Oct 2, 2010

Rural Tourism is the Best Option for Nigeria

Mr. Semshak Gompil is a professional in the area of tourism. He got his background by virtue of his training from the Plateau State and Kaduna Polytechnics. After backing a Higher National Diploma in the field of tourism from the Kaduna Polytechnic, he worked with the Plateau State Tourism Corporation for seven years before retiring to private practice. While in private practice he has also added a Postgraduate Diploma in the same field. He runs the Fair Trade Network in Jos Plateau State, Nigeria.

In view of his rare resourcefulness in the area of tourism, the News Tower Magazine sought to know from him the prospect that tourism holds for Plateau State and Nigeria at large, the progress so far and what challenges lay ahead if we must fully develop the industry to a level where we can be fully classified among the tourist destinations around the world.

From Gompil, we have been able to gather that the greatest prospect for tourism in Nigeria as a whole is in the area of material culture which is found mainly in the rural areas. This is because our target tourists are from the developed nations. By virtue of their rapid technological advancements, these nations have moved far away from nature. Thus, most tourists from there set out, looking for hand-made crafts that are organic and natural. The extensive cultural diversity of Nigeria with an ethnic population of about 350 translates to so much distinct material culture and a huge prospect.
Hence rural tourism is the area where Nigeria has the comparative advantage to create a niche and attract tourists enough to bring about the economic and social development of our rural areas there by ending a steady rural to urban migration of youths looking for scarce white-collar jobs.

In the course of his studies, Gompil has had to carry out a research to find out what contribution tourism can make to the economic emancipation of the rural areas. The aim is to boost the efforts of those working towards the prospect of rural transformation through sustainable approaches. He says the prospects are enormous.

The benefits of tourism to Plateau State presently come largely from the export of this material culture. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Gompil, come from the export which his organization does three times a year. The tourists are also coming and buying some of these items directly. It is just that their number is not encouraging enough for us to feel that we have finally reached the end of the road as far as tourism development is concerned.

According to Gompil, the benefits of the sale of these crafts to the rural area would have been far greater if the local population can be encouraged to buy them, taking into consideration our population and the fact that Nigerians have the money.

The sad news however is that we may never develop the industry early enough to benefit from the huge promise the industry has for the nation. This is due to the modest role governments often play towards the attainment of the goal. Successive governments often pride themselves as having the monopoly of knowledge by refusing to bring in professionals who are imperative in the planning of policies and the legislations needed to accelerate the growth of the industry. Even in the area of urban planning, it is always wise to involve professional to avoid situations where the tourist needs of city master plans are not overlooked. It is experts that are in a position to inform the authorities that the towns have nothing to offer. They are also the ones to inform the government that the emphasis now is on the encouragement of green rooms for which we have an advantage. The experts alone can help to plan well by taking into consideration our strength and our weaknesses. In Plateau State, Gompil says, we have the highest number of tourist experts in Nigeria by the virtue of the fact that the Plateau state Polytechnic undertakes training in the field and the enrolment policy of the institution ensures that 90% of students come from within the state. These experts are not been utilized, he says and all these mistakes are slowing down the speed of progress towards the development of the industry.

The best option for tourism is not in the concentration efforts in the cities but rather to redirect these efforts towards improving tourist resorts in the rural areas and also basic needs such as water supply and shelter. In the area of security he says that Plateau State is quite okay despite the ethnic problems we have experienced recently. This is because tourists travel to parts of the world where the security situation is worst. With the exception of the Niger Delta, security elsewhere in Nigeria is quite okay.

There is also the need to train tourist guides. Tourist guides should be trained to know the locations of the tourist resources and the history of these resources in case tourists need information regarding them.

Gompil also noted that the sale of tourism online or through conventional print media is the sale of an illusion and emphasized the need for Nigerian tourism promoters to guard against exaggeration to avoid situations where tourists turn deaf ears to promotions of Nigerian tourism

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