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THE ROLE OF TOURISM IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF AKWA IBOM STATE
1.1 Background of the Study
Every country including Nigeria has its sources for socio-economic development. One of such sources is tourism. Tourism can be said to be socio-economic activities that deal with attractions and welfares of visitors into locality for purposes of leisure, recreation, business and cultural exchanges (Arua, 2002). Investment experts opined that tourism stimulated economic growth, generates foreign exchange and contributes to the domestic earnings of a country. It has also been argued that the industry is the biggest revenue earner in the world due to the rapid transformation and communication. Tourism could also be said to be an alternative strategy for sustainable diversification of a country’s economy. It is one of the fastest growing economic activities because of the veritable platform it creates for foreign exchange. Besides, it is a sector that contributes to a better understanding of places, people and culture. Expansion of tourism increases the relative price of non-traded goods, improves the tertiary terms of trade and yield a gain in revenue. In the area of poverty alleviation, tourism creates employment opportunities for both the educated and the uneducated at all levels. Tourism which serves as a catalyst for national and regional development encourages rural-urban infrastructural development to the credit of the state it is sited.
Some of the developed countries of the world such as United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom and France have utilized the enormous benefits of tourism to develop their economies. These countries make fortunes from booming industry for the overall development of their countries. According to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), there were 1,087 billion international tourist arrivals world wide in 2013, France was the most visited country by international tourist in 2013, with 84.7 million arrivals. (Andah 2013) UNWTO further stated that international tourism generated $ 1.4 trillion last year in export earnings.
The continents of Africa, particularly Nigeria has some of the best tourist sites in the world, but unfortunately, these great tourist potentials are being under utilized and poorly managed, thus adding little or nothing to the economy. For instance, it is sad that no African country was among the world’s top (10) tourist destinations in 2013. In fact, going by the various attractive tourist destinations in Nigeria; it is expected that the tourism industry would have been the second largest contributor to the Nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP after oil, but the reverse has been the case over the years.
Nigeria’s overdependence on oil has relegated the sectors of the economy to the background as well as affected the country’s foreign exxhange earnings. In Nigeria today, we have the Yankari National Park, Obudu cattle Ranch, Argungu Fishing festival, Ogunta Lake, Olumo rock. Being blessed with these huge tourist sites, AkwaIbom State is no exception. AkwaIbom State is quiet lucky to be one of the few states with natural wonders for tourist attractions. For instance, the Blue-River in Ukanafun, Ibeno Beach in Ibeno, Qua River water-side in Eket, Ibom Tropicana in Uyo, Lemeridien hotel in Uruan, Craft arts in IkotEkpene, Amalgamation house in Ikot-Abasi, Orom Museum Uyo, Mbo Forest Game Reserve in Mbo etc. these tourism industries in AkwaIbom State promises an unlimited investment potentials.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The role of tourism in socio-economic development any nation cannot be undermined. Countries that are not endowed with physical natural resources such as oil may sustain their living by developing the tourism sub-sector of the economy. Tourism according to Arua (2002), is a socio-economic activities that deal with attraction and welfare of visitors into locality for purposes of leisure, recreation, business, cultural exchange etc.
The implication is that tourism environment should be serene, hospitable and human friendly. However, it has been observed that most tourist sites and centres in AkwaIbom State are characterized by inhabitable and dilapidated structures, irregular power supply, unfascinating landscape, poor access roads, unavailability of communication gadget in decent drinking water and security. Moreover, natural habitats that suppose to be transformed into tourist attraction sites are more often destroyed by communities in which they are located. This may be attributable to ignorance or lack of enabling laws and policies by the government for its safe guard.
Examination of these deplorable states of our tourist and resort centres in AkwaIbom State motive my interest to investigate and identify factors that militates against tourism development.
1.3 Research Questions
This study sought to answer the following research questions:
- Does infrastructure affect the development of tourism in AkwaIbom State?
- Does budgetary allocation affect tourism development in AkwaIbom State?
- Does government policies affect the development of tourism in AkwaIbom State?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The general objectives of the study are to examine the role of tourism in the development of AkwaIbom State.
The specific objectives are to:
- Assess whether infrastructure affect the development of tourism in AkwaIbom State.
- Assess whether budgetary allocation affect tourism development in the state.
- Assess whether government policies affect tourism development in the state.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The researcher delights in the study of tourism in order to discover the most prosperous segment for investment. As a leading industry in our modern time, the researcher is aiming at proffering solutions to the factors militating against the smooth running of tourism industry in AkwaIbom State.
The study is also to encourage individuals to embark on tourism as it ensures economic self reliance leisure and recreation. The researcher again aims at introducing the new avenue of protecting and promotion AkwaIbom State cultural heritage as resources for home grown socio-economic development.
This study will contribute to knowledge by making materials available for further studies on the subject matter. Moreover, students will equally use this work to proffer more solutions to the factory/problems of tourism sector in AkwaIbom State in particular and Nigeria in general.
Besides government ad policy makers would also benefit from this document as of would help them formulate policies and measures that will move the sector forward.
It will also make government to divert attention from oil to tourism so as to solve the problem of unemployment.