Reopening Nigeria’s Borders’ll Boost Tourism
By Justina Okpanku
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the recommendation of a committee for the reopening of four land borders with immediate effect, while others will be reopened in due course. The Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, made the disclosure after the 28th virtual meeting, which the President attended from Daura, Katsina.
The Council meeting was presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. According to Ahmed, the restriction on the importation of some commodities, like rice and other products, would however continue.
The borders opened for now include Seme and Mfun borders in the Southwest, Ilela and Maigatari borders in the Northwest.
The cheering news came after months of foot-dragging and policy indecision.
The reopening of the borders is in line with the vision of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) bent on working closely with member States like Nigeria in re-starting tourism in the post COVID world. Nigeria closed its land borders more than a year ago, citing economic and security reasons. Nigeria is looking to reopen them ‘as soon as possible’, President Muhammadu Buhari had promised.
Buhari stated this during a meeting with governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja.
The president said the closure of the borders was also an attempt to control the smuggling of weapons and drugs from neighbouring countries.
Now that the message has sunk in with our neighbours, we are looking into reopening the borders as soon as possible,” the president was quoted as saying by his spokesperson, Garba Shehu.
Nigeria first showed its willingness to re-open the border last month, amid skyrocketing food prices and increased calls for reopening of the borders.
According to the eighth edition of the UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report, 70 per cent of all global destinations have eased restrictions on travel introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In comparison, just one in four destinations continue to keep their borders completely closed to international tourists.
Launched by the World Tourism Organisation at the start of the pandemic, the Travel Restrictions Report keeps track of measures being taken in 217 destinations worldwide.
For the tourism industry, the report shows that, as of November 1, a total of 152 destinations have eased restrictions on international tourism, up from the 115 recorded on September 1. At the same time, 59 destinations have kept their borders closed to tourists, a decrease of 34 over the same two-month period.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The lifting of travel restrictions is essential to drive our wider recovery from the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. Governments have an important part to play in giving data-led and responsible travel advice and in working together to lift restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Looking further into current COVID-19-related travel restrictions, the report sheds new light on the factors connecting those destinations, which have eased restrictions and those where borders remain closed.
The study found that destinations with higher scores in health and hygiene indicators as well as on the environmental performance index are among those, which have eased restrictions faster. Moreover, these destinations are increasingly applying differentiated, risk-based approaches to implementing travel restrictions.
In comparison, destinations choosing to keep their borders closed tend to be within emerging economies with relatively low scores in health and hygiene indicators and environmental performance index.
The majority of these destinations are in Asia and the Pacific, with many belonging to the SIDS (Small Island Developing States), LDCs (Least Developed Countries) or LLDCs (Landlocked Developing Countries).
As in previous editions, the new UNWTO Travel Restrictions report also breaks the destination analysis down by regions. Europe continues to lead the way in lifting or easing travel restrictions followed by the Americas, Africa and then the Middle East. Meanwhile, Asia and the Pacific continue to be the region with the fewest travel restrictions eased and more complete border closures in place for international tourism.
Looking ahead, the report highlights the important role governments can play in restarting tourism. Out of the ten biggest tourism source markets, four (representing 19% of all outbound trips in 2018) have issued guidance advising against all non-essential international travel.
INDEPENDENT (December18, 2020).