By Kenneth Ehigiator
Cross Rivers State government has acquired an aircraft in its efforts to boost its tourism potentials, with particular reference to Obudu Mountain Resort, but Governor Liyel Imoke is to pay for its use like every other client
This comes as the state government is making desperate efforts to upgrade facilities at Bebi airstrip through installation of navigational facilities, such as runway lighting and instrument landing system.
The aircraft, a 32-seater Dash 8 propeller engine, formerly owned by Rivers State government was acquired by the state, and would be operated on a commercial basis by one of the leading national carriers.
The aircraft will operate flights from Calabar and Abuja to Bebi Airstrip twice weekly on Fridays and Sundays.
This will greatly reduce the travel time to the ranch resort for tourists and corporate clients, as normal road journey to the ranch from Calabar or Abuja is 5 hours, with its attendant risks, but a flight from both ways is just 45 minutes.
On other days, the aircraft will fly other commercially viable routes to generate revenue to pay for itself and also running and maintenance costs.
Special Adviser to the state governor, Nzan Ogbe, said the acquisition of the aircraft was for purely business purposes.
He said â€œthe need for the aircraft came from feasibility study carried out by the state government, through the tourism bureau and African Sun, managers of the ranch facility, on how to maximally drive traffic to this wonderful destination all year round.
â€œThe numbers were quite interesting and we found out that the aircraft will pay for itself. It must be stated clearly here that the aircraft is not meant for the governor of Cross River State. If for any reason the governor wants to use it, then he will have to pay commercial rates like any other personâ€.
He stated further that the investment became necessary as it would ensure that the billions the state has spent in developing the ranch resort will not be allowed to waste.
Also speaking, Mrs. Elenda Osima-Dokubo, Acting Managing Director of the stateâ€™s Tourism Bureau, said this was a sure way of boosting patronage to the ranch resort and maximizing the use of the stateâ€™s tourism assets.
â€œWith the assurance of regular flights to ranch from both Calabar and Abuja, people can now plan better for their holiday or conferences and retreatsâ€ she said.
The Obudu mountain Resort is a 180 room facility located on an altitude of 1765m above sea level, with a temperate climate all year round.
Other facilities at the resort includes a 4.2 km long cable car (longest in Africa and 2nd longest in the world), 70m long canopy walkway, waterpark, a 9-hole golf course and 300-seat capacity international conference centre, among many others.
The Cross River State government is in the process of upgrading facilities at the Bebi airstrip through the installation of Navigational facilities like runway lights, ILS and non directional beacon and DVOR/DME to co-locate with ILS, which will make it one of the safest and best equipped airports in the country.