ByÂ Jimoh Babatunde
IT was with pomp andpageantry that the banner was drawn on the celebration of the 30th edition of the World travel market yesterday in London with Nigeria dwarfing other African countries.
The World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry which was declared closed by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson , had in attendance more than 5,000 suppliers of travel and tourism products.
Speaking during the closing ceremony, Fiona Jeffery said 30 years ago when World Travel Market took its first tentative steps, it was a very different world. â€œAll of us felt privileged to be involved in an industry that was, without a shadow of a doubt, going places. Yes, inevitably, there were vast mountains to climb _ but in those early years, it was exciting and invigorating.
â€œTrue, the pace of change was swift and as the industry was changing, so were our customers. They were demanding new thrills and experiences; they wanted cheap flights and an ever growing array of choice and budget options. Weekends away, holidays in far flung places, luxury, special interest breaks, gap years, adventure, extreme sports, remote islands.
Even the over 50s, fitter and more active then ever before, were choosing trips to Antarctica and journeys around_the_world. There was an unquenchable thirst for everything new and different.â€
She added â€œAs the right to travel became almost a fundamental principle to millions across the world _ regardless of background, class, creed or culture _ World Travel Market played a crucial role. The event became the ever growing backdrop for increasing co_operation and integration between destinations and operators, conducting business and showcasing a widening range of services and products to a global marketplace.
â€œWe wanted to create an atmosphere that generated dynamism and energy while at the same time fostering flexibility, understanding and above all, trust. â€œthe Mayor of London Boris Johnson, used the occasion to emphasisÂ how â€œtravel and tourism can bring people together in shared appreciation and understanding.â€|
Referring to the 2012 Olympic Games, Johnson said, â€œIâ€™m optimistic about the impact of the Games. We want to use the Â£9.3 billion investment to boost bits of London that have been neglected for ages.
â€œWe want East London to lose its status as second_best,â€ he said. â€œWe want to make it a place where people want to go rather than a place people want to leave.â€
He said that the influx of tourists that the Games will bring represents an opportunity for the capital, saying it offers a chance â€œto improve the look and feel of London and help to look after the interests of our poorest citizens during the economic downturn.â€
He said the benefits of tourism will not just be short term but will benefit the city for years to come. â€œThis is an enormous infrastructure project,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a new Victorian age, the biggest change to Londonâ€™s infrastructure in more than 70 years.â€
Meanwhile, the Nigeriaâ€™s presence at this yearâ€™s exhibition will remain etched in minds of over 50,000 UK and overseas visitors to the premierÂ annual event.
Nigeriaâ€™s stand is an unprecedented bigger pavilion, which overshadowed many other countries withinÂ the African arena. The vibrant and colourful stand has the complement of a unique Nigerian nationalÂ dress code to deliverÂ a new tourist trade relation with would be investors in the tourism sector.
In an interview during the fair, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe saidÂ Nigeria showing at the 30th celebration of the World travel market is to let the world know that Nigeria has emerged as an important tourist destination. â€œNigeria has progressively acquired bigger space. We are taking our rightful position amongÂ the comity of nations. So, we came here to actively promote and market as a destination.