The federal government through the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) says the restriction of Nigerians from traveling abroad is a blessing to the nation’s economy and domestic tourism.
Folarin Coker, NTDC’s boss, made the assertion in Abuja on Wednesday.
“If Dubai Emirate Airline is not coming to Nigeria, Nigerians will not pack their naira, change it into dollars to go and buy tickets,” Mr Coker said.
The governments of Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates have been engaged in a diplomatic spat as the latter set stringent measures to deny Nigerians free access to their country, citing COVID-19 concerns.
Though Abuja insists Nigerians have the rights to travel to the Arabian gulf under extant international laws, it’s top tourism official says calling UAE’s bluff could save Nigeria the much needed forex to boost local economy.
“We pay a foreign airline to go to a foreign country and stay in a foreign hotel.
“The naira is N510 to one dollar, let Nigerians stay at home and learn to appreciate the country,’’ he argued.
Mr Coker was speaking with NAN on the level of the corporation’s preparation toward the South-South Stakeholders Interactive Forum.
Themed “The Use of Digital Technology to Revamp the Tourism and Hospitality Industry amid COVID-19 and Security Challenges in Nigeria,” the forum is scheduled to be held between August 26 and August 27 in Calabar.
Speaking further, the director-general said that the restriction of people from travelling abroad due to COVID-19 had boosted domestic tourism as most Nigerians no longer traveled out of the country.
According to him, Nigerians now look for alternative places within the country to relax and spend their holidays or weekends.“There are no foreign holidays now, we are all going to enjoy our local music, film, food, fashion, theatre and dance. I think COVID-19 has done the Nigerian tourism industry good,” he said.
Mr Coker said the NTDC would take the message of domestic tourism through the use of technology to the upcoming South-South Stakeholders interactive forum in Calabar.
According to him, the idea is to encourage the stakeholders in the tourism industry to ensure their businesses are driven by technology.
“We are trying to encourage the stakeholders in the entire value chain of the tourism ecosystem that there is a new way and is driven by technology.
“So, we are encouraging them to take advantage of technology to promote domestic tourism.
“There is the need for them to show Nigerians what is good in the country to stand a chance with our own tourism assets rather than something abroad,’’ Mr Coker said.