By Ife Adediran

With CNN and international news laying emphasis on Boko Haram and crashing oil prices in Nigeria, our economy and public appearance could use a huge make-over. The wave of change that’s trending along with the new government makes this a good time for Nigeria to depend a lot less on crude oil and a lot more on other sectors to generate income and provide the face-lift it desperately needs. What better way to do this than turn Nigeria into Africa’s biggest Tourist destination?

It does seem like oil is all we can boast of as a nation despite being tagged the ‘Giant of Africa’. However for a country so big, I’d say our strength is in the diversity of our culture, if only we could take a closer look at the opportunities that lie within.

The appreciation of our own culture is the first step towards establishing the potential of Tourism as an income generating sector of the Nigerian economy.

In Nigeria alone, 518 languages are spoken and there are 774 ethnic groups within 36 states. Imagine if there was an event, festival or show for each tribe, culture and language that could draw local and international attention? Wouldn’t that attract more income for the country in less time, at a lot less than it would cost to build one refinery in each state?

Adopting Tourism as a money-making machine for the nation is not a foreign concept to the world. After studies showed that its crude oil would run out by 2016, Dubai made a decision to focus on Tourism as its major source of income. With only sand and sun guaranteed, they built some of the greatest megastructures in the world to accommodate their new goal, hence the birth of Burj al Arab, the Palm Island, Burj Khalifa and more. Today, Dubai is one of the richest countries in the UAE and their oil hasn’t even run out yet!

The Island of Bermuda has no natural resources of its own but it has successfully exploited its location by providing financial services for international firms and luxury tourist facilities annually. Its tourist industry is responsible for 28% of its GDP and attracts 84% of its business from North America.

The same applies to Bahamas and Aruba, whose economies are also heavily dependent on tourism for over 50% of their income.

So far Cross River state and Osun State have stood alone to prove that not only is our culture appreciated internationally but that it can generate a huge income as a tourist destination, with its annual Calabar Carnival which pulls droves of people into Nigeria from all over the world every December. Also every year in the month of august the Osun-Oshogbo festival is celebrated at the grove. Yearly the festival attracts thousands of Osun worshippers, tourists and spectators.

Cliché as it may sound, Nigeria must use what it has, in this case culture, to get what it needs, an alternative source of income and a pretty ‘face’.