Nigeria offers an array of tourist attractions such as long and wide rivers and ocean beaches ideal for swimming and other water sports, unique wildlife, vast areas of unspoiled nature ranging from tropical forests to magnificent waterfalls, some fast-growing new cities and climatic conditions conducive for vacation. Other attractions are the traditional ways of life that are preserved in local customs; rich and varied handicrafts and other colourful products that represent or illustrate the art and lifestyle of the local people and the authentic, simple but friendly demeanour of many in the Nigerian population. However, many of these attractions are still largely untapped and even in their raw and undeveloped state, they are been still enjoyed by tourists, be they very wealthy visitors looking for exotic people or adventurers looking for new challenges and experiences. Use of Barge for recreation can go a long way to improve the Tourism sector of Nigeria. In 2019, it was reported that the contribution of travel and tourism to GDP (% of GDP) for Nigeria was 5.1%.
Nigeria has indeed attained a great fit in transport systems, peculiarly in road and air transit. However, Investment opportunities are still needed in the areas of recreational water transportation and rail transportation. But for the sake of this article, we shall be exploring the latent opportunities in the maritime industry that has a huge potential in boosting the Nigerian tourism sector.
The recreational use of barges are often associated with Burgundy or Provence in France, hotel barge cruising is also available beyond France, in England, Holland, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Italy and even the Czech Republic. Most importantly, a strong cruise interest and demand from “new” markets such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand which is experiencing a 20 per cent growth in the number of people booking cruises and particularly river cruises, indicates that the barging industry is positioned well for continued growth and market penetration worldwide.
This growth and diversification of demand give a clear indication of the enormous potential for expansion, ensuring a promising future for cruises that Nigeria can also engage. Nigerian barge operators and hoteliers can take a look at this viable opportunity to create a good experience for tourists and explorers, thereby creating employment opportunities for the vast unemployed youth.
Today the Nigerian waterways i.e the canals, rivers and lakes can also serve recreational purposes and one popular medium of transportation that has evolved is the barge cruise, which allows tourists to see the countryside at hand while cruising down these scenic waterways. Barges will be a more preferred option over other vessels for tourists and explorers in Nigeria because of their slow and steady movement on waterways that gives voyagers more access to commune with nature as they float on canals, lakes, rivers e.t.c. A classic canal barge is able to accommodate about 4 to 24 guests, with a high crew to passenger ratio while Hotel Barges can be booked on an individual cabin basis for singles and couples, most of the smaller size barges (4 to 8 guests) are for private parties who charter the entire barge.
Some barge cruising experiences can take as long as 2 weeks, even 6 weeks depending on booking preferences. Europe, for example, offers many beautiful places that tourists who want to explore on foot or by bike. Tourists want to take a bicycle attached to the barge and explore road paths along the canals, interact with locals and later catch up with the barge at the next dock. However, if tourists and other adventurers want to travel greater distances, they may spend more time on the water and less time on excursions. If they would prefer to go walking or cycling as a focus, then they may want to book a tour that has an emphasis on these areas instead. A typical hotel barge will have cooks, guards, cleaners and other necessary personnel at the beck and call of voyagers.
In France only, Hotel Barge cruises specialist France Cruises has estimated a market growth specific to the canal and river barging from 10 Million USD in early 1990 to over 45 Million USD today. Nigeria needs to harness this fast-growing opportunity in order to further diversify the economy and also provide job opportunities for the youth. However, the current insecurity in the country poses a great obstacle that needs to be addressed by the Nigerians Government in order to drive in foreign investors who will explore this viable means of revenue-generating opportunity for the economic good of the country. Nigeria will no doubt be on the path of an economic boom when tourists visit without the fear of insecurity.

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