Poor Visa administration inhibits tourism growth

Lai-Mohammed PHOTO: www.today.ng

Lai-Mohammed<br />PHOTO: www.today.ng

While the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is striving hard to improve on the success recorded on Visa openness last year; Nigerian visa issuance system has continued to be a major challenge to many tourists and investors who are eyeing Nigeria as destination.

The situation, which has affected the nation’s tourism sector of for decades, was one of the salient issues raised by the Minster of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed at a meeting with Journalists in Lagos on Sunday.

At the parley with Art and culture and Tourism correspondents in Lagos, Mohammed listed Visa issuance problem as one of the major challenges to the growth of Nigerian tourism sector.

The Minister who believes that the growth of the nation’s tourism industry depends on Visa issuance process; says policy to review the process are underway.

Bemoaning the attitude of many Nigerian officers at various borders and airports, Mohammed, expressed that the nation needs to invest more in capacity building for all operators in the viable sector.

Though the Nigeria Immigration Service displayed a message entitled “Apply for Visa online. Application for Nigerian Visas can now be completed online from any where on the globe” on its website, many were the complaints of tourists and investors who have been denied Visas unduly by the Nigerian High Commissions in their respective countries.

There, was an SOS message to the Nigerian President in one of the national Newspapers, (not The Guardian) sometimes ago by a Nigerian company seeking the services of some Indian technicians to install some equipment’s they shipped from India.

The company complained that the Indian technicians could not secure visas from the Nigerian embassy in India because the embassy staff said they don’t have visa stickers.

Also on Business Traveller Website, a traveller who deals in exportation of chemicals also narrated his ordeal in getting Nigerian Visa.
He claimed he travels to Nigeria to Nigeria 2 to 3 times a year and he has been doing that for the past 23 years, exporting chemicals. I have been there for about 65 times over the last 23 years and I’ve never experienced anything like this.

“A multi-entry visa used to cost £70 and took a few days to obtain. Now you must spend an hour filling in an impossibly difficult application online form for the visa, go to another website to pay N92, 984 ($472), go to the Nigeria Immigration site to retrieve a receipt and a visa application number before submission. I have been waiting three weeks for mine and my fixer tells me that the Comptroller General of Immigration is not at her desk to sign it. Once I receive the TWP, I must re-apply for the visa again at a cost of N92, 984 ($472)”.
“Some visa agents tell me this is tit-for-tat because the UK is making it so difficult for Nigerians to get UK visas. Other sources say the new Nigerian government is trying to implement a new visa policy in an attempt to “Africanize” jobs, which Nigerians should be doing. If that is the case their thinking is muddled.

He claimed his trip has been postponed indefinitely and he fears that his business could be threatened by other competitors in the market. I have emailed the local DTI and they say they will take the matter up in London.

These are just few cases out of different complaints sent by many investors and tourists across the globe. Many investors and Tourists are being discouraged from coming to Nigeria just because the process was cumbersome.

These are just few cases out of different complaints sent by many investors and tourists across the globe. Many investors and Tourists are being discouraged from coming to Nigeria just because the process was cumbersome.

Meanwhile, The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) made substantial efforts at removing Visa issuance impediment from the path of many tourists and it yielded 16 percent success.

This achievement means more people can be encouraged to travel on vacation and increase the international tourism receipts.
According to UNWTO’s latest Visa Openness Report, the share of tourists obtaining a visa prior to travelling continues to decline and is at its lowest level ever. In 2015, 39 percent of the world population could travel for tourism without obtaining a traditional visa prior to departure as compared to only 23 percent in 2008.

“On the average, 18 percent of the world’s population was able to travel to a destination without a visa in 2015, while another 15 percent could receive a visa on arrival and six percent was able to obtain E-Visas.
“We are pleased to see that a growing number of governments around the world think likewise,” the statement added.

Reacting to this development, the Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo applauded the decision of the Federal government to look into Tourism sector as an alternative means to the dwindling Oil sector and to review the visa administration policy.

Mbanefo said, the decision was in the right direction at a time of economic crunch like this. Diversification of economy through Tourism is germane to the nation’s growth.

“The Minister was on point for making deliberate efforts at diversifying the economy through tourism. The Minster has the interest of the country at heart and Tourism is here to stay in Nigeria,” she stated.

On how to go about the lofty idea, Mbanefo argued that the diversification should be a tripartite collaboration between Government, Private sector and State governments.

“We need to invite private sector to play a leading role in upgrading infrastructure and Tourism sites,” she added.



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