Cultural Tourism and its Potentials for Economic Growth and Sustainable Development in Nigeria

By Martins Adukwu

Tourism is reportedly the world’s largest industry. Apart from the fact that tourism helps in branding cities, tourism is also capable of generating income for the government and businesses by drawing investors and temporal tourists.

For instance, the Walt Disney World resort, known as Walt Disney World or Disney World, is an entertainment complex in Bay Lake near Kissimmee and Orlando in the United States of America, and is the flagship resort of Disney’s worldwide corporate enterprise. The resort which opened on October 1, 1971 is reputed to be the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an attendance of over 52 million annually. In the year 2015, the Walt Disney company generated total revenue of 16.16 billion U.S dollars with its parks and resorts. Similarly, Rome is regarded by WebEcoist as one of the world’s most beautiful ancient cities, and contains vast amounts of priceless works of art, palaces, museums, parks, churches, gardens, basilicas, temples, villas, piazzas, theatres, and other venues. Similarly, Paris also tower high among the list of countries with amazing sites to visit. In fact, tourism in Paris is a major income source for Paris and the city ranks in the world’s most visited cities. In 2013, the city of Paris welcomed 15.6 million international visitors, the largest number of whom came from the United States. Paris tourist sites include but not limited to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre dame de Paris, Arc de Triomple, Louvre pyramid. In Nigeria, tourist sites include the Zuma Rock, Lugard Base, Obudu Cattle Ranch, Freedom Park, Yankari Game Reserves, Lekki Beach, and lots more.

One of the reputable tourist attractions of Nigeria is the long forgotten groundnut pyramids. The late 1950s upward came the boom of groundnut production in the ancient city of Kano, Nigeria. Groundnut pyramids were pyramids-like structures made from groundnut sacks. As at this time, groundnut was a key part of the Nigerian economy. These pyramids were viewed as both a tourist attraction as tourist’s troop into the country to relish the art and science of the pyramids and it was also seen as a nation’s symbol of wealth. Regrettably, in the 1960s and 70s, as production in Nigeria shifted from agriculture to oil, the groundnut pyramids and cocoa productions disappeared. With its disappearance, Nigeria lost one of its incredible tourist sites. For decades Nigeria has relied solely on crude oil for her income.

It was Elizabeth Ben-Iheanacho who declared that the Obasanjo administration of 1999 to 2007 hit the right chord when it classified attention to the culture and tourism section among its six priority areas of focus to consider when diversifying the country’s economy. However what we see now is a far cry to what this projection portrays. Clearly, Nigeria is yet to diversify her economy. The period between 2012 to this present day has not been a very pleasant one for Nigeria’s economy. From that economic dispensation to the present, Nigeria that has over depended on crude oil for her major source of energy, foreign exchange and revenue has considered and is still considering diversifying her economy because of the fall in oil production. The dwindling fortunes of the oil sector is orchestrated by poor economic planning and strategies, plummeting crude oil prices, incessant pipeline vandalism/theft, declining production, civil unrest arising from militant activities in the oil producing region and of course the inability to get buyers for the essential commodity. Hence the price goes nose-diving in the international market and foreseeable national revenue generation nose dives with it. Consequently, the fall heralds a period of untold hardship with upward increase in the price of food items. Hike in transportation due to scarcity of fuel, fall in state allocation, and lots of other effects.

The economy of an industrialized country like America is highly diversified. The country generates its revenue from film, automobile, tourism. As the call for diversification becomes highly imperative, Government at all levels in Nigeria and business investors ought to embrace cultural tourism as an alternative to the oil quagmire. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as captured by Elizabeth Iheanacho, “tourism has been increasingly recognized for its potentials to contribute to the reduction of poverty through its geographical expansion and labour intensive nature which supports a spread of employment and can be particularly relevant in remote and rural areas where many of the poor live”. Cultural tourism has to do with the cultural advantages and uniqueness of a people, either man-made or inherited. Among the cultural heritage of a people that could be a source of tourist attractions are dances, music, customs, dresses, historical monuments, images, arts and crafts, festival like new yam, traditional religious rallies, traditional marriages and burials, etc.,

In line with the above, Iheanacho believes that by virtue of her ethnic plurality, Nigeria’s cultural space is characterized by very rich and diverse manifestations, both tangible and intangible. These in turn have given Nigeria her peculiar colours, identity and authority in the comity of nations. Worth noting is the fact that traditional exchange of visits at festival times, often involving intra and inter community movement and exchange is the seed for domestic tourism development in Nigeria. She further emphasises that the expression of culture over time has created diverse means of application. These differences have resulted in culinary, linguistic, philosophical, religious, architectural and textile diversities among other variables. She argues that these cultural manifestations, therefore, make Nigeria a tourist’s haven because she offers so much diversity, plurality and variety especially since tourism thrives on the sampling of exotic varieties.

The rich and diverse Nigerian cultural dresses can be harnessed for sustainable development and employment. The Nigerian Minister for Information and Culture, Mr Lai Muhammed, hinted in Minna on the 4th of July 2017, during a two-day national workshop on Nigerian Dress Culture and sustainable Economic Development that “Through dress culture, unity among the different ethnic groups is encouraged and economic growth of our local textile industries will be boosted.” Creativity in local textile designing will also be boosted hence encouraging patronage from lovers of culture and aesthetics.

The Nigerian cultural festivals can also generate income for investors who are able to harness the unending economic potentials in them. Festivals are time when local businesses thrive on accommodation, security provision, production of souvenirs, flyers, transportation and of course, material production of cultural artifacts. It is imperative to note that, cultures in as much as it shocks the sensitivity of the outsider, it also create an appealing appetite which pushes the reveler to uncloud the mystic components of every cultural heritage. In this regard, art exibititors are rewarded with ample opportunities to make sales and market their products. Investors can also purchase art collections in bulk from local producers and make them available to foreign revelers in higher prices.

With the dwindling fortune of oil in the international market, the Nigerian cultural heritages can be maximally explored to provide a sustainable option needed for the growth of the economy. There has been ominous projections regarding the extinction of the oil in the near future. Some of them were made by experts and economists who are versed in their art. With such uncomfortable prophecies, investors must begin to unburden the baskets that houses all their eggs. Time is upon us when investment in culture and tourism will provide the needed palliative alternative to the oil. Oil may dry up, but culture and tourism even though affected by global trends will continue to thrive on the sand of time.

Adukwu, Martins Adukwu currently works with Mobile Pouch Limited and has a Masters Degree in Theatre and Cultural Administration and Criticism. University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He can be reached via

Source: Footprint to Africa

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