Maritime Tourism: An Untapped Honeypot In Nigeria                                    

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By Stephen Ubanna

Until his resignation as the immediate past minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state had given an insight into the huge potentials of maritime tourism and the need for investors to cash in on it.

 According to the World Trade Organisation, WTO, ‘’maritime tourism  is a sector   of the tourism industry   that is based  on tourists  and visitors taking  part  in active and passive  leisure  and holiday pursuits  or journeys  on or in coastal waters, their shorelines and their immediate hinterlands’’.

Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, had said that Research shows that ‘’the oceans economy is worth about $20 trillion which include fishing, pharmaceuticals and the renewable energy industries’’.

 The NIMASA Director General, may have been encouraged him to pursue for the development of maritime tourism in Nigeria as obtained in Europe and other parts of the world where he has visited over the last three years as the Director General of NIMASA, in order to benefit from the huge potentials in terms of job creation and revenue generation.

 The NIMASA Chief Executive Officer, CEO, was said to have called for a ‘’Collaboration   between Institute of tourism and Professionals of Nigeria, ITPN, and the maritime sectors in Nigeria ‘’to reap from the huge potentials in maritime tourism’’. He noted that with ‘’the enormous resources inherent in the nation’s maritime sector, the country’s tourism industry will be easy and low hanging fruit for the country’s economic agenda’’.

The NIMASA  helmsman   may have taken advantage of  the 6th  National Tourism  Transportation Summit  and Expo,  organised ITPN,  in Collaboration with the ministries  of Transportation, Aviation , Information and Culture at the International Conference center, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory to speak out.

The Summit, which the Organisers had said was aimed at ‘’discovering and exploring the opportunities in Nigeria tourism sector’’, with a theme ‘’AFCFTA:  Extra-African Trade,’’ Tourism and Transportation Opportunities and Mitigating the Borders to Collaboration’’, appears to have created the desired awareness.    

The NIMASA boss was said to have spoken on ‘’Tourism and the Development of Nigeria’s Blue Economy’’. He may have gladdened the heart of participants  when he declared that  ‘’investment must not necessarily  involve huge materials  and human capital’’ , but noted  that  Small and Medium Scale, SMS, businesses  was also possible  ‘’to generate  the amount  of jobs  and economic  benefits  associated with the tourism sector as obtained in other parts of the world’’.

Hear him:  I must acknowledge  that tourism  is one  sector  that Nigeria  is doing very well but unfortunately, the marine tourism  component  is one area  where the country is currently lagging behind  when compared with other economies across the world.

It was  not surprising why he commended the organisers of the tourism symposium  which had given him the opportunity to speak out on maritime tourism and why investors, both local and foreign should invest in it.

According to him ‘’a well-managed  tourism  sector would go a long way to support  the government conservation policy  while  contributing  to  sustainable  development of the economy and providing  income opportunities  and higher standard of living  for many’’.

Edward Osagie, an Assistant Director and spokesperson of NIMASA, had said that the Director General, also took a sweep at the relationship between the maritime regulatory agency   maritime potentials   and  tourism, in his presentation to the applause of the participants.

He was said to have given an insight to the agency ‘’maritime safety and security’’, which many believe was sacrosanct for marine tourism development’’, resulting in the current Management committing huge resources to it.

He had made a bold statement when he said that ‘’there was need  for industry stakeholders  to support  all engagement’s  and policy statements of the government  on conservation of Nigerian biodiversity , maritime ecosystem and other endowments , which are  valuable  assets  for marine asset development’’.

He may have  impressed the participants  at the tourism Symposium   when he outlined the benefits  that could be achieved from maritime  tourism  with security guarantees’’, stressing that this could  only be achievable  by ’’closing all the existing  gaps and linking  associated cities  through building infrastructure  while the bodies  of water  between  them are used for ‘’tourist attraction’’.

As a prelude to ensuring a successful development of the nation’s maritime tourism development,  the well- travelled NIMASA Director General, to different parts of the world, described as a ‘’practical Administrator’’ and who has seen the development of  marine tourism  in all the countries visited was said to have also called for  ‘’proactive measures’’ that would prevent pollution  of marine  and fresh water resources, soil and land resources, desertification,  and salinification due to excessive water use and over use of fertilizers,  including erosion,  air pollution,  loss of cultural resources  and social disruption’’.

The NIMASA boss has every reason to woo participants at the tourism  symposium  and urging  not worry  about security in Nigerian waters and he Gulf  of Guinea, because President Muhammadu  had spent $195 million to procure  maritime security assets  comprising  of 16 armoured vehicles, for coastal patrol, 17  Fast Interceptor Boats, Two Special Mission Vessels, Two Special Mission  aircrafts, three helicopters and four unmanned  Aerial vehicles , which was delivered to the agency  by HLSI Systems and Technologies Limited, an Israeli security firm between 2020 and 2022.

Given an insider information about the huge potentials in maritime tourism may have encouraged   the NIMASA Director General, to call on the ITPN, other relevant agencies involved in Tourism development to Collaborate with the agency in implementing a strategy that would increase growth and jobs in the nation’s maritime tourism sector.  

He may have drawn example by what is happening in the member countries of the European Union, EU, Where  ‘’the beauty , cultural health  and diversity of the  region’s coastal areas had made them a preferred destination  for many stakeholders  in Europe and other countries across the world, thus making  coastal  and maritime tourism  and important tourism sector.

Employing over 3.2 million people which represents over one third of the European maritime economy  which include fishing, pharmaceuticals and renewable energy industries’’. This according to tourism experts was as much as 51 % of bed capacity in hotels across Europe is concentrated in regions with a sea border.

There is no saying the fact that with the steps taken by Jamoh, the NIMASA ,Director General, to raise people’s Consciousness  on the Blue Economy which is lubricating the Europe economy which currently generates a gross value added  of about $544 billion yearly, is expected  to experience  further growth  this 2023, Fiscal year and beyond  ‘’to create more jobs  in coastal  and maritime tourism’’.

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