Tourism involves the act of traveling to view both natural and developed attractions of a place. It concerns the movement of Visitors staying at least 24 hours in the Country visited for either leisure pursuit such as recreation, holiday, health, sport and study or meeting other people and seeing how other people live.
In recent years, the Tourism industry has gained more prominence and more countries are beginning to see and realize its significant economic benefit. Nigeria is no exception to this fact. According to the Nigerian Tourism Agency, “ Nigeria is a fascinating country where the complimentary diversities of the people, their custom and vitality are enough to attract and satisfy the tourist in search of colour and excitement.
However, WISE is of the view that the declining quality of the environment especially in a country like Nigeria has in no small way limited and affected Tourism boost.
The idea of environmental Management is directly linked to the act of conserving and preserving natural landscape features and resources. While environmental laws, policies and regulations meant to ensure proper environmental planning and management abound in Nigeria, there are no sufficient and efficient infrastructures (e.g. sewage systems and facilities and or treatment plants) to grapple with the spate of environmental misuse and abuse. This of course is responsible for the increasing physical environmental problems associated with most developing countries. Improper and unsanitary waste disposal, deforestation, pollution, overgrazing, bush burning, over-hunting and other related inappropriate practices affect the natural flora and fauna of the environment and have become common practice.
Most worrisome, nonetheless, is the problem of Municipal solid waste, which apart from constituting an obstruction to normal living, is characterized by serious health implications. A breakout of any diseases, infections or pollution will definitely stall the movement of Tourists to such areas, regardless of its Tourism endowment. If the emergence or spread of diseases is to be eliminated, and the aesthetical quality of an environment maintained or enhanced, in any inhabited areas, the efficient disposal of sewage and sewerage is of primary importance.
In spite of the high economic benefits of Tourism, it can create deterioration of scenic attractions and make many host countries ill equipped to receive more tourists intending to visit those places. Most Tourist centers particularly the coastal resort areas are prone to environmental pollution problems. These are as a result of high rate of consumption that eats up the natural resources and overburdens the environment with wastes. For example, the discharge of untreated sewage into streams or ocean waters creates water pollution when the natural ability of the water cannot absorb and break down the discharge into non-harmful substances. This of course, eventually endangers aquatic life, which in itself contributes to scenic attractions.
Tourism as an industry stimulates the development of a variety of consumer industries in the host countries. One major product of such industrial society is waste. While sanitary landfills and incineration may be an answer to the problem of waste disposal, run off and drainage can contaminate surface and ground water supplies while emissions from incinerators can cause air pollution resulting into lung related diseases. This is not to say, though, that these disposal options cannot be adopted and or managed in a more environmentally friendly manner; nor does it suggest that there are no other available disposal options. Still on the issue of wastes, litter carelessly tossed around is also a menace. On the other hand, increasing rates of Bush burning, over-hunting and deforestation are also practices that reveal the level of environmental mismanagement being carried out. Bush burning could be devastating! Much of the Countries rain forests have not being spared thereby causing ecological damages like severe erosion, low productive topsoil and a tragic loss of biodiversity. The Practice of using fire to hunt animals must be discouraged or possibly stopped, whereas its use for clearing farmlands must be controlled or restricted. So much has been lost in terms of human and natural resources to this trend.
The tendency for people to slip into existing norms is common knowledge, hence the need to encourage the putting in place of a structure that will ensure that Tourist sites do not lose their prospects as a result of unguarded or uncontrolled environmental practices. The need therefore for effective planning, legislations, controls and very importantly, community participation, is necessary to safeguard the distinct and valuable resources, a lot of which has been mismanaged.
Existing and potential Tourism sites need to be preserved and protected through regulated development, adequate inventory of attractions, effective management, maintenance and control, long range and comprehensive development plans, tough government policies etc. A remarkable and laudable step in this direction, taken by the Federal Government of Nigeria, is the declaration of two conservation areas as National Parks in 1989 i.e. the Yankari National Park of Bauchi formerly known as the Yankari Game Reserve and the Kainji National Park in Niger State formerly known as the Borgu Game Reserve. Other Tourist havens in Nigeria include Ile-Ife (the cradle oft the Yoruba Ancestors), the Osun Shrine a Osogbo, Jos and its Terracotta artifacts, the Mambilla Plateau and the Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River, the Ikogosi warm spring of Ekiti State, Argungun Fishing Festival of Sokoto State, The Pateggi Rigatta of Kwara State, the Adamu Orisa of Lagos State and Cultural Festivals of various States. While all these contribute tremendously to their State’s economic growth, it continues to take its toll on the environment especially where sound environmental practice has been relegated to the background.
An in depth study of countries who have an enormous share of their external economy accounted for by Tourism reveal a carefully planned environmental policy which has been properly integrated into their Tourism exploits through proper planning, implementation and enforcement (the success which has become a source of National pride in these countries).
Tourism development therefore requires the establishment of a careful balance between physical, economic and social benefits. The lackadaisical attitude with which environmental laws, policies and guidelines are continually being handled leaves much to be imagined. Above all, it has resulted in negative health, social and economic consequences, and these spells doom for the Tourism industry in Nigeria. Worthy of mention is the activities of most entrepreneurs in the Tourism business (e.g. Hoteliers) and industrialists (manufacturers) who have their minds set on maximizing profit from their investment while ignoring the consequences of their actions. Other land users have not made matters any better, as the natural attributes of many places are being depleted or completely destroyed by the day.
Environmental control and or management is quite essential to maintaining and enhancing the visual and health qualities of Tourist Centers.
While other notable steps have been taken by the various levels of government, aimed towards promoting the Tourism potentials of the country (through established institutional framework), the threat to the concept of sustainable development lies in the viewing of Tourism in terms of economic profits and paying little or no attention to the immediate and broad environment of the activity. This definitely is of growing concern; as much is left to be done in order to ensure optimum value and continuity of the supply of the resources (land, water, air, wild life etc).
The need therefore to promote the concept of economic partnership between man and nature in order for Tourism to thrive in an environmentally friendly manner must not be down played. The truth is that environment management cannot be separated from efficient Tourism Trade.
It is said that, “the more man applies his intelligence to the use of natural resources, the more he will obtain satisfaction and long term returns. Both in the short and long terms, WISE will promote causes that will ensure that natural endowments are effectively managed, protected and improved as Nature reserves, resources and sites contribute a great deal to Tourism. This is because continued destruction, neglect and or mismanagement of our environment may mean an unavoidable end to the possibility of boosting the tourism Industry in Nigeria.
WISE will join hands with stakeholders in this industry and counterparts in other industries and fields towards ensuring that the values and benefits of these endowments of nature are not taken for granted. These resources must be used in a wise and sustainable manner.
Now, is the time to foster awareness on environmental issues facing the Nigerian Tourism industry. Tourist attractions must be preserved for generations yet unborn! One sure way to do this is through sound environmental practices.
Our Specific objectives in this sector include to:
Facilitate the effective management of tourist attractions
Provide support services to tourists
Promote tourist attractions
Advocate for improved infrastructure and social services
Attract attention and investments to the sector