Lonely Planet (LP), the world’s largest travel guide, describes Nigeria as a pulsating powerhouse with deep and layered cultures and stunning environments. Yet, that was only a surface scratch of the description of Nigeria. While the platform mentioned less than a dozen must-visit locations, Nigeria is surfeit with magical sceneries, nature’s wonders and astounding cultural heritages that should make the country a leading tourist destination. This is not the case however, due to a combination of institutional and infrastructural challenges, but it could still be, and the benefits would be astronomical, especially for the economy.
The total contribution of travel and tourism to the global economy was estimated at over $7.6 trillion in 2016, around 10 percent of the global GDP of $75.6 trillion. In Nigeria, the contribution of the tourism industry is estimated at around $1.5 billion, figures that are not only a tiny fraction of the global industry but also demonstrate the gulf between the present reality and the potential of tourism for Nigeria. To put this in context, below are five popular tourist destinations in the world, and by their side are 5 nigerian alternatives, that, with public and private sector support, could match and even surpass them.
1. The Great Wall of China / the ancient Kano city walls:
The Great Wall of China, the longest wall in the world, was built across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe. Its winding path over rugged country and steep mountains takes in some great scenery and it has a history that spans over 2,300 years. Today, the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats in history and. One of the most amazing facts about the great wall is that after it was opened to the public as a tourist attraction, hundreds of millions of visitors have been to its various sections. The Badaling section is the most visited section (63,000,000 visitors in 2001). In peak seasons, the visitor flow can be up to 70,000 per day!
Nigeria’s answer to the Great Wall of China, the ancient Kano city walls, has been described as “the most impressive monument in West Africa.” Just like the Great Wall of China, the Ancient Kano City Walls were built as a defensive wall with the construction of the foundation laid by Sakri Gijimasu (1095–1134), the third king of in the Kano Chronicle. According to historians, the then General-Governor of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, Fredrick Lugard, wrote in a 1903 report about the Kano Walls that he had “never seen anything like it in Africa” after capturing the ancient city of Kano along with British forces.
Despite its rich history and architectural beauty, many even within the country have not heard about or seen the grand splendour that is the ancient Kano city walls.
2. Kruger National Park / The Yankari National park: At 2,000,000 hectares, the Kruger National Park in South Africa is about the same size as the whole of Israel. It his home to 336 variety of trees, 49 fish species, 34 different kind of amphibians, 114 reptile species, 507 bird species and 147 mammal species. The Kruger national park draws millions of visitors to South Africa yearly and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in South Africa.
The Yankari National park, Nigeria’s biggest national park, which is also Nigeria’s most popular tourist destination is home to 350 species of birds and over 50 mammal species, also present in the park are four warm water springs namely the Wikki springs, Dimil, Gwan and Nawulgo springs. A fifth spring, Tungan Naliki is the only cold spring in the park.There is also evidence of early human settlement such as dwelling caves and elaborate water storage systems and cave engravings . The Yankari National Park has potential to be a major eco tourist hotspot in the world but presently has a recorded yearly peak visitor rate of 20,000 people.
3. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival / Calabar Carnival: Carnivals are a major part of Carribean culture and the biggest and most popular of them is the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. The carnival is the most significant event on the islands’ cultural and tourism calendar, It is said that if the islanders are not celebrating it, then they are preparing for it, while reminiscing about the past year’s festival. The carnival draws tens of thousands of tourists to the island for its two days.
Nigeria’s answer to the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival? The Calabar carnival which is also tagged “Africa’s biggest street party.” The yearly carnival runs from December 1st to the 31st with its peak period on the latter part of the month. The carnival currently draws visitors from mostly within the country but it has potential to be “the party in Africa everyone should attend”
4. The Beaches of Rio de janeiro / Beaches of Lagos: From panema and Copacabana, to more secluded and slightly lesser-known stretches of sand, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is best known for its beaches. The most popular beaches, Ipanema and Copacabana, are both 2 miles long and holds hundreds of sun seekers daily. Lagos is neither lacking in sun nor an array of beaches, from crowded and popular beaches to secluded and private beaches, Lagos has it all. A couple of the beaches have luxury resorts attached that give services beyond the pleasure of lying bthe sea like La Campagene Tropicana, Hsalemson beach resort, and Eko tourist resort while some like coconut beach and Badagry beach have historical significance as they were once slave routes.
5. Mountain Chalet Aspen, Colorado / Obudu Mountain resort
The Aspen resorts sits at the pinnacle of western mountain resorts, with a sophisticated arts scene and world-class recreational activities. In summer, the Aspen Music Festival presents more than 300 classical music events, and Anderson Ranch art workshops attract all ages and skill levels. The Aspen Resort is one of the most popular in the world and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly. On the same scale and with the potential to attract even more visitors is the Obudu mountain resort.
The Obudu Mountain Resort is situated on a plateau at 1576 metres above sea level on the Oshie Ridge of the Sankwala Mountains. The temperate climate offers a total contrast and welcome respite from Africa’s tropical heat. Idyllic tranquillity, beautiful scenery and breathtaking views make it ideal for the lone adventurer, families on reunion, young couple or holiday group. A major talking point for guests is Africa’s longest cable car system. At 4 kilometres, Obudu Mountain Resort cable car gently transfers guests (and their bags) from the tropical climate at the base of the mountain right to the hotel’s reception area on the mountainside which is often in the clouds and is accompanied by an invigorating drop in temperature. The resort also boasts a golf course, a sports centre, and tours to view the spectacular scenery and exotic bird life.
Read also: Have You Seen Nigeria: Calabar