The return of the world-famous Benin Bronzes to Nigeria could significantly impact the country’s burgeoning tourism sector, attracting millions of new visitors to the country every single year, stakeholders hope.
The Benin Bronzes comprise several thousand sculptures and plaques crafted from metal that decorated the Kingdom of Benin royal palace and were made in the 13th Century by the Edo people, indigenous to the Edo State. Unfortunately, British forces stole many of the plaques and many other historical and cultural artifacts during imperial control in the country’s south during the late 1800s.
Some 200 pieces were kept in the British Museum in London, while others popped up in other museums around Europe and North America. However, following pressure on the holders of the items from Nigeria, repatriation is set to take place.
In June of 2022, the Smithsonian in the US and the German government signed agreements with Abuja to return over 100 of the bronzes. The British Horniman Museum then announced it would follow suit with the return of some 72 items.
The items are destined for the Edo Museum of West African Art, which is set to be completed in Benin City by 2025.
The news has sparked hope in many tourism stakeholders who are confident that returning the artifacts will bring more visitors to the country. Museums are well known for bringing tourists to governments, and The Art Newspaper estimated that the world’s top 100 museums welcomed over 71 million visitors in 2021 alone.
Good news for tourism
Currently, the Nigerian tourism sector is facing some challenges. Nowadays, tourism contributes 2% to the country’s GDP, and it is increasing every year. However, the sector’s full potential is yet to be harnessed, and more value, investment, and organization are required to keep growth consistent.
Capital Hotel, Tourist Company of Nigeria, Transnational Hospitality, and Tourism Services are just some of the publicly listed companies that hope to reap the rewards. In addition, it will also impact secondary companies working in food and beverage production and transport.
The impact the return of the Benin Bronzes will have on the economy as a whole, including publicly listed companies, is not to be sniffed at. In particular, those in tourism, travel, and services that work with tourists and international visitors are set to see the biggest impact over the following years. This boost to their share value, and rosy predictions for the future bring possibilities for the savvy investor. The further investment could even prompt a larger demand of commodities to support new services. As a result, there are more opportunities for investors interested in futures trading– that is, speculating on the value of a commodity at a certain point in the future. This means investors can hedge their bets going forward, considering new opportunities in tourism and associated sectors including air travel, hotels, and food and beverages.
A pivotal moment will be opening the museum in Benin City and other touristic endeavors, including Isimi Lagos, the first wellness and lifestyle city. Of course, the Lagos State tourism 20-year-plan will contribute to positive growth. This, in turn, will drive up share prices on the local stock markets, meaning more returns for investors on the futures market, as well as forex and stocks in general.
No one is under the illusion that the return of the Bronzes’ is a fix-all for the Nigerian tourism sector, but it does represent a big step forward. The museum and its contents will be a big pull for Western and regional tourists, spending in more areas of the economy. The industry will further develop through word of mouth, and stakeholders will seize other opportunities to expand and invest in various ways.