Mr Yomi Fadugba , Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MOYDAK Construction Ltd., Lekki, Lagos, has urged the Federal Government to make entry visa free for investors in the tourism industry.
Fadugba, a hospitality consultant and investor, who made the appeal when he spoke with pressmen on Wednesday in Lagos, said that free visa would attract tourism investors.
He said that such was practiced in the United Arab Emirate (UAE) which had set a template the country could copy to boost its tourism potential. “The UAE started their tourism boom by declaring a visa-free entry even when they were investing heavily on infrastructure.
“In the 1980’s we know Dubai as semi-desert although they have oil just like Nigeria, but they looked beyond the oil to tourism. “How they are able to turn the desert to a tourist destination remains a mystery, but they were able to do it by encouraging many tourists to come to their country through a visa-free regime.
“Many Nigerians benefitted from this because some of the gold traders then trooped to Dubai for their business and that was when they coined “Dubai gold’’. It is a visa-free policy,’’ he said.
Fadugba said that tourism played a major role in economic prosperity of nations of the 21st century; hence, Nigeria should live up to the billing with adequate investment in the sector. “Tourism plays a major role in any economy as it can be the mainstay of the economy without much stress but it takes due diligence to discover what area to choose.
“We may take our culture, heritage sites, medical or even education to be our tourist attraction, anything it may be, what we need is to get it right. “Many now travel to India for medicals; it is part of tourism, and education in the cold region of Finland.
They only need to develop what will be appealing to the world. “What we need to do is to open up our spaces which are many, but bit seems government is indifferent to promoting these opportunities in right sense of it, maybe due to inferiority complex,’’ he said.
Fadugba said told newsmen that many countries were now developing their tourism sector because of the abundance of opportunities for improved Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “If we look at some developed countries and what they earn through tourism, it is mind boggling. The question now is, why not Nigeria? “We talk of countries such as UAE, Dubai, Singapore, France and a host of others; they take tourism as a serious business, and even Brazil of late has copied them. “What we have to do is to look inward and identify those heritages that we have that could be attractive to the foreigners.
“We have a couple of them, in fact, Nigeria is so much endowed with those attractions for tourism but subsequent governments have failed to build on them,’’ he said.
The MOYDAK Construction boss suggested that visa-free entry to Nigeria for tourism events could put Nigeria in the eye of tourist attraction. “From the recent reports, we have it that Nigeria is losing about 96 billion dollars quarterly on tourism; that is huge revenue that should have accrued to Nigeria.
“For instance, in the issuance of visa, we can make our country visa-free for some tourism events. How much are we generating as revenue from visa issuance? “We cannot compare the gains of such with the loss of revenue from visa. We can’t be telling some nationals of developed countries to pay for event which they can access free.
“Nationals from developed countries such as U.S., Canada, England, France and China should not be compelled to pay for visa to come to Nigeria for tourism,’’ he said. Fadugba said Nigeria stood to lose nothing if there were visa-free entries for tourism events, adding that instead, it would provide more foreign earnings.
“If we tell them it is visa-free, we have nothing to lose because they are the ones coming here to spend their money. “Making Nigeria visa-free for some tourism events will help our tourism industry to grow and also increases our GDP. “Dubai has done it in the past and they are now reaping the reward in billions of dollars. “The monies from tourism would have helped our economy out of recession if we ever experienced it at all,’’ he said.