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Airport Security As Threat To Tourism

Nigeria is losing huge revenue in the tourism market as a result of its unpreparedness to play big in the market, even though it could do more to become a major player in the tourism industry.  

On arrival from Kenya via Lome, Togo this week, I noticed there was a small room at the arrival section of the new international terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. I also noticed that those who entered the small room were delayed by officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) during the process of luggage search and most times, most of the luggage were searched with hostility.

Because of the exit written on top of the small room, the passenger will naturally enter the room only to be interrogated by Customs officials who could either solicit or extort passengers, depending on what the passenger has as luggage. At the Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, when passengers collect their luggage from the carousel, they pass the luggage through X-ray machine on their exit. Nobody confronts them; but if there is anything suspicious in the luggage, the passenger the luggage could be called aside.

At the Jomo Kenya International Airport, Nairobi, it is only the hand luggage that is screened by X-ray during passenger exit. Passengers don’t have to interface with anyone but their luggage will guided to the machine by a supervisor and if the passenger has issues, such passenger will be stopped by aviation security.

At the Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as the passengers arrive, they walk beside their luggage while it passes through screening and there is no interface with Customs officials, all these are carried out by multiple tasking Aviation Security or Police.

So, one of the things that count against Nigeria in the development of tourism, is the attitude of the officials of government agencies at the airport. A foreigner who is visiting may likely feel harassed at the airport, both at arrival and departure.

In Kenya, one would feel the welcoming, friendly attitude of the airport staff and agencies involved in passenger processing, down to the taxies that take passengers to town. Members of hotel staff are equally very friendly, and that creates the welcoming atmosphere a traveller feels in another country.

The Tourism Market

Globally, travel and tourism’s direct contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was approximately $7.7 trillion in 2022, according to statista.com.

Africa’s travel and tourism sector has more than doubled in value in the past two decades, contributing 5.9 per cent to Africa’s GDP and generating approximately $168 billion in tourism receipts in 2022.

In 2021, Nigeria generated around $265.00 million in the tourism sector alone. This corresponds to 0.056 per cent of its gross domestic product and approximately 23 per cent of all international tourism receipts in Western Africa.

It is believed that if Nigeria has the right approach to tourism, it could multiply its revenue from tourism and raise its contribution to GDP to about four per cent in less than 10 years.

Nigeria’s Tourism Prospects

Travel and tourism experts are of the view that Nigeria has great prospects when it comes to tourism. A country with diverse landscape, beautiful scenery and many destinations with historic significance should have a thriving tourism sector.

According to Nigeria’s tourism info guide, there are service industries that stand to benefit from tourism, which include: hospitality services such as hotels and resorts, transportation services such as airlines, cruise boats, trains, and cabs, food services such as restaurants, entertainment services such as amusement parks, theatres, cinemas, music venues and comedy centres, local craftsmen like souvenir makers, shopping malls.

This is because when people travel they spend money on essentials like accommodation, transport, food and others, but experts posit that there is lack of commitment and political will on the side of government in addition to insecurity and infrastructure deficit.

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Kenya’s Success

According to travel expert, Ambassador Ikechi Uko, Kenya is ramping up its tourism arrivals.

“It is almost at two million arrivals targeting three million in 12 months. They have eased Visa processes. They want more Africans to visit. ASKY, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Uganda Airlines, Rwandair, connects West Africa to Nairobi.  Kenya Airways has increased flights to Lagos by 10 times weekly. Africa is rising fast, which is a good development,” Uko said.

Confirming Ambassador Uko’s comment, Josephine Mbela from the Kenya Tourism Board, who made a presentation to the team on familiarisation tour of Kenya, bankrolled by Asky Airlines and Jambo Jet, Kenya Airways subsidiary, said some of the main reasons why tourists visit Kenya is because of certain factors, which include wildlife experience, good climate, accessible coastline and historic sites.

“As a tourist in Kenya, you’ll be fascinated by the rich and diverse cultural heritage that stems from the country’s early trading roots. Kenya’s strategic location along the eastern coast of Africa made it an important hub for trade between the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian subcontinent, and the African interior. The early trade routes that crisscrossed the region had a profound impact on the local communities, shaping their economic, social, and cultural development,” Mbela said.

According to Kenya Tourism Board, the impact of these early trade routes on local communities was immense. Trade brought prosperity, wealth, and economic opportunities to the coastal towns, leading to the rise of powerful Swahili city-states. These city-states flourished as centers of trade, attracting merchants, artisans, and scholars from different parts of the world. The cultural fusion that resulted from these interactions is still evident today in the architecture, cuisine, language, and customs of the coastal communities.

Developing African Tourism

Uko acknowledged that tourism in Africa is growing, especially Africans visiting African tourist destinations on the continent. For example, Nigerians visit different countries in Africa and enjoy whatever they offer in terms of tourist attractions.

“About 35,000 Nigerians travelled to Kenya in 2023. The Kenyan tourism board wants to double that number. And to double that number, Nigerians come to Kenya for two things. So now, Asky Airlines brings you from West Africa and the Jambo Jet airline can take you anywhere you want to go in Kenya. Now we are doing Mombasa, we are doing Nairobi. We want to travel to more destinations so that is where Jambo Jet kicks in. It begins to extend you beyond Nairobi and Mombasa,” Uko said.

He projected that in future more Africans will be visiting African destinations. More than they do to other parts of the world.

“I am seeing more visit to Africa by Africans; remember I am Pan-African first of all. I am seeing more Africans travel within Africa. So the combination of more African destinations opens up Africa for Africans. The same way someone in Mombasa wants to go to Bangui, wants to go to Conakry, and wants to go to a destination that Asky covers. So instead of flying just from here, Mombasa, it takes Jambo Jet to Nairobi and he is there. So it helps in the vision of opening up Africa for more Africans,” he further said.

Uko noted that more Africans were discovering Africa, but many of them still have the colonial mentality that the best things are outside Africa.

“But there is a new generation who do hiking, who do beach-hogging, who are into all this adventure and the best adventures are in Africa. The generation that is coming and moving into the travel space and looking for adventures and experience, and that is not what you get outside Africa. So for someone who had worked for the past 30 years to promote Africa as a destination for Africa, I would say I am happy with the way the young Africans are seeing Africa. They are seeing Africa as a continent. And thanks to the football competitions, AFCON and the rest of them, more of them are getting to know other countries in Africa. My generation grew up only knowing our country and Europe. But there is a whole lot of changes that have happened in Africa with the internet, with all these fights on Twitter and the rest of them. Those things are positive, Nigeria has attacked Kenya and Kenya has attacked Uganda. We get to know each other’s countries. Because the problem in Africa is you fear what you don’t know. And what you don’t know is usually what you have never experienced,” he added.

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Tourism and Visa on Arrival

Uko identified reasons why Nigeria may not join the fray and develop its tourism sector.

“The first barrier with Nigeria is visa. Our government has not figured out how to make Nigeria a destination. They have never asked people like us, before we could tell them visa on arrival is the easiest way to open up for all Africans. Now the government issued a statement in 2018-2019 and saying Nigeria will issue visa on arrival. Now it was done badly; I can tell you. It was not done very well. Even at that, as we are now mastering it and improving on it, government has just added first $90 biometric charge. So if your visa was $25 before, it is now $100 something. Then this year, government has now changed the biometric to $190. So there is no visa coming to Nigeria that is less than $200. Why would you be charging fellow Africans $200 in this economy just for visa? That is terrible. That’s one,” Uko said.

Local Guides

He said that despite the well-published insecurity fears, tourists still come to Nigeria and visit many places but the visitors must depend on the local guides.

“Nigeria is secure in most of the places the tourists will go to. We have not had issues of tourists having problems in Lagos. We have not had issues of people having problems in Enugu, in Uyo, in Port Harcourt, in Abuja, right? Even in Kano. So for most people who are in tourism business, you must be guided. Don’t just come pack your bag and say you are going to Kutuwenchi for tourism. Then you turn out and say Nigeria is not secure. No, you are not wise. There is a hiking epidemic happening in Nigeria now. Every weekend, or thereabout, more than 10,000 hikers are moving around Nigeria. There is never a sad story. The only sad one we had was a guy who drowned in the waterfall in Nassarawa two years ago. But these hikers are moving because they do due diligence, they take local guides.

“So, but for people who don’t know how tourism works, you say, oh, it’s unsafe. Why? You carried your bag without even talking to the local guide. No. We are in Mombasa now. There is a local guide, more than one, who knows the environment, who take us around. So if you walk with a guide in Nigeria, you can go anywhere. As I am talking to you now, last week, some of my mentees went to Yobe to do the desert. You know what I mean? Once you have a local guide, the local guide will take you around. So, yes, there are seasons of insecurity. There are spots of banditry. But once a local is involved are good to go. You have to have a local security,” Uko further said.

Source: Thisday

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