Tourism levy and what it means for development | Lessons from Dubai
What necessitated this article?! Our dear friends at Unraveling Nigeria put up a post talking about investments in Epe Mangroves and there was a comment from a follower saying ‘‘We may have to seek funding from UNESCO or other body to upgrade tourist sites in Nigeria’’. This sparked a debate in my mind and whilst I agree with the comment to some extent, Nigeria needs to think of more innovative and creative ways of raising funds like Dubai successfully did. Let me try to shed some light on this.
If you recall, I spent a few days in Dubai (read here and here). I made the hotel reservation on bookings.com and assumed that the accommodation was all-cost inclusive. On arriving at the hotel, I was informed that the price on the bookings.com platform was exclusive of certain taxes, which were in fine prints. Though I had noticed that the room rate included 10% service charge and VAT, I assumed that was all the applicable taxes.
Travel tip: Your Dubai hotel booking on bookings.com typically does not include various taxes including the 7% Dubai Municipality tax and Tourism Dirham of 20AED per room per night.
In 2014, Dubai introduced the ‘Tourism Dirham’ Tax which applies to every visitor and holidaymaker lodging in hotels et al. The fee varies depending on the type of accommodation but at the hotel I was charged AED 20 ($5.71) per night. I was so reluctant to pay but…..it is mandatory!.
Dubai successfully used the Tourism Tax in promoting tourism in the city. I read online that they have raised billions of dollars since inception and majority of the funds will be used for the Expo 2020 which is projected to attract over 20 million visitors.
"The introduction of the Tourism Taxes will support Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, helping to ensure its continued competitiveness on the global stage, which will be reflected positively on the growth of two of Dubai’s economic pillars - trade and tourism," said Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM)’’.
Sincerely, I never knew that Tourist tax and hospitality levy was a thing around the world but a visit to Dubai got me researching and I began to wonder why Nigeria has not explored this opportunity to develop its tourism sector.
While I understand that we have broader issues to resolve and to make Nigeria an attractive holiday destination but for a minute let’s imagine that there’s an influx of over 10 million people into the country annually with 50% lodging in hotels and airbnbs etc. If the ministry charged holidaymakers as low as N2,000, Nigeria would generate N10 billion yearly which can be used to develop the tourist attractions in the country. This will be a positive measure for tourism in Nigeria, considering it is a no-brainer that can be implemented in the next 72 hours.
Hoteliers might consider this approach not exactly trade and business enhancing but it is the best long term solution. My major concern is the lack of accountability and transparency our leaders have shown in the past.
If our leaders have not been faithful in the much resources they have handled in the past, how will they be faithful in more?!!!
If Nigeria doesn’t make the country attractive by investing in the tourism sector, we will all still be having this conversation in 10 years time. Tourists’ behavior is usually conditioned by the image or perceptions they have of the destinations. We need to change the narrative and re-showcase the country.
Am I the only one that feels the leaders of this great country are not ambitious enough??. Dear Mr. Commissioner for Tourism, everything can be done!. and with my extensive years in the travel space and development in Africa at large, I can advise your administration for a fee. :):):).
Hinged on the popular saying that “one cannot handle what he does not know” , it is only advisable that the ones in power seek the assistance of more experienced people with in-depth knowledge on the subject matter.