By Jimoh Babatunde
Stakeholders in the African travel and tourism sector gathered in Lagos for three days to brainstorm on ways to promote and improve the travel tourism sector in West African at the annual Akwaaba African Travel Market which ended Tuesday.
Akwaaba, according to the organisers of the event is a popular word in the West Africa which translates to welcome in Ghana and Cote D’ Ivoire. Over the last nine years, Akwaaba has become the most important travel marketing platform in the region drawing 7,000 to 10,000 visitors from over 20 countries.
Declaring the exhibition open, the Minister of Land, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs. Akon Eyakenyi, said Akwaaba gives people in the tourism industry room to interact with hoteliers, travel and transport industry operators and to share their individual experiences.
While commending the efforts of the organiser, Mr. Ikechukwu Uko, the minister described Akwaaba as educative event which broadens people’s knowledge of the field of tourism. “It is equally an avenue for tourism investors to share ideas and proffer ways to develop tourism in Africa,” she said.
Mr. Ikechi Uko, the organizer of the exhibition said that the annual Akwaaba Tourism Fair has become an avenue to market Nigeria as a tourist destination. Uko noted that the country has enormous tourism potential that could be showcased to the international community.
“The fair has opened the door to Nigeria and Africa tourism market and served as a platform for exchange of cultural and tourism potentials among participating countries. “ Uko said.
Speaking on the low turn- out of foreign participants at this year’s fair, Mr. Ikechi Uko attributed it to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) that broke out last July. ”Out of over 15 countries that indicated their interests to participate in this year’s Akwaaba, only five countries were able to make it.
“The other countries were discouraged because of the outbreak of EVD in West Africa, “ he said. Uko urged the nation’s tourism practitioners to package and market domestic tourism destinations properly.
“Some practitioners do not have the fundamental knowledge of tourism; therefore, it has become difficult for them to market the destination.
He said the industry can only be developed when the nation’s tourism practitioners get it right, noting that Akwaaba fair would always serve as the best avenue for tourism practitioners to learn and understand the workings of the industry very well.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s tourism credentials as a leisure destination were put on full display at this year’s AKWAABA travel and trade show. During the three day show, the South African Tourism team pulled out all stops to actively promote South Africa’s unique value proposition as a leisure destination to the West African traveller and trade. Nigeria and South Africa have enjoyed a long-standing and fruitful partnership.
The two countries have many times spoken of their resolve to strengthen relations and work together for the long-term betterment of an economically vibrant African continent. Travel and tourism has been identified as a key driver in unbridling this potential.
South African Tourism used its time at AKWAABA to meet with the trade, present to them the destination’s value proposition and, most significantly, cement deals which will see South Africa’s destination offering bolstered in the consumer space.
Thulani Nzima, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of South African Tourism said the travel trade are a critical component to the work that they do.
“During AKWAABA we officially announced our partnership with the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) who will help boost tourist arrivals growth from Nigeria to South Africa by developing a range of packages to suit the Nigerian traveller.”
This partnership, he says, is a significant milestone and one which we believe will go far in reaffirming our commitment to bolstering the economic relations between Nigeria and South Africa. It will also give us access to a wide audience of discerning travellers who contribute significantly to South Africa’s growth.
“Africans should stand together and continue to educate the rest of the world. If we want to continue attracting business and welcoming tourists from all over the world, it is our responsibility as the collective African trade industry to manage these perceptions swiftly.”