Nigeria has very rich, immense natural resources and cultural heritage that are potentials for a buoyant tourism industry. However, due to a lack of inventory and socio-economic problems ecotourism development in the country has been hampered. The ecotourism potentials of Cross River National Park were therefore investigated to assess, locate and determine potential ecotourism features. This was conducted through field surveys and oral interviews of park staff and visitors to the park. The study shows that the park is rich in fauna, flora natural resources, and cultural features. The study also reveals that the major problems affecting ecotourism development in the Park include improper funding, inadequate staff, social disturbance and inadequate infrastructural facilities.
Poaching, illegal grazing and conflict between park protection staff and cattle herdsmen were also among the principal factors hindering ecotourism development in the park. It is therefore important that the potentials of the park as tourist destination be explored and widely publicized so as to attract tourists, while drastic steps should be taken to curtail the obstacles that may limit its development.
When people think ecotourism, many countries come to mind! But when we think of Nigeria, ecotourism is not high on the list. Ecotourism parks across the globe are huge sources of income to any nation’s economy through the tourism sector. Ecotourism is fast becoming a major tourism product which destinations now parade on their tourism calendar, as most vacation seekers tired of city life seek destinations with huge stocks of wild animals and unspoiled green reserves, a resource rich in Nigeria. The Nigeria National Park Service has seven National Parks which span across the various ecological zones of Nigeria (except the marine ecosystem), capable of enhancing ecological processes and life support systems.
The Obudu Conservation Centre, highlights the prospects and challenges of ecotourism as an authentic tool for sustainable economic development and the conservation of natural resources in Nigeria. The country is eminently and abundantly blessed with ecotourism resources that if properly harnessed can generate a lot of revenue to the government as well as be a viable source of employment and means of livelihood to the local people.
The Centre identifies problems that have bedeviled ecotourism development in Cross River State, in-spite of the abundant and numerous tourism resources available in Obudu, its hindered by issues such as poor funding, lack of infrastructure, political instability and poaching. It concludes by recommending some possible panacea to enhance the present level of ecotourism to a good avenue of revenue generation and overall economic development. These include adequate funding of the ecotourism sector, massive extension and enlightenment programmes, security of lives and properties of prospective tourists and provision of infrastructure.
Ecotourism as a concept is a new approach that is barely two decades old and most likely alien to some countries while other countries have achieved tremendous success with this approach.
Ecotourism is the visit of pristine, unhampered natural environments as a tourist and engages in thrilling activities and in turn, learn about the culture and beliefs of those natives and appreciate nature at its fullest. This form of tourism encompasses not just boosting traffic to tourist sites but also about ensuring visitors travel responsibly, help maintain a balanced existing ecosystem and protect the wildlife they are visiting and contribute to the well-being of local communities. It also involves protecting the natural environment for the generation yet unborn and as a tourist spot, it has direct positive influences on the environment and its inhabitants.
With that being said, the importance and potentials of ecotourism tend to be multi-facet as it cuts across different sectors and involves a multi-disciplinary approach to be sustainable. Ecotourism is said to be multi-facet as it has a direct impact on the society, environment, and economy. Economically it serves as a source of capital to the immediate natives of the environment, a source of employment, protection of the ecosystem/biodiversity, protection of a particular culture and most importantly generates revenue for both government and private participants. The social angle of ecotourism is the immediate benefits and ability to create both skilled and unskilled employment and significantly cater for the employment of women and ethnic minority groups. While the environmental impact is vast from reducing the intensity of global warming, it may include protection of natural environments, preservation of tangible heritage such as archaeological, historical sites, and monuments and also intangible heritage such as protection of local cultures, folklore, traditional arts, and craft.
With the increased awareness of the danger of global warming, it is evident protecting our natural environment for touristic purposes help in sustaining the environment. Additionally, biodiversity and large gene pools are also protected by implementing the eco-tourism approach.
Ecotourism in Nigeria can still be said to be at the ground state as little attention is given to other sectors, generally due to the oil trade. It is pertinent to draw our attention to the fact that most thriving economies do not depend solely on one resource, as a diverse economy is more likely to recover if the major resource depended upon is affected.
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