By Obeten Godfrey
Experts in the tourism sector in Cross River State say that the State still lags behind when it comes to tourism development in the country.
They barred their minds recently while speaking as guests on the program, “The Dialogue with Agba Jalingo” on Hit 95.9FM, Calabar on the topic: Sustainable Tourism in Cross River State; A Tool for Development.
A guest on the program and a tourism development expert; Mr. John Offiong said tourism is a tool for promoting peace, unity and patriotism.
He said Africa attracts only five percent of global tourism, bemoaning the fact that the government from the National level is yet to incorporate tourism as part of its action plan.
According to him “Cross River State scores below average in tourism development, as it has failed to improve the standard of its tour facilities which has remained same over the years.
“Having more activities would not build tourism, it is the innovation, marketing tendency and strategy that counts.”
Mr. Offiong said that Cross River is suppose to take the lead when the issue of tourism is been mentioned in the country, but that the efforts of the Government to retain it as the number one tourism destination is still a mirage. He went on to say that the Calabar Carnival has been the only hope of the State in terms of tourism.
His Words: “I don’t see Cross River on the map when it comes to tourism development, Akwa Ibom which has little tourism attractions even rank higher above Cross River and has attracted more tourists. I tune to National TV for tourism documentaries, but Cross River is nowhere to be found.’’
Offiong said outside the Calabar Carnival, Cross River is known only for aquatic, leisure, eco and cultural tourism. He advised the State to focus on this as a way of leveraging on other areas, as well as increase activities in the State.
On the creation of the Ministry for Culture and Tourism, the tourism Entrepreneur commended the State Governor, stating that it is a good phenomenon for the State.
He however said that swearing in a Commissioner for Tourism and expecting him to outperform in two months is a great litmus test.
On his part, the second guest, a tourism Journalist, Mr. Ike Uche said that Cross River has over the years been known as Nigeria’s leading tourism destination, but that it has lost its tourism potential due to lack of standard, value for money, branding and re-packaging.
“When you market disappointment factor as a product, the client may not want to come back. If you market a particular product over and over again, when the standard is no longer upheld, then you are marketing disappointment, limbo and mirage.’’ He said.
Ike said that one of the tools that drive sustainable tourism is rebranding and packaging; this he said is lacking in Cross River tourism.
On the solutions and way forward, Mr. Uche advised the State Government and tourism stakeholders to uphold the standard and explore innovative strategies; this he said can boost the tourism sector of any Nation or State.
Uche added that for tourism to thrive the right set of people must be brought in to manage tourism in the State.
He also said the State needs to identify areas where it has competitive advantage.
“Cross River needs to embark on an aggressive awareness campaign, orientation and re-orientation, so as to conscientize the people on the importance of tourism to the economy of every State and Nation.”
In his final words, Mr. Uche said the backbone of the tourism sector is to respect nature, culture and your host.
A caller on the program advised the State Government to diversify its tourism drive to sports tourism; this would go a long way by driving influx of investment to the State, because sports occupy a greater percentage of people around the world, he said.
The newly sworn in Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mr. Eric Anderson who was also billed to speak as a guest on the program, was physically unavailable; and all attempts to get him on phone proved abortive.