Nigeria like other parts of the world lacks many appropriate accessibility provisions for the general population. This is a problem, which affects many people both in their daily lives and also as tourists.
Physical access and access to information are often less than adequate in transport, at tourist destinations, in accommodation and all kinds of venues and attractions. This lack of accessibility has a direct and negative effect on tourist numbers (both inbound to Nigeria and within Nigeria) and on the quality of tourism destinations and products.
Many tourists and would be travellers experience access problems, especially those with physical or sensory disabilities, people who are older and perhaps a little more frail, as well as pregnant women, families with small children and people with a chronic health condition or a temporary disability. All of these people need “accessible tourism”.
Some of the access difficulties we find today are due to many years of ignorance about access requirements when planning, designing and managing buildings, transport systems and infrastructure. For a long time, customers’ needs were not known or understood, and even today – despite improvements _ these needs are not being taken sufficiently into account in the tourism sector.
The availability of expertise in planning and designing accessible infrastructure and services varies considerably. This situation gives rise to some confusion and lack of certainty when planning and developing accessible tourism facilities and services-either when upgrading or starting from scratch.
The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) is working to improve accessibility in the tourism sector by consolidating existing knowledge and giving all actors the opportunity to put this knowledge to use through collaboration, wherever they are based in the country.
Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, Director General of NTDC, in a chat with travel journalists during the World Tourism Day celebration in Kano weekend, said with the accessible project they are embarking on that they want to help make Nigeria as a whole an accessible destination, where all travellers can move freely, enjoy new experiences and be sure of getting the service they need and expect.
“We believe that accessible tourism must be made a priority _ for the good of the tourists and for the long term sustainability of the Nigerian tourist industry.”
Asked what the project is all about, Otunba Runsewe said “Accessible tourism is intended as the set of services and facilities capable of allowing persons with specific needs to enjoy a holiday and their leisure time with no particular barriers or problems. Individuals with specific needs could be elderly people, disabled individuals and people with particular diets or with allergy problems, who need particular comforts and facilitations during their travels.
He added “Accessible tourism makes it possible for people with various disabilities to function independently of other people when on holidays. It relates not only to physically disabled people but also to seniors whose mobility might be limited.”
Otunba Runsewe also disclosed that the corporation is also planning to encourage hotels and events management companies to charge per hour as they believe this will en courage time management .”People see Nigerians as those who do not have respect for time management, but we believe if hotels and event centres charge per hour , people will be time conscious. Tourism, we believe can be used to change how things are done and help in time management.
Otunba added that NTDC is set to launch the first ever national dress brand for Nigeria. The idea of the new national dress, according to him, is to give Nigerians a new identity as the dress style and fabric are uniquely Nigerian.
Most serious minded countries in the world have their national dresses as a form of branding. Countries such as South Africa, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya and Dubai have embraced national dress as a national symbol which they are now known for anywhere in the world.
The launch of a new national dress would not have come at a better time than now considering the fact that the country is branded. The launch of the national dress is slated for 11th October, 2009 in Lagos, Centre of Excellence. It is expected to attract the de la crème of Nollywood stars, first rate musicians and comedians. It would also attract stakeholders in the industry.