With an estimation of over 4,112,445 people, a close gender balance of 2,069,309, male, and 2,043,136, female population, Delta State is considered one of the most endowed in Nigeria.
Known as the “The Big Heart” but the real popularity of the state comes from its being an oil-producing state in the Niger-Delta region. In the latest data on 13 per cent derivation sharing, Delta State ranked first with 31 per cent of N94.4 billion from a total of N302.8 billion according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics 2019 report.
But with the instability of global pricing for crude it becomes imperative for the state, and in extension, the country to start ‘making hay while the sun shines’ in other lucrative sectors to weather future instabilities in the oil sector.
Fortunately, Delta State is also famous for its richness in diverse cultures, and agricultural prowess. These alternative potentials can become the state’s economic mainstay if develop, especially as the hospitality sector.
According to travelnews.online, an online travel magazine, “Nigeria has over 11,000 hotels”, and a considerable amount of these hotels are in Delta State. The accommodation sector alone is estimated to employs over 2 million direct, and about a million indirect jobs in Nigeria.
National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), between January 2013, and January 2014 generated N197, 599,911,988 which is about 80% of all international airlines ticket sales in the country. With the commissioning of the Warri-Itakpe railway line that runs through Agbor, connecting three states: Delta, Kogi, and Edo States, eventually, it will also connect the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Delta State should brace up for the flood of private sector development that is expected to overrun the state.
The rail line alone has projected an annual commuter figure of about one million people. This means more people will make stopovers at different locations and sales are expected to rise at such locations.
In a publication on the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA) website, Executive Director, West Africa, BON Hotels, Paul Umoh, said: “In 2017, tourism statistics reflected a growth of 140.2% from 2016. And from 2015 to 2016, a 130.3% increase was seen. Two years prior, the statistics were in decline. Now, however, more people are visiting the country for business and leisure, and investors are seeing the increased potential in the region.”
“The hospitality industry in Nigeria has predominantly been concentrated in larger cities such as Lagos and Abuja. By expanding into smaller cities across multiple regions, we will dramatically increase the potential for business and leisure travel throughout the country,” explains Umoh. In 2016 BON Hotel acquired the Protea Hotel in Delta State.
Delta State also plays host to the largest waterpark in West Africa, Park Vega Waterpark, located in Agbor. The rest of the tourism world has gone far ahead as many in Nigeria still wonder what a waterpark is in 2020.
Quoting from a 2015 report conducted by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), the waterpark was defined as a facility with “at least four of the following attractions considered essential to a waterpark such as toddlers’/children’s play area, tube slide, lazy river, body flume, wave pool, tipping bucket play area, speed slide, family raft slide, mat racer slide, spray ground, still-water lagoon pool, action river, water coaster or a surfing simulator.
Designed for family and friends, couples and individual, to bond, Park Vega Waterpark attends to the young and the young at heart as they experience wow moments and create memories that last a lifetime together.
The Park is a fun place to go as a family with several facilities that thrills the kids, toddlers, teenagers, and adults such as Space hole slide, Multi-surf slide, Freefall slide, Black hole slide, Aquatower, splash pad, Attraction pool, Relax Pool that has a bar, and a restaurant that serves delicious food.
How Can Delta State Benefit from a Waterpark Located in the State?
When residents of other states visit the Park in Delta State, it would be a net gain for Delta but a net loss for the other states who had people leaving to visit Delta. But it would be gainful for Nigeria, as the taxes and trade inspired by the Park are still within the country.
This is why the Federal Government and Delta State Government should encourage such investments in the hospitality sector that have rippling effect by offering tax rebates and holidays just like other countries that operate waterparks.
In the United States, Kentucky offers eligible tourist attractions sales rebates up to 25 per cent. The state understands some tourists may not have visited the state if it was not for the waterpark.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions said in 2011 nearly 30,000 attractions in the United States generated $211 billion in economic activity. America’s local and regional public park agencies generated nearly $140 billion in economic activity and supported almost 1 million jobs from their operations and capital spending alone in 2013.
Studies have revealed that residents prefer to live in proximity to a park. The National Association of Home Builders says the presence of parks influences 65 per cent of homebuyers. Another study in 2001 by the National Association of Realtors found that 50 per cent of survey respondents were more likely to choose a neighbourhood near parks and are willing to pay more to be located close to a park.
Generation of new jobs – The state can benefit immensely as waterparks are known worldwide to create a lot of direct and indirect jobs wherever they located.
Development of infrastructure – Research has shown that infrastructural development around waterparks is very fast as everyone wants to key into the business buzz created by the waterpark.
improve the image of the destination – Normally unknown locations get on the map the moment a waterpark is built in the area. Because waterparks are usually constructed in places considered as outskirts for reasons such as space, low traffic, easy access, and others, the waterpark tends to add reputational value to the location.
Increase tourism – Waterparks have been known to benefit tourists’ businesses such as hotel, entertainment, lounges, restaurants amongst others. This helps the local communities and the state, in the long run, to grow its tourist potentials using the waterpark as a platform.
Economic benefits for having a waterpark in Delta state – There will be more business transactions in the surrounding communities as they cash into the bee-hive of activities created. This will eventually transcend to more revenue being generated by the local government and the state government.
Transport Sector – The aviation industry, the new rail line that has just been commissioned by the Federal Government in Delta State and surrounding states, the road transporters are all expected to benefit from the window of opportunity opened by the waterpark located in Delta State.
Political scorecard – Waterpark is a major capital-intensive project and a great scorecard used by politicians to highlight infrastructural achievements. In the United States alone, there are over one thousand waterparks, each attracting its infrastructural development, and influencing positive reputation to grow the location they operate.
The state government benefits from these developments and only need to create the favourable climate for waterparks to thrive.
The future of Delta State, some say, is fluid, flows from underneath its soil but it’s likely they are not talking about oil.