SOAK UP THE SUN

Nigeria 2020 | TOURISM & ENTERTAINMENT | FOCUS: NIGERIAN BEACH RESORTS

Thanks to rebranding efforts and a build-it-and-they-will-come attitude, Nigeria's beach tourism is progressing slowly but surely.

The tourism sector in Nigeria traditionally capitalizes on assets such as cultural diversity, exotic offerings of entertainment, and natural splendor. And though the country's savannahs and rainforests attract many sightseers each year, it is Nigeria's beaches and resorts that attract the highest number of visitors.

As it happens, the bustling area of Lagos is also home to some of the finest and most tranquil sand beaches along Nigeria's 850-km coastline. Lagos is blessed with bonus aquatic features such as lakes, lagoons, and islands, making it even more conducive to coastal tourism. Each year, millions of holidaymakers end up in resorts around Lagos to escape from it all and soothe their nerves for a few days. There is no shortage of resorts catering to those in search of relaxation while enjoying a coconut beverage.
The Atican and Eleko beaches in the Lekki Peninsula, for example, are relatively far off and offer little in the way of lively entertainment, but they are famous for their sparkling white sand and lack of crowds. Naturally, they are a favorite haunt of digital nomads and other “alternative" travelers.
Others, meanwhile, may be into more upbeat forms of beach entertainment—and they can rest assured that Lagos will not disappoint them. Elegushi Beach caters to more thrill-seeking souls who enjoy beach sports and appreciate some energetic live music playing in the background.
In spite of such attractions, however, most people vacationing in beach resorts are either Nigerian or from other West African nations. Given Nigeria's easy accessibility and its exotic offerings for European tastes, it surely deserves to receive more tourists from the continent. Nigeria's tropical coasts, after all, are a far cry from the Mediterranean beaches that Europeans are used to. This, however, will not be possible without a rebranding campaign to show the world that Nigeria has come a long way since the 1960s, when the country was torn by internal conflicts. Since 2009, initiatives such as “Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation" and “Heart of Africa" have been trying to improve Nigeria's image both inside and outside the continent. Although neither campaign has been a resounding success, the number of arrivals has been growing slowly but surely. The biggest leap was recorded in 2016, when arrivals jumped by 50.52% from 1.26 million to 1.89 million visitors.
Fortunately, the government has relaxed its visa policies, making it easier than ever for tourists to set foot in Nigeria. In 2017, the country's top technocrats “reviewed the requirements for Nigerian visas to make them more customer friendly," according to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).
A more progressive visa policy was rolled out in December 2019 by President Buhari and Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola to attract more foreign travelers and boost business activities. The Nigeria Visa Policy 2020 allows foreigners to choose from a more diverse mix of visa classes and—if eligible—receive their visa on arrival. The rebranding efforts and the adoption of more relaxed visa polices are important enabling factors, but beach resorts themselves are even more important. Brand-new resorts are routinely constructed and inaugurated around Lekki, Lagos Island, and Victoria Island, with little concern regarding occupancy rates.
In a country with 190 million people, the industry can easily sustain itself with local demand until the rebranding campaigns take effect. Nairametrics, a local business intelligence firm, investigated the occupancy rate of beach resorts around Lagos during Valentine's Day in a 2020 report and found that “most of the beach resorts in Lagos and beyond are fully booked by lovebirds," which is undoubtedly a good omen for the industry.