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JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT VOLUME 8 NO 1, JUNE, 2010

PROBLEMS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF TOURISM ATTRACTOINS IN BENUE STATE,
                                                                     NIGERIA                        

                                                             D. Y. Orga    
                                Department of Tourism, Federal Polytechnic, Idah
                                                      E-mail: yinaorga@ yahoo.com
                                               

Abstract
The development of tourism attractions becomes very crucial as it’s the core of the tourism product and it creates employment for both skill and unskilled and socially disadvantaged groups such as women and youths.  The study objective is to investigate the problems associated with the development of tourism attractions in Benue State, Nigeria.  The study achieved the objective using qualitative research interview that is unstructured interviews, and complemented with field works to generate data from purposively selected 12 (71%) tourism officers of the Tourism Department in the State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.  The study findings revealed that the problems include fund, lack of access roads to attractions, publicity, inadequate trained tourism personnel, and lack of private investment in tourism attractions and absence of State Tourism Board.  To ameliorate these problems, the study recommended Tourism Development Endowment Fund, opened and tarred roads to tourism attractions, publicity of tourism attractions and establishment of Benue State Tourism Board, among others.

Keywords: Problems, development, tourism, attractions


Introduction
Tourism has become an important sector for most developing countries having already overtaken cash crop agriculture and other primary industries as the major source of national income, employment and export earnings.  In Kenya, tourism has displaced tea, coffee and horticultural produce as the country’s leading export earnings as it has in Costa Rica.  Tourism development played the major role in Botswana’s graduation from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) status and has been vital in Cuba’s economy since1990 when Russian economic support was reduced.  Tourism income has assisted the Caribbean Island’s economies faced with failing banana and sugar prices.  China’s adoption of tourism as a means of economic development is enabling it to attain very high rate of economic growth in targeted areas (World Tourism Organisation, 2002:22)

One of the most important subjects of tourism is attractions.   Swarbrooke (1995:3), attractions are arguably the most important components in the tourism system.  They are the main motivators for tourists’ trips and are the core of the tourism product.  Without attractions there would be no need for other tourism services.  Indeed, tourism as such would not exist if it were not for attractions.
The development of tourism attractions becomes very crucial as it’s the core of the tourism product and it has tremendous positive socio-economic, cultural and physical development impact.  One of the most immediate benefits of the development of tourism attractions is its ability to create employment and, an added benefit is that it creates for both skill and unskilled employment and can provide job for socially disadvantaged groups such as women and youths.  The development of tourism attractions also provide valuable economic revenue and the successful management of tourism attractions can protect the nature-based and cultural attractions of an area, State or a Nation for future generation.

The development of tourism attractions all over the world remains a very important tool in promoting and showcasing the best of culture, enviable heritage, natural places and creativity of a society.  It is in the face of these benefits and that there are great tourism attractions in Benue State, Nigeria that necessitate this research.

Study problem
Efforts have been made to study tourism attractions in Benue State, Nigeria, see Orga (2005) and Orga (2006). Orga (2005) research findings enumerated the cultural attractions in the State to include: Festivals; Kwagh-hir, Ingough dance, Alekwu Aje opa, Igede Agba yam, etc. Historical sites; Swem, Aba rock, Amire Tamen Fortication, Achaekwu stone bride, Ochekwu stone underground tunnel, etc.   Art and crafts; Tiv angee (Zebra- type of traditional cloths), sculpture, woodwork, metalwork, etc. Orga (2006), the nature-based tourism attractions in Benue State are enumerated under two categories viz scenery and wildlife.  Scenery: the Mkar hills, Ushongo hills, Oju hill, Jato Aka hills, beaches, etc. Wildlife: Ikwe wildlife, Enemabia, Silagyi, Katsina River, etc.

 Despite these huge tourism attractions in the State with great potential for tremendous socio-economic, cultural and physical development impacts, only little efforts have made towards the development of tourism attractions in the State.  For example, the Ikwe wildlife has been partially developed. It is also the desire to understand the problems associated with the development of the identified tourism attractions in the State that necessitated this research.  The research objective is to investigate the problems of developing the tourism attractions in the State. The significance of the research is that it provides information on the problems of developing tourism attractions in a tourism area.  Tourism area is one which draws visitors to places of interest and beauty whether man-made or natural.

Study area
Benue State, Nigeria was created in February, 1976. It is located in the North- Central Nigeria and stretches between latitude 6 -70N and longitude 7-100E.   Administratively, the State is divided into 23 local Government Areas.   Makurdi is the State capital, located along truck A3 road: Abuja FCT- Lafia- Makurdi- Otukpo-Enugu (see Map).


 

                       Map of Nigeria Showing Benue State

 


Methodology
The methodology is the qualitative research interview; unstructured interviews and is complemented with fieldwork was used to generate information / data on the problems associated with the development of tourism attractions and to ascertain the level of development of these identified attractions.   Unstructured interview was used to generate data from purposively selected 12 out of 17 (71%) tourism officers of the Tourism Division in the State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.  Bryman (2004: 320-321), unstructured interview the researcher uses at  most an aide memoir as a brief set of prompt to him or to deal with a certain range of topics. There may be just a single question that the interviewer asks and the interviewee is then allowed to respond freely, with the interviewer simply responding to point that worth of being followed up.  Bryman and Burgess (1999:10) stated that “unstructured interviewing tends to be very similar in character to a conversation”.

As this qualitative research interview main content consisted of comments, discussions and questions, is found to be suitable for the study population who are quite knowledgeable about the issues of developing tourism attractions. Qualitative descriptive analysis is used to analysis the data obtained from unstructured interviews and fieldworks.


Finding
 Table 1: Sex of respondents
Sex                   No. of respondents                   %
Female             9                                              75
Male                3                                              25
Total                  12                                          100
Source: Primary Data, 2008.

Table 2: Status of respondents
Status                                No. of respondents %
Mgt. staff        
GL13-15                         7                                 58
Senior staff
GL010--12                     5                                  42
Total                            12                                 100
Source: Primary Data, 2008.

Table 3: Problemswith the Development of Tourism Attractions in Benue State Nigeria

Problems
Insufficient fund
Access road network
Publicity
Tourism personnel
Lack of private investment in tourism attractions
Absence of State Tourism Board.
Source: Primary Data, 2008.

 


Study findings revealed that Benue State, Nigeria is endowed with a number of natured- based and cultural tourism attractions which are characterized by fascinating scenic landscape, wide variety of wildlife in their natural habitats.   But, these identified tourism attractions are not developed because of problems.  These problems are enumerated; see Table 3 and discussion below.

Fund
Shortage of fund affects the development of identified tourism attractions in the State, both natured- based tourism attractions (scenery and wildlife) and cultural tourism attractions (festivals, historical sites and, art and crafts).  This can see in inadequacy of existing infrastructure such as access roads, electricity, drinking water and accommodation for intending visitors to areas of these tourism attractions.

Access Road Network
Although, the State is rich in tourism attractions but access to them is a problem.  The roads leading to these tourism attractions hardly encouraged the visitors to visit. Thus, if roads to the scenery and wildlife should be opened, it will afford visitors the opportunities to visit the scenery and wildlife attractions.   It will help to boost the image of the State and enhance business and investment.

Publicity
The lack of effective information system for publicizing the scenery, wildlife and cultural attractions to visitors is a problem in the State.   Indeed, corrections to this socio-economic problem will enhance visitor inflow to the study area.  The visitor inflow will increase the demand for goods and services and will stimulate investment, visitor demand for handicrafts will boost local craft industry and it will enable land to become productive in the locations of identified attractions.  Land which is only productive for agriculture may become highly valuable and capable of earning revenue for the State.

Tourism Personnel
One of the problems of developing tourism attractions in Benue State is the inadequacy of competent and trained tourism personnel.  The staff structure of the Tourism Department in the State Ministry of Commerce, industry and Tourism reveals that there are only four (23%) competent and trained tourism personnel.  The training of Tourism manpower will facilitate the development of these identified attractions in which will promote rural development.  Thus, tourism attractions are usually located in the rural areas and by developing and promoting the tourism attractions; the rural areas will be also developed.  This will hitherto, solve the problem of rural- urban migration of able youths to seek unavailable jobs in the urban centres.

Private Investment in Tourism Attractions
Private investors are not so willing to invest in tourism in Benue State.  Therefore, lack of private capital investment in tourism is a problem to the development of the tourism attractions.   Private investment in tourism attractions in Benue State will bring about tourism expenditure which has a multiplier effect on domestic productivity.   An investment in tourism will earn foreign exchange, if tourism attractions in the State are developed.   People would be encouraged to spend their holiday in the State thereby saving the foreign exchange that would have otherwise being spent by travelling abroad.   On the other hand, investment in Benue State’s scenery, wildlife, festivals, and arts and crafts will create employment opportunities.  Therefore, it would keep thousands of people in productive employment in areas such as transportation, entertainment, travel agents, tour operators, accommodation, catering, among others.

State Tourism Board
It was repeatedly mentions during the unstructured interviews with the Tourism Officers of the Tourism Department in the State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism that absence of State Tourism Board is a problem that had impinged the development of tourism attractions in the State.  The Tourism Officers succinctly stated that the absence of State Tourism Board is a misnomer.  They also confirmed that without State Tourism Board, planning and development of tourism attractions cannot be effectively achieved.

Conclusion
The conclusion from the forgoing discussions is that Benue State is endowed with rich tourism attractions and that these tourism attractions are not developed.  These tourism attractions are not developed because of some problems.  These problems are lack of fund, access road network, lack of effective publicity, inadequate trained tourism manpower and absence of State Tourism Board.

Recommendations
It has become clear from what has been discussed in the proceeding sub-sections that, Benue State is rich in tourism attractions. And that the development of these identified attractions should form an agenda for the Benue people and the government.  This is because the development of these tourism attractions would not boost the State local economy but also will earn the Nation the much needed foreign exchange and with time would be second to none in terms of foreign exchange earnings for the country.  For this to succeed, all the problems enumerated above must be overcome.  To ameliorate these problems associated with the development of the tourism attractions in Benue State, these recommendations are suggested.

Tourism Development Endowment Fund
Benue State Government should establish a Tourism Development Endowment Fund where the Governments, Corporate bodies/ Organisations and individuals could contribute fund for the development of the tourism attractions.  Plateau State Government is a very good example of a State in Nigeria where some tourism attractions were developed by funds realised from such means.

Improvement of Access Road Networks
Although, Benue State’s tourism attractions are huge but access to them is a problem.  The roads leading to these tourism attractions need to be up-graded as their current condition hardly encourages the visitors to visit.  All roads to the scenery and wildlife locations should be opened and tarred, as any tourism destination or area that is not properly linked with the outside world would not be expected to have an impressive attendance.  There is need, therefore, to improve the essential transport and communication facilities such as roads, air services, and railway, radio and television services in the State to cater for the visitors’ needs.

Publicity
Hardly one hears of the Benue State’s beautiful scenery, rich wildlife and attractive festivals except the Tiv Kwagh-hir festival.   According to World Tourism Organisation (1999:67) “information is increasingly being recognised as a planning and management tools to public and private enterprises engaged in tourism development”.  The Tourism Department should embark on publicity and awareness drive such as television jingles, newspaper advertisement and participation in tourism events and fairs.   Besides, other avenues for dissemination of information such as bill- boards, on-vehicles advertisement and so on should be intensified.

Tourism Personnel
Competent and trained personnel are currently in short supply in Tourism Department of Benue State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.   An important implementation aspect is to provide a basis for the development of competent tourism manpower covering all aspects of tourism from the hotel to wildlife management.   It is necessary to suggest that Benue State University (BSU), Makurdi should commence Degree, Masters and PhD programmes in tourism to supplement the existing efforts of other institutions in Nigeria like National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism, Abuja, University of Ado-Ekiti, Bayero University, Kano, etc. to train the required tourism manpower in the country.

Private Investment in Tourism Attractions
Private investors are not so willing to invest in tourism attractions of the State.  The Benue State Government should invite the private investors and provide incentives such as tax holiday, and extension of electricity to areas concerned among other incentives to interest investors.  One the other hand, the Benue State Government should drill boreholes for availability of water supply at the scenery and wildlife locations.

Establishment of Benue State Tourism Board
The Federal Republic of Nigeria Decree 81 of 1992, section 7(1) established State Tourism Boards in each State of the Federation (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1992:A760).  Therefore, there is urgent need for the present Benue State Government to implement the provision of this Decree as the past State Governments have fail to do so about fifteen (15) years ago.  The establishment of the Benue State Tourism Board will contribute immensely in the planning and development of tourism attractions in the State.   The establishment of State Tourism Board has proof to be a catalyst to the development of tourism attractions in many States of the Federation. For example, TINAPA Tourism and Business Resort in Cross River, Nigeria is the hard work of Cross River State Tourism
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