged $20 billion for 2015, 2016 and 2017, but a substantial part of the money is spent on building houses in the village, taking care of aged parents or other sundry issues.

But members of the organised private sector are now looking to squeeze tourist dollars from these remittances through home-groomed tours targeted at Diaspora Nigerians and African-Americans desirous of visiting to explore nature, culture, connect with their roots or seek investment opportunities.

The Nigerian Chambers of Commerce USA (NICOCUSA) appears to be in the lead, offering great homecoming opportunity to Nigerians in North America through its tours.

NICOCUSA is providing documents to expedite visa and passport services to members of the Chambers, thereby giving them opportunity to seek business exchange and promote trade between the United States and Nigeria.

The NICOCUSA tour project has the capacity to boost foreign exchange if well explored as it will attract huge holiday spending from Nigerians in Diaspora instead of impacting already developed economies of Europe and North America, said Charles Atufe, a tour operator.

Rabo Saleh, president, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), said the idea of bringing Diasporans to explore and patronise tourism offerings across the country was a noble one, adding that he looks forward to FTAN collaborating with the organisers for wider reach and consolidation of the expected gains.

NICOCUSA is also encouraging religious tourism to Nigeria through the facilitation of Shiloh Pastoral Conference for interested Americans at the Winners International Chapel in Ota, Ogun State.

The tours, which hope to expose the visitors to the best of the country’s tourism, also offer business and investment platform for those looking for such opportunity but have been held back by issues of trust.

Nigeria has great tourist destinations that are yet to be explored, according to travel experts. They add that anything that will help get more people to identify with Nigeria and its tourism potential and business is a welcome development.

“Nigeria has amazing tour destinations that can be explored,” said Ikechi Uko, a travel business consultant and founder, Akwaaba Travel Tourism Market.

“There are a lot of things in Nigeria that you can’t see elsewhere. We have one of the biggest slave histories. There are places that tell stories about history of slaves. I just hope the people doing this know tour destinations for people to visit within Nigeria,” he said.

Joyce Akpata, director-general, Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), told BusinessDay that although the chamber was not part of NICOCUSA’s tour initiative, it was always open to opportunities that would boost Nigeria’s image and income.

“We get our member companies to meet with trade missions of US businesses that are coming to Nigeria and engage with them to explore whatever business possibilities they could share. For this year, we have not had much business investors because of the elections which created so many uncertainties,” Akpata said.

OBINNA EMELIKE & IFEOMA OKEKE

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