Nigeria?s tourism and hospitality industry might overtake the downstream sector by 2021 if the recently launched African Union (AU) passport is adopted by the country?s legislators, Country Manager, Jumia Travel Nigeria, Kushal Dutta, has said.
According to Dutta, the Pan-African passport will allow free movement of domestic tourists into the country, thereby raising the profile and potential of the country?s tourism and hospitality industry to become an alternative to boosting the economy.
He explained that 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.
Indeed, the African Union had noted that the flagship project has the specific aim of facilitating free movement of persons, goods and services around the continent ? in order to foster intra-Africa trade, integration and socio-economic development.
Although, stakeholders in Nigeria noted that while the initiative remains laudable, it poses a great threat and challenge to the country due to the high infrastructural gap and huge cost of doing business, Dutta explained that that 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, diversification opportunities should be explored.
?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.
Kushal also touched on the opportunities the AU passport will bring for the African continent, stating that, there will be an increase in domestic tourism in the continent and this will 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), including employment by hotels, restaurants, travel agents and airlines among others.
It is predicted that by 2026, the industry will account for about 11.7 million jobs directly in Africa ? an increase of 2.5 per cent yearly 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.