INTERNATIONAL ECOTOURISM MONTHLY
Year 5-Issue 51, Aug 2003
In this issue:
Ecotourism Development in Nigeria - Prospects &
ECOCLUB: Is there any government policy to encourage community-owned tourism within / next to protected areas or are incentives just given to private investors?
Segun Odunlami: The Nigerian government has been trying to encourage private initiatives in the tourism industry, but the only sub-sectors that are privately driven are the hotel & catering and the transport sub-sector. Private investors have been less enthusiastic about attraction development.
ECOCLUB: Are there any village associations or communities active in Tourism, in a cooperative manner? Are cooperatives popular in other sectors, outside tourism?
Segun Odunlami: Community Tourism associations are not fully on the ground in Nigeria as far as I know. Cooperative societies are more popular among the traders like the hairdressers, tailors, and similar trades.
ECOCLUB: Are regional governments able to set their own tourism policy, or is the federal government dominant?
Segun Odunlami: Although there are different tourism structures at the three levels of government in the country - federal, local and state, the federal structure has been most dominant. There are local government tourism committees at the local government level, State Tourism Boards at the state level and the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) at the federal level. However, tourism policy is being implemented at both the local and state levels within the framework of the federal government's tourism policy. The NTDC, is saddled with the responsibility of developing, promoting and marketing Nigeria as a destination. It also supervises and coordinates tourism activities and programmes at all levels. Hence, it collaborates with the state and local government structures.
ECOCLUB: Are parks managed / protected by the federal government directly?
Segun Odunlami: Yes, the Nigerian National Parks are being managed directly by the federal government under a federal parastatal known as the National Parks Service Board.
ECOCLUB: So, how successful is the government in tackling poaching?
Segun Odunlami: Government is trying to stop poaching in the national parks. But I must confess to you that because of the under funding of the national parks the park patrol staff are not well-kitted. Most of the poachers are well equipped with sophisticated arms like double barrel and sub-machine guns while the park patrol staff only have mark four. Sometimes, their vehicles will be out of order for many days and weeks. Because many of the communities bordering the national parks are poor, all they can do is to continue poaching. Thus, so far the government has not been able to stop poaching.
ECOCLUB: So how is this government planning to improve the funding of National Parks, through taxes, privatisation, foreign aid, or entrance fees?
Segun Odunlami: The Government is trying to attract private investors into the Nigeria National Parks. But there have been some difficulties.
ECOCLUB: In other countries, reformed poachers are being used as patrol men, is there a chance of this being done in Nigeria?
Segun Odunlami: Yes, many of the reformed poachers are indeed extensively employed by the park service for the anti-poaching activities in the parks since they know the routes.
ECOCLUB: Are illegal exports of well sought - wild species to the West such as the African gray parrot one of the reasons for poaching?
Segun Odunlami: Yes. Many poach for some of these rare animals that command big money in the international market.
ECOCLUB: Is the government aware of the need to tackle negative publicity about Nigeria. Prospective visitors associate Nigeria with so-called internet 'scams' and religious friction?
Segun Odunlami: The Nigerian government is really trying to improve on her battered image especially in the international community. Religious conflict is in essence political conflict. I am a Christian who hails from the southern part of the country, but I work in Kano, in the northern part of the country, which is dominated by Muslims. I honestly see the religious crisis been used to settle political differences. In Nigeria, there are many families with relations who belong to the two faiths like myself especially in the South Western part of the country. There is also this misconception regarding the dominance of Islam and Christianity in the Northern and Southern parts of the country. The truth is the that North is almost equally dominated by the two religions however with the exception of the North West with pockets of Christians. Also the South has a large population of Muslims especially the South West that boasts of equal population of the two religions. Politicians merely appeal to religious sentiments to canvass for votes and settle political differences especially in the North where majority are less educated compared to the South which has a high level of literate population.
ECOCLUB: Are Muslim communities welcoming to tourism?
Segun Odunlami: Yes the Muslim communities are very receptive to local and international tourists. There is the Durbar festival which is held annually in all the Muslim communities especially in the northern part of the country and in fact every year foreign tourist do come to Nigeria for this event in Kano, Kaduna and Zaria. The Ojude Oba festival in Ijebu-Ode, a city in the Soth West Of NIgeria is also a modified Durbar Festival".
ECOCLUB: This is very good, and it should be the focus of any marketing campaign, to show that religion does not hinder tourism. The world needs such examples these days.
ECOCLUB: And apart from Marketing, are any other measures, for example - creating a Tourist Police, being considered, to protect Tourists?
Segun Odunlami: It has not come to my notice that Tourist Police is been considered at all. What the government is trying to do right now is to developed tourist facilities and promote them.
ECOCLUB: I have read there is difficulty in reaching Nigeria overland, especially if you are an independent traveler, are authorities discouraging or suspicious of independent travellers?
Segun Odunlami: Honestly, it can be very difficult for a foreign tourist to travel alone in Nigeria because of the state of many of the roads. However, there are lot of tour operators who operate a car hire service and have drivers who are conversant with the roads. On the other hand if you want to travel, it is better you make your journey during the day time. This is just my personal advice.
ECOCLUB: And is it really safe to hire such a car?
Segun Odunlami: Yes, the well-established tour operators provide security for their customers I will also like to add that police patrols have been put in place on almost all the roads in the night to reduce cases of armed robbery.
ECOCLUB: How good and how popular is tourist and environmental education in Nigeria?
Segun Odunlami: Tourist and environmental education are mostly popular among the educated Nigerians. Moreover, many people believe that they really need big money to participate in one tourism activity or the other. But the interesting thing I have noticed is that even those who are rich do not even think of participating in a recreational activity. I think the bottom line is that tourism culture is still low in Nigeria
ECOCLUB: Is such education free & public or private? Do employees in Tourism & Conservation have formal education?
Segun Odunlami: Tourism education and environmental education are more carried out among the communities bordering the national parks. However, there are also some NGO's like Savanna Conservation, Nigeria Conservation Foundation, NEST, and others that are also complementing the efforts of the National Parks Service. The educational programmes rendered by these organisations are free, even the ones organised by the National Park Service.
ECOCLUB: I heard you have a new minister for Tourism, who used to be Ambassador in Greece. Has he made any speeches outlining his priorities for tourism?
Segun Odunlami: That is very true. He has just met with the staff in his ministry and according to him, he want to study the programme he met on the ground and see where he will make some adjustments He was very particular about the tourism master plan which is still been developed. It appears he is also going to give attention to ecotourism development in Nigeria.
ECOCLUB: Finally, do you believe the Internet can help tourism & environmental education in Nigeria?
Segun Odunlami: Yes, the Internet can really make tourism and environmental education more accessible and popular in Nigeria as an increasing number of Nigerians have access to the net.
I suggest that the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) be your first point of contact. You will find the PATA Foundation is where you can lodge your query for aid. Their mission/pledge: "To contribute to the growth and development of travel and tourism in the Pacific Asia area through the protection of the area's environment, the conservation of its heritage, and support for education." "The Association is fully committed to the PATA Foundation - an essential means of fostering education and conserving natural and cultural resources in our region." The Pacific Islands Centre is another point of contact. Funding can be obtained from Japan to increase tourism into your region. Obviously, there is always a trade-off when countries offer funding, rather than independent organisations such as PATA. Also try the South Pacific Online Forum operated by the Australian National University. They should be able offer some ideas. You can "post" a question direct on their web page. Finally, Ausaid is the Australian Government's overseas aid program. At their website you will find links to their various departments. Look for aid programs.
I lived in Papua New Guinea for many years and both Melanesia and Micronesia are areas of the Pacific where tourism development, managed sensitively and sensibly, would be of huge benefit in stabilising your islands' economic future. I have just returned from assisting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people of Cape York (Australia's northern most point) to create a strategy for the re-development of Pajinka Wilderness Lodge owned by the Injinoo Aboriginal Community that was partially destroyed by fire last year. Re-opening the lodge will again give the community a level of economic independence and a future for their young people, the latter probably being the most important aspect of all.
There are a number of courses available in NSW, QLD, SA and WA including:
University of Western Sydney, http://www.uws.edu.au
I'm sorry to inform that there is no such course programme which provides independent study about "Ecotourism". In fact, most of the Tourism Studies / Management Studies Centres in India run various courses in which at different spots or under different sections ecotourism is dealt with. In Environment Management course too some aspect of Ecotourism is taught at some centres.
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