For the second year running, Nigeria did not attend one of the world's biggest tourism expos the latest indication that this African nation is missing out multimillion-dollars in travels and tourism.

In a widely syndicated article, Funke Olaode attended the three-day The World Travel Market in London last November and takes a look at the countries in Africa that are rising to the challenge and how they are doing it.

"Since its debut 36 years ago, the World Travel Market has remained a melting point for 187 countries across the globe to share ideas on how to improve tourism and travel industry."

It is estimated to attract around 50,000 people, including senior travel industry professionals, business people and top government officials and international press.

With recession facing many countries and the dip in oil prices, not a few countries are exploring their tourism potential as support system to boost their economy, write Olaode, using the success of tourism in the UAE, and Dubai specifically - which made up for its own lack of oil (compared with neighbouring Abu Dhabi) - as a reference point.

"Tourism is an important part of the Dubai government's strategy to maintain the flow of foreign cash into the emirate. As of 2013, Dubai was the fourth most visited city of the world based on air traffic and the fastest growing, increasing by a 10.7 per cent. Dubai attracts at least 14 million tourists in 2015. And by the end of 2015, the country's gross domestic product stood at $340.8bn."

Another example of a nation that has shifted focus beyond oil is Turkey, writes Olaode, who also looks at Barbados, the wealthiest and most developed country in the Eastern Caribbean.

"While the Middle East, the Caribbean and godfathers of destinations such as the UK, the United States, Germany, even South Africa and Kenya have continued to position themselves as tourists' havens and are raking multimillion dollars, Nigeria seems to be teetering on apathy and lack of ingenuity."

In recent times, Ethiopia, Rwanda Tanzania, Kenya, and The Gambia have demonstrated how lucrative travels and tourism are. For instance, despite its genocide tragedy of 1994, Rwanda is one of most visited countries on the continent of Africa and Gambia - despite being run like a police state - welcomes thousands of tourists. Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in its recent reports said the country generated $304.9m in 2014 from tourism, compared to $293.6m in 2013, representing an increase of 4%. These revenues increased from $62m in 2000.

The Gambia, with population of about 1.849 million as of 2013 and over 30 top tourist attractions receives over 100,000 visitors a year and its tourism industry is the second highest earner of foreign revenue. Tourists mainly come from Europe with package tour operators from UK making up over 50 per cent of visitors; the remaining number of visitors arriving from Germany, Norway, Sweden and other countries. In terms of GDP per capital according to World Bank (2013), the country rakes in $488.57 yearly.

Little wonder, in spite of domestic challenges back home, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have taken advantage of the WTM. The trio marketed themselves as a single destination for the first time under the banner: "East African countries opt for joint marketing, Borderless Borders, One Destination."

The single East Africa Tourist Visa, recently launched, enables travellers to visit Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda under one visa.

South Africa is a popular tourist destination and the industry accounts for a substantial amount of the country's revenue. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the tourism industry directly contributed ZAR 102 billion to South African GDP in 2012, and supports 10.3 per cent of jobs in the country. Another important source of revenue is domestic tourism, which contributes 52 per cent of total tourism consumption. The number of tourists that throng South Africa also reached the ten million mark in 2014.

For so-called 'Giant of Africa', Nigeria - with its vast tourist destinations and human resources - things are falling apart in travels and tourism as it faces the quartet of kidnapping, terrorism, corruption and lack of ingenuity.

According to an expert, this is a bad omen for a country struggling to make tourism as one of its exports besides oil and agriculture.

In 2012, the country's tourism industry got international recognition as a potential powerhouse in global travel and tourism markets.

"Experts who spoke with this reporter noted that Nigeria's continued absence at the WTM can only lead to one thing: loss of foreign exchange earnings and job opportunities for locals."

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