In lieu of vacation in Nigeria, the children are rounded up, fed, and bundled into holiday classes to prepare them for the school term ahead.
Adults barely ever have any semblance of long holidays, and the whole country looks from the outside, like a busy bee hive – motion, activity, work – 24/7, 365 days a year.
Vacationing is foreign to the typical Nigerian, and it has a lot to do with culture, as much as it does the poor economy and infrastructure. In a country of 180 million, one would expect that local tourism from holidaying alone, would fuel the Nigerian travel industry, but the sector is driven primarily by business and corporate travels, with Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, being the most popular destinations. These are hosts to conference-bound men in suits, and hosts to travelling hustlers doing the buy-and-sell.
Apart from travels for business, the only other trips in our otherwise travel-flat line, are for religious pilgrimages and excursions: yearly trips to Makkah and Jerusalem, and the famous trips back to the village for Christmas or Sallah.
Ask the regular Nigerian why he doesn’t travel or go on vacation, and you’re sure to hear a quip or two about money, bad roads, “London is expensive,” or the classic, “I don’t know. I just don’t.”
In a country where the minimum wage is 18,000 Naira (about 45 USD), Nigerians are right to think of travel for recreation as a luxury, and one month long holiday classes for their kids as Eldorado. For the middle class Nigerian however, money, or the supposed lack of it, is still a top factor in his decision to relegate recreational travel to the back burner.
To him, travel is expensive because he can’t afford plane tickets, and lodging for his family from Lagos to London! To him, vacations mean European capitals or fancy soundings in far-off destinations. This brings the narration to lack of awareness, infrastructure, and then culture.
Awareness and Infrastructure
The average Nigerian thinks vacationing equals destinations abroad, because our local tourism and holiday destination sites, are relatively unknown to even Nigerians. The travel destinations are mostly poorly developed, maintained or promoted.
In 2016, when Governor X cleaned up tourist sites in Y, developed complementary tourist-tending infrastructure, and systematically promoted his state as the place to visit for vacation in the face of the falling Naira, Nigerians listened, they travelled to Bauchi, hotel room sales in the state shot up, and local tourism was given a big boost.
In spite of one-offs like Cross River and Governor M.A. Abubakar’s Bauchi, the entire local tourism sector suffers a great deal from poor national infrastructure. The roads leading to potentially enjoyable sites, are typically terrible, trains are slow and noisy, local flights are expensive, and unreliable, car hire services are scarce, and travel logistics are a nightmare.
Several Nigerians do not travel for recreation, simply because they do not travel for recreation. Promenading across towns is pointless, when you can pay for cable TV and give your kids a slice of adventure. Other reasons are: a man must hustle every day, vacations are for the rich, and their parents didn’t take them on vacations, so…
It doesn’t help that public awareness on fatigue, and stress is low, and that Nigerians rarely equate great vacations to wellness and happiness.
There is however, an expected generational shift in recreational travel, culture from millennial, a generation that embraces travel and is generally thrill-seeking!
Travel for recreation, does not have to be unaffordable, unattainable, or made exclusive for the rich. Smart travel tips, such as planning early, booking flights in advance (for cheaper fares), booking hotels online (for comfort & affordability), travelling during peak travel periods (for seasonal price slashes on flights, hotel rooms etc.), and practicing the hosts’ languages, are a few tips that can ease travel logistics.
Several other options, albeit more expensive, such as all-inclusive travel experiences that tie lodging, sports, sight-seeing and many more, offered by some resorts, are often ideal for this generation of travelers.
The average Nigerian adult suffers from stress and fatigue, and he distrusts the next man from the other tribe. Local vacations are hence, like two-pronged swords; creating an out to breathe, and an opportunity to explore the beauty that the vast diversity of Nigeria is.
Travel and vacationing are a thing of beauty, and in spite of the institutional challenges, Nigerians should explore, know new lands, feel the miles of tar beneath their tyres, the salt in the air on cruises, and the weight on the ears – slicing through the skies.
By Jogbojogbo Abdulrahman, Communications & PR of Hotels.ng