Sally Uwechue-Mbanefo, director-general of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), has said tourism is an important industry that can make a lot of money for Nigeria.

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In an interview with Thecla Wilkie, she complained that Nigeria has not done enough to develop the sector and capitalise on the potential therein.

Mbanefo said the sector inadvertently fights corruption as it is difficult to embezzle funds in the sector because “the money trickles down” to every player.

“In 2105, Nigerians spent $110m getting visas to go to Dubai and in the same year, $2.5bn was spent by Nigerians to travel around the world. This is the predicament we have now.

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“Today, tourism is the greatest employer of labour in the world. One in every 11 jobs is a tourism related. Tourism contributes 10% to the global GDP.

Mbanefo lamented the fact that Nigeria was not taking tourism seriously when the likes of Cuba, Brazil, Kenya, Gambia, and South Africa, are growing their tourism sectors.

“In 2013, 4.8 million people came into Nigeria. That’s really low considering that we have what all these countries don’t have.”

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“Oil has reached its peak and crashed. We have intellectual capital in Nigeria. Oil is down now and we are looking at so many alternatives.

She noted that although agriculture is a good alternative, it takes years to become profitable while tourism can generate immediate revenue.

“The government is looking at agriculture which takes 3-5 years to export. Agriculture and other industries are benefitting from tourism.

“Everybody benefits from tourism yet Nigeria will not look at that. Tourism fights corruption because the money trickles down. Nobody can steal, it touches everybody in the value chain of tourism.

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“Tourism is a private sector driven”, Mbanefo added.



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