The Nigerian government, through the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), has said that restricting Nigerians from traveling abroad is a boon to the country’s economy and domestic tourism.
Folarin Coker, the chief of NTDC, made the claim in Abuja on Wednesday.
“If Dubai Emirate Airline does not come to Nigeria, Nigerians will not pack their naira, turn it into dollars to go and buy tickets,” said Coker.
The governments of Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates are embroiled in a diplomatic spat over the latter’s string of tough measures to deny Nigerians free entry to their country, citing concerns about COVID-19.
While the Nigerian government insists Nigerians have the right to travel to the Arabian Gulf under existing international laws, the top tourism official calls the UAE a bluff and says it will save Nigeria much-needed forex to boost the local economy.
“We pay a foreign airline to go abroad and stay in a foreign hotel. The naira is N510 for one dollar; let Nigerians stay at home and learn to appreciate the country,” he argued.
Coker spoke to the Nigeria news agency about the company’s preparation for the South-South Stakeholders Interactive Forum.
Theme “Using digital technology to revitalize the tourism and hospitality sector amid COVID-19 and security challenges in Nigeria”, is scheduled to take place between August 26 and 27 in Calabar.
Speaking further, the director general said the restriction on people to travel abroad due to COVID-19 had boosted domestic tourism as most Nigerians no longer traveled out of the country.
According to him, Nigerians are now looking for alternative places in the country to relax and spend their holidays or weekends.
“There are no foreign holidays now, we are all going to enjoy our local music, film, food, fashion, theater and dance. I think COVID-19 has done the Nigerian tourism industry good,” he said.
Coker said the NTDC would bring the message of domestic tourism through the use of technology to the upcoming interactive forum of South-South stakeholders in Calabar.
According to him, the aim is to encourage stakeholders in the tourism sector to ensure that their businesses are powered by technology.
“We are trying to encourage stakeholders across the tourism ecosystem value chain that there is a new way and technology driven.
“So we encourage them to take advantage of technology to promote domestic tourism.
“They need to show Nigerians what is good in the country to have a chance with our own tourism assets rather than something abroad,” said Coker.