SlimTrader at #SMWLagos — How Social Media and Story-Telling are helping the Tourism/Hospitality industry grow
Nigeria is a blessed country with a lot to offer in terms of tourism. Filled with several natural and man-made tourist attractions, it’s a shame how she has failed to live up to expectation in this big revenue generating sector. This was one of the focus at the just concluded Social Media Week Lagos, which held at the Landmark Event Centre. A session in the one week long event was themed “Social Media & Nigerian Tourism: Bridging the Gap, Telling the Stories”, and had a panel come share their experiences while touring different parts of the country and also share their thoughts on why Nigeria is not yet recognized as a top tourist centre in Africa.
The anchor was Chiamaka Obuekwe (Founder/CEO, Social Prefect Tours) and she had the panel members introduce themselves and what they do. The members of the panel were;
Chidi Okereke — a Digital Communications Professional and Communications Manager at SlimTrader — Technology enabler for African Businesses, now focused on the Hospitality Sector.
Funmilola Ajala — a Journalist working with abovewhispers.com. Passionate about travel and tourism, she started documenting her travels and blogged about it for others to see.
Editi Effiong — the CEO of Anakle — a Digital Agency that connects brands with their audience through stories and experiences. He is in love with Northern Nigeria and he is on a mission to get people to see how beautiful the north is.
Lola Daniyan — the CEO of Unravelling Nigeria. Also a passionate traveller, she created a one-stop site for everything related to tourism in Nigeria!
Amarachi Ekekwe — a Professional Systems Engineer by day and writer by night. Her love for travel and to educate people of the joys of travelling both locally and internationally, made her start her blog — travelwithapen.com.
The panelists had so many beautiful stories as well as pictures to share about their different visits to some of the amazing sites in the country. This goes to show that Nigeria is a filled with a host of tourist attractions as every state had something unique to offer. Places visited included; Agodi Falls, Erin Ijesha, Omo Resort, Ikogosi Warm Spring, Kwa Falls, Kajuru Castle, Sumu Wildlife Park, etc.
When asked about the challenges facing tourism in Nigeria. The panelists were clear in pointing out that the blame falls on both the Nigerian government and the Nigerian people.
The government should be blamed for failing to recognize the potentials in the industry and have therefore not made enough efforts to develop the sector. Some of the problems that were linked to the government included not developing some attractions, the poor maintenance infrastructures at some of these sites, the difficulties encountered when trying to get visas to come into the country, mismanagement of information and having unqualified officials in decision-making positions.
Nigerians were also blamed because most believe other countries have more to offer and have failed to recognise the tourism potentials in Nigeria. Some would even try to discourage others from going on trips.
The panelists also shared ideas on how these challenges could be tackled. Some of the ideas shared included Nigerians showing more interest in tourism by traveling and visiting some of these places, but Editi believes there would be a positive turn around if these attractions are properly promoted.
He cited Seychelles as an example of how promoting their tourism brand has helped push the market in the country. Fixing people’s negative perspective about some parts of the country as well as tackling the fear of visiting these states would go a long way in pushing tourism forward.
Making these sites more accessible, putting up structures of world standard and having a good maintenance culture would also be very beneficial to the sector.
When asked how much social media had contributed to the growth of the tourism in Nigeria, the general response from all the panellists was that social media has been the primary tool for people to discover new and unknown places to visit via posts on the different social media platforms.
On a closing note, Funmilola stated that Nigerians staying in the city should always visit their hometowns once in a while as well as travel to other places. She believes this would help promote peace as people get to understand the culture and practices of other people and tribes.
Editi believes there is a need to properly maintain and improve the infrastructures available as well as the services provided. This point he tried driving home with the analogy that a small, clean and well-maintained hotel with good services is way better than a big hotel with very poor services.
Amarachi wants Nigerians to explore the country more and also share their stories, so they can inspire others to do likewise.
Chidi maintained that if the perception of the people towards tourism in the country is fixed, then it would become a thriving sector. Also, complimenting the effort of the HotelNowNow.com blog, he advocated for people to always give honest reviews about hotels, places they have visited and other attractions, stating that sharing these insights would equip others when planning their own trips.
Lola simply said people should not be afraid of exploring the country, as fear is the number one enemy of travel. She also wants people to stop generalising as the troubles in some places don’t necessarily mean it is all over the state.
In summary, the panel members encouraged participants on taking the challenge of touring Nigeria and also be willing to share their stories, as this helps encourage others to also want to have such experience.