Tourism as an alternative to JAAC/FAAC
“Tourism is an assemblage of people at a location and over a period of time”.
– Paddy Anyatonwu
In 2019, Tourism generated $3 Trillion the world over according to World Trade Organization (WTO).
Same year, Rwanda made $498 million via tourists watching Chimpanzees alone.
In Nigeria, Tourism created 1.3 million jobs in 2019, total receipt of $301 billion dollars and 2.4% direct contribution to the GDP.
Tourist attractions are places of interest where tourists visit for their inherent or exhibited natural or cultural value, historical significance, natural or built beauty, offering leisure and amusement.
Contrary to the wildly believed that Tourism is all about leisure, it is beyond leisure in actuality.
1. Religious tourism
2. Political tourism
3. Sports tourism
4. Medical tourism
5. Sex tourism
6. Cultural tourism
7. Historical tourism
8. Education/Seminar tourism
9. Business tourism
Tourism is a huge business that can transform a country or community if it is harnessed by experts. However, before a place can effectively harness economic opportunities inherent in tourism, it requires conscious effort to package the tourism product to appeal to potential visitors.
If properly harnessed, tourism could initially add about five percent to Abia State IGR and other value chain of tourism and also create jobs.
The Tourism attractions in Abia State can be categorized in three:
Natural Attractions which include Azumini Blue River, the Caves at Uturu, Amakama Wonder Tree, the Bende Area Hills, Iyi Agbamauzu, the Slave Cell at Agbamauzu Bende,
Historical: Okoro House Arochukwu, Ibini Ukpabi shrine Arochukwu, the Omo Ukwu Museum Asaga, the Slave Market of Ovim in Amazu Amaka,
Man-made attractions: Akwaette weaving Centre, Aba Colonial Museum, National War Museum Umuahia, Ojukwu Bunker Umuahia, the Ohafia War Dance.
All these are tourist attractions littering Abia State are in their raw state. In most cases, tourist attractions on their own do not become a money spinner until value is consciously added to them and properly packaged to become attractions. All the tourist attractions in Abia State are virtually in a raw state that needs to be burnished to become attractive to tourists.
I believe tourism in Abia state can be built around domestic tourism, and around attractions in Umuahia like the Ojukwu Bunker and the war museum. These are man-made attractions. They look ordinary, but if adequately packaged could attract tourists within the age bracket of 18 to 60.
This, at peak period, which is towards the end of the year, could push hotel occupancy to between 80 to 90 percent.
HOW TO GO ABOUT IT:
The first is to constitute a tourism board which will take a more holistic look at all the tourist attractions in the state. The board would also note the current state of these attractions, and then burnish the low hanging fruits, that are sites within the cities, first like the War Museum and the Ojukwu Bunker that do not require a huge investment to bring it to a condition where it could attract huge tourist traffic.
Culture, in the area of traditional dance and festivals has become a huge business in tourism. Some of the best traditional dance festivals would also be part of the product to be marketed.
Everywhere in the world, the Trans-Atlantic slave route is a huge business called Slave Route Tourism. Ghana built its tourism on the memories of the slave trade with the Elmina Castle in Cape Coast playing a vital role.
Black Americans troop to Ghana annually. Two years ago, Ghana celebrated the Year of Return.
With the reputation of the areas and their role in the abolished Atlantic Slave Trade, these could be packaged as a tourism product.
The Akwaette has become renowned worldwide, most especially after the former British Prime Minister wore it to visit Nigeria. Unfortunately, the positive media publicity then was not used to sell the state’s tourism.
However, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Ph.D has done much in this direction.
All these tourism assets are scattered all over the state and are not well taken care of. This ordinarily would be the role of the state’s tourism board.
While it is not something that could be done overnight, but once the right steps are taken, there is bound to be a success.
All these will eventually give birth to the Abia State’s Tourism Master Plan.