The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Re-enactment Bill on Tuesday passed second reading at the Senate.
At the resumed debate on the bill, its sponsor, Mr Matthew Urhoghide, said that it sought to repeal the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation Act 1992 and enact the Nigerian Tourism Development Authority 2017.
Urhoghide, who is Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, said that the bill would promote Nigeria as a tourism destination through improvement of tourism facilities.
He recalled that the bill was read for the first time on March 9, 2017, and that tourism played important role in enhancing inclusive economic growth and development of advanced and emerging economics.
“Tourism stimulates economic growth by generating income, employment and it serves as a catalyst for socio-economic development,” he said.
The legislator, however, said that in Nigeria, tourism was “still at its infancy“ considering the large accumulation of resources which were yet untapped.
“Also, the institutional structure is yet to be regulated to compete favourably with other fast growing tourism destinations.
“It is unfortunate that the contribution of tourism to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is quite appalling. For example, in 2016 the total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was N1.86 billion,” he said.
Supporting the Bill, Sen. Jonah Jang (PDP-Plateau) described it well-thought and should be given urgent attention because tourism if harnessed properly in Nigeria, would be next to oil in revenue generation, “if not more’’.
“Tourism should be private-sector driven, but there is a need to get the infrastructure that will attract private sector involvement in tourism.
“Our roads are so bad that our people cannot move freely; the railway lines are not there because the improvement that is supposed to be given to the railways we just read in newspapers.
“The private airlines are virtually just managing and we cannot create tourism that can attract people to come into tourism without this infrastructure that are being provided.
“So, we have to take a look at what is required in form of infrastructure that attracts the private sector, both foreign and local, to be able to develop our tourism,” he said.
According to Jang, if these steps are taken, tourism is going to add up to Nigeria’s foreign exchange.
Contributing, Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa (PDP-Abia) said that the Bill was timely as Nigeria was talking about diversification.
“In most countries, tourism has become the heartbeat and the economic mainstay.
“Nigeria is endowed with so much tourism potential but we have been unable to harness these potential, maybe because of no enabling laws or lack of interest on our side.”
Ohuabunwa said that if the sector was developed, gains from tourism would surmount that of oil.
Thereafter, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, referred the Bill to the Committee on Culture and Tourism to work on and report back in four weeks.