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Nigeria and Repositioning of Tourism Destination

 L-R;Mr Sam Osunsoko;Associate Director,Account Management Insight  Communication Limited;Goddie Ofose,Chairman Brand Journalist  Association Of Nigeria[BJAN];Mr Femi Adesina,Managing Director The  Sun Newspaper/President Nigeria Guild Of Editors and  Prince Abiodun  Olatunbosun;Specail Assistant to the NIPR President on Logistic and  Protocol.During Brand Journalists Association Of Nigeria 2nd Annual  Brand and Marketing Conference Osun 2014;Theme;Tourism Marketing  As Catalyst For Economic Develoment in Osogbo.
 
 
 
 It is quite significant that this conference is focusing on destination branding,  otherwise known as tourism, because these are crunch times in the life of  our country.
 
 For many decades, we have spoken volumes upon volumes of words on the  need to diversify the economy of our country, and break the mono- product  dependence on oil. There have been conferences, symposia, workshops, both locally and internationally on the issue. But all the findings significantly end up in one place: the shelves, where they gather dust. Like in the macabre dance, Nigeria only takes one step forward, and two steps backwards.
 
However, the day of reckoning may have finally come for the country. The discovery of shale oil and gas by America, the biggest customer of our oil, would mean that revenue from that resource would dwindle in the months and years to come. And to make matters worse, many other neighboring African countries have discovered oil in commercial quantity. What then do we do, begin to drink our oil? That doomsday may well be at the very doorsteps.
 
For years, running into decades, tourism has been identified as one of the veritable alternatives to oil as a major revenue earner for the country. Many countries of the world do not have natural resources, and depend largely on earnings from tourism. Israel, despite being beleaguered politically and surrounded by hostile neighbors, thrives on the marketing of its historical sites. All year round, tourists and pilgrims troop into Israel to visit sites venerated and considered holy by the major religions of the world. In 2003-2004, Australia's inbound tourism consumption to GDP was 7.6 billion dollars. The same happens in many other countries of the world. But here in Nigeria, our potentials lie fallow, dormant, and in most cases, untapped.
 
Just last week, the country declared another austerity season, the second time in about three decades. The so-called austerity has been forced on us by the global fall in the prices of oil, which has made nonsense of our financial projections. If we are not careful, government may soon not be able to meet its financial commitments and obligations, both internally and externally. Is anybody then still waiting for doomsday? That dreadful day is here. Nigeria beyond oil is no longer a chant or mere slogan, it is a reality that has dawned on us.
 
It brings us to the timeliness of the topic of my presentation: Nigeria and Repositioning of Tourism Destination. Tourism is one of the world's largest industries, and we must key in, willy-nilly, as a country.
To get the best from our tourism resources and potentials as a country, the time has come to reposition and re-create ourselves as a tourism destination. And in doing that, some factors are critical, which require that all hands be on deck, including those of our brand journalists. Indeed, this group of people have a great role to play in this endeavor.
 
CRITICAL FACTORS
The tourist has been identified as any person traveling to a place other than his/her usual environment for fewer than 12 consecutive months. And when the tourist does this travel, he naturally goes with resources for his upkeep, which becomes part of the economy of the hosting destination.
 
In repositioning a place as a tourism destination, there are certain critical factors that can be called irreducible minimums. They include, but are not limited to the ones we will consider below: 
 
Marketing Strategy: does an army go to war without first formulating a strategy to combat the enemy? Does a soccer team enter the pitch for a competitive game without a strategy to rout the opponent?Does a pilot get into the airspace without first having a flight plan? So can you not also reposition tourism destination without marketing strategy. How do we do it? When? Where? To which end? Who are the people that will do it? What are the resources needed? What are the tools to employ? All these are germane questions, but as said earlier, Nigeria is not lacking in recommendations and theoretical frameworks. A lot of them have been codified and outlined over the years, but are gathering dust in the shelves of our ministries, agencies and parastatals. Now is the the time to dust them up, update them, and begin to run with the vision. But definitively, we must formulate what should be our national strategy for repositioning Nigeria as tourism destination.
 
The push and pull factors:  what are the things that motivate tourists in their choices of destination? These are called the push and pull factors, and Nigeria must necessarily take care of them, if she would take her place as one of the world's favorite tourism destinations. Some of those push and pull factors include:
 
1. Infrastructure. Do we have the roads, the hotels, the tourist sites, the airline services, the water transport, and other means of mass transport that can support tourism? These Nigerian roads that have become death traps? Roads where you spend hours on end for journeys that should just take about half an hour? An airline industry where flights are delayed endlessly, or cancelled whimsically 'due to operational reasons?' Or waterways where ferries capsize at frightful intervals? All these are infrastructure that support tourism, and to move forward, Nigeria must devote a large chunk of its annual budgets to infrastructure upgrade.
 
2. Security: can there ever be tourism in the face of massive insecurity characterized by insurgency, kidnappings, robberies on highways, and murders? Not at all. The tourist wants rest, recreation, relaxation, fun, an experience of a lifetime. But he does not want to lose his life in the process. As long as Nigeria fails to solve the insecurity problem, so long will the tourism Eldorado elude her. Reports of insecurity, particularly of terrorism and kidnappings, elicit international attention. And Nigeria has a surfeit of those kind of reports now. It will affect our fortunes as a tourism destination, no matter how hard we market ourselves. Get security right, and the tourists will flock in.
 
3. Cost: the tourist wants rest and relaxation, but he does not want to pay an arm and leg for it. Costs of goods and services are rather prohibitive in Nigeria, compared to other countries on the continent, and even in the world. Yes, our economy has been rebased, and is supposedly the largest in Africa, but what impact has it made on goods and services? Do you notice that our top hotels perhaps charge the highest rates in the world? Do a comparative study, and you would see the truth in it. The tourist wants quality, but at reasonable prices. Some families save round the year, in order to take a holiday. Should they then land in the debtors prison after the holiday, because they have been completely fleeced of their earnings? For Nigeria to compete as a global tourism destination, government must work harder to keep the economy on an even keel, so that prices of goods and services can be stable, and within reach.
 
4. Political stability: Which tourist wants to visit a country in turmoil, or one that could disintegrate at the next hour? Not many. Which tourist wants to visit a country where lawmakers are seen on global TV being tear-gassed, and scaling dangerous fences to get access into parliament? Which tourist wants to visit a country where elections are followed by flares of violence, with many lying dead in the streets? Not many. That is why Nigeria must get her politics right. It has grave implications for tourism.
 
Time will not permit us to look at the other push and pull factors individually. They include: entertainment, friendliness (and this must start right from the airport), available cultural and historic sites, natural endowments, health and fitness facilities, adventure, good climate, good and clean beaches, culture, sense of belonging, novelty, shopping at reasonable prices, night life, cuisine, satisfaction, etc.
 
When tourists get all the above and more, what you get is loyalty, and return visits. There will also be massive recommendations to other people, which will drive up traffic. There is nothing better than a fulfilled tourist.
 
WHY REPOSITION?
We may as well ask ourselves: why reposition? Is it by force? Well, it is by force. Without repositioning, we will not get the best that is possible from our tourism.
 
There is now increasing worldwide competition, with each country putting its best tourism foot forward.
Also, we must reposition because the preferences of tourists keep changing. What you offered a year or two ago may not suffice for today or tomorrow.
 
Again, we must reposition because having a fixed image would not promote a destination effectively. That is why the world's greatest brands keep coming out with different types of advertisements and promotions. Repositioning allows you to rejuvenate your tourism destination. It also allows you to know your client, his needs, motives, drives, purchasing behavior, and how you can respond appropriately.
 
FINAL WORDS
What you market, and the marketing strategy adopted, are crucial. Just like other products, tourism destinations have life cycles. There is the discovery stage, the growth and development stage, success stage, stagnation stage, decline stage, and then you must rejuvenate or die.
 
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, my professional colleagues, Nigeria must reposition as a tourism destination. And it should be done not tomorrow, not next year or next season. It must be done NOW.
 
Mr Femi Adesina, MD/Editor-in-Chief, The Sun Newspapers/ President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, delivered this paper  at Brand Journalists' Association of Nigeria Annual Brand and Marketing Conference held in Osogbo on November 21, 2014.