The Travel and Tourism industry is not just a potential source of national income; it is also a veritable source of empowerment.
By Ayomide Oluwole
Travel & Tourism is one of the major sources of employment. It generates 1 out of 11 jobs in the world. In recent years, there have been reports of high levels of unemployment not just in Nigeria but worldwide. Tourism has been a significant job creator for young people in Nigeria despite the high percentage of youth unemployment.
The role of ‘Tourism’ has gained global recognition as it has played significant and beneficial roles in the socio-economic and political development by generating income, creating employment and alleviating poverty. Despite these benefits, there has been little focus on how tourism has empowered and encouraged youths to embrace tourism related jobs or start up tourism businesses.
The Nigerian economy mainly depends on crude oil while completely neglecting other sectors in the economy, for example, tourism and agriculture, which are the major backbone of a good economy.
Tourism in Nigeria has not reached its full potential because of the low political will and poor coordination of government officials, the lack of knowledge on tourism potentials and investment opportunities. It is faced with the laid back attitude of the government towards the growth and development of the sector, which is a major challenge.
Despite these challenges, the tourism industry has seen some growth. With the increase in tourist arrivals and spending, many Nigerian youths have been offered the chance to get traction in their tourism career.
Nigerian youths need to be aware that they can leverage on tourism and create avenues to offer a variety of activities, products and hospitality services that delivers a number of travel experiences, for example: tourist attractions, ground transportation, accommodations, restaurants, and art galleries to international and local travellers/tourists.
Leveraging on tourism to offer the above services requires creative skill sets, qualifications and as times goes on, trained manpower and these are very important elements in the success of any tourism business.
I have been able to leverage on the travel & tourism opportunity by establishing The Dare Experience– A start up Travel and Tours Company.
During my penultimate year at the University of Glasgow, I got a 3-months internship offer to work in an Investment Company in Shanghai, China. Weeks into the job, I got an email from a Tour Operator to explore the hills of Moganshan in Shanghai. As I stood at on the mountaintop at Moganshan to take in the beauty, my career aspirations changed and the view beheld my career vision and mission! Over the next 3 years, armed with my passport and camera, I made trips back to Nigeria to explore different destinations locally. I soon realized that most Nigerians and international tourists knew very little about the existence of the Nation’s alluring traditional, historic and cultural heritage: people, places, culture and many more.
So, I founded the The Dare Experience in 2016 with the mission to explore Nigeria’s rich and diverse cultural heritage through The Dare Experience guided local tours and experiences for Nigerians and international tourists to appreciate the beauty, sights and sounds of Nigeria. The Dare Experience was also established to offer cost-effective tours of international standard, as a means of supporting our local economy, cottage industries, local arts and crafts businesses.
Having said this, there are so many challenges that I face as an experience curator. Chief among them being lack of reliable information about local destinations, attractions, and available services. Lack of infrastructure is also a major challenge, and to avert unpleasant surprises, we conduct site assessment, as well as accessibility to the sites, ahead of each tour, which is stressful, time-consuming and financially challenging.
Despite these challenges we have faced, we have been able to create and offer over 30 experiences – that is, (Private tours, and local tours within Nigeria and 2 International tours with an average of 10-15 participants on each of these tours.
Leveraging on tourism in Nigeria requires a lot of hard work, dedication, commitment and sacrifice. Before you start, thoroughly research the tourism industry in Nigeria, create a business plan and have the necessary funds (personal savings or loans) to run the business. Above all, be authentic and very creative!
An example of a unique experience we created is “The Keke Experience”. The idea behind the first edition was to experience the Lagos art and culture by commuting with one of Nigeria’s favorite public local transports, the tricycle popularly known as ‘Keke’. It also included eating local dishes (Like Amala and Gbegiri)
The second edition was a photo scavenger hunt around “Isale Eko”/Lagos Island – a set of tasks were given and participants had about 2 hours to hop in Kekes to gain as many points as possible! For example- “Give a Lastma official a high five OR pose as a bus conductor”
Also, to showcase responsible business, create jobs, encourage and boost local businesses, we source for locally made products like (Ankara bags, local soaps) as gifts to our local and international participants on every tour.
For the second edition we supported & encouraged a local business/young entrepreneur, Mr. Samuel Ogundare. He is popularly known as “Corporate Keke Guy” and shuttles from Ojuelegba to Bode Thomas. What makes this man unique? Samuel’s Keke has: – A fan, Mini TV and Air fresheners. Not just that, he has a corporate look; bow tie, suit and clean shoes! After I checked out his Instagram page, I was blown away and reached out to him, as I wanted him to be part of the Keke Experience.
Leveraging on Social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have contributed to the success of tourism business in Nigeria. For example, The Dare Experience uses the power of sight, sound and visuals to provide a great canvas and help tourists virtually discover new experiences and local destinations before they visit or sign up.
Tourism is one of the major sectors driving the change in Nigeria and it offers many opportunities for economic growth and improved livelihoods. Among the reasons why the youth should leverage on the development of tourism is to create more jobs, encourage local business, domestic consumption and exports expansion, cultural heritage and environmental preservation, and most empowerment of women in rural areas.
The youth can play a role in tourism by contributing to the empowerment and tourism development in a way that ensures it is both sustainable and responsible, by providing good and unique experiences for the tourist and also bringing significant earning to the local community and preserving our natural environment.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.