17th Akwaaba African Travel Market: Sustaining the tempo of travel expo in Africa despite Covid 19 pandemic

Photo Caption:
L-R: President, Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), Onung Nkereuwew;Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) Otunba Segun Runsewe; Organizer, Akwaaba Africa Travel Market 2021, Ikechi Uko; Publisher, Guardian Newspapers, Mrs. Maiden Ibru; Chairman, GHI Assets Limited, Olufemi Adefop;and CEO Merit Travels, Cornelia Lewis,during the opening ceremony of Akwaaba Travel in Lagos…yesterday.

The 17th Akwaaba African Travel Market sustained the tempo of travel and tourism expo in Africa despite devastating impact of Covid 19 Pandemic especially on the tourism sector.

Akwaaba African Travel Market has always been a reference point in the travel and tourism business in West Africa and Africa in general, therefore, sustaining the tempo of the event at this critical time of pandemic is a plus for the organisers and for the industry.

Players in the industry always look forward to the big expo with much expectations as a networking platform that has impacted positively on many businesses, including the high level travel and tourism intellectual discourse which has become the key features of the event.

The 17th edition of Akwaaba African Travel Market recorded a huge success in every aspect despite the limiting effect of Covid 19 Pandemic which made the organiser to reduce the event to two days instead of the usual three days.
It was a well attended expo, though scaled down because of covid 19, it brought together the players in the travel and tourism business to network, brainstorm on different issues affecting the industry.

It was the first Akwaaba Travel Market with physical attendance after Covid 19 lockdown which made the 2020 event a virtual one.

The expo did not disappoint in any way despite the ravaging effect of Covid 19 pandemic, it brought together the best of the travel and tourism community who have made the West African number one travel expo a must attend event.
Speaking on the Role of the media in Tourism Development at the expo, Lady Maiden Alex Ibru, Chairman and Publisher of The Guardian media Group who was the special guest of honour stated that tourism is the mainstay of the economic foundations of several African countries.

Mrs Ibru stated that It is a veritable instrument for economic growth, development and job creation globally.

She observed that for tourism to thrive profitably and sustainably, the media plays a symbiotic role.

Ibru explained “That’s because it is the media which helps to inform decisions on tourist destinations with the materially significant publicity, it requires to engage the attention, interest and spending power of locals and international visitors.
That’s precisely because tourism catalyzes demand for accommodation, financial services and financial inclusion, telecommunication and transportation. Why? Tourists need places to live; naira, cedis, dollars to spend; calling cards to ring their loved ones locally and abroad, and they must move to point A to point B. Naturally, all these variables stimulate direct and local employment. Just consider these World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) statistics; tourism is responsible for 238 million (8.8percent) jobs globally; $6.6 trillion (9.1percent) of the world’s GDP; $ 652 billion (4.5percent) of the global investment, pre-pandemic”.

She pointed out that, it is not only rosy and perfect because In Sub-Saharan Africa, there’s the heightened insurgency occasioned by ISWAP, Boko Haram and other virulent non-state actors.

She observed that COVID19 remains a constant challenge not only to tourism but, to the global socio-economic order because it has fragmented local and international travel; undermined tourists’ confidence; created dichotomy of vaccinated tourists (who can travel relatively freely}; and unvaccinated tourists (who can travel less freely).

Mrs Ibru noted that these are significant issues which are being addressed with variable degrees of success under the auspices of the World Health Organization, World Travel and Tourism Council and Inter-governmentally
She listed her genuine thoughts as follows:
1. Create compelling narratives of the Africa we desire.
Ibru stated that: “At the Guardian Media Group, we created a film, Eyimofe, which is not only showing across the world, but which has garnered international laurels most recently, at the Asian World Film Festival/Red Cross Courage to Dream Award 2021, Los Angeles, 2021”.

  1. To present factually accurate and balanced accounts of health and security challenges relative to tourism advice.
    That way she explained tht potential tourists can make informed choices.
  2. Highlight positive stories and images of tourism in sub-Saharan Africa and Africa more widely.
  3. Exploit a diverse range of media channels and platforms to reach changing and wider demographics on the key advantages of tourism as a vehicle of economic growth.
  4. Articulate the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) which seeks to eliminate trade barriers across intra-African trade. By extension, heightening the potential scaling-up of direct employment across the continent.
    The Publisher of the Guardian Newspapers noted that dare to dream Social media creates opportunities for capacity building and training courses in tourism development in this new age of artificial intelligence and flexible working practises.
  5. And to partner with think-tanks, media houses and universities to frame accredited courses in tourism development.

In his paper, the chairman board of Trustees of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, FTAN Chief Samuel Alabi titled: the limit of state regulations of tourism and hospitality business, stated that Nigeria run a federal system of government, which has conflicts of power in the exclusive legislative list.

He observed that there are areas of overlapping responsibilities called cuncurrent list.

Alabi explained that the federal and state government could legislate on any of the items with a caveat that in case of conflict, the federal laws prevails.

He said there are items not listed in the unnamed list called residual list that are left exclusively to the state government.

Alabi explained further that interstate tourism related activities cannot be regulated by a state government.

He cited the case of Alhaja Ayinke Aberuagba vs Attorney general of Ogun State where it was held concerning sales tax then thus:
“Management contract is an essential tool which various international management chains operate, run and administer the affairs of many hotels. This agreement is a registrable instrument and the national office for technology acquisition and promotion Acts Cap N62 laws of the federation”.
He explained that this law empowers NOTAP to regulate fees changeable by fixed chargeable by foreign managers in hotel industries as well as well as other technical services agent of other sector.

Alabi observed that in standardization and Grading, it will be dangerous if every state is left to categorise or grade hotels without comparing notes with other states.

He said: “In this regards, it is high time for states to willingly cede their prerogative. In this regards as done by West African countries as it relates to Certification of secondary schools.
He said tourism entails movement of persons as it is under the constitution.

Alabi emphasised that: “International tourists promoted in form of tourist Visa are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, in this regards, a state cannot regulate the numbers and quality of tourist visiting their states.
“Areas covered under the Free Trade Zone. A free trade zone is a category of the special economic zone in Nigeria. It is area where goods may be landed, manufactured, handled, stored peharps reconfigured and re exported under specific Custom regulation. Free Trade Zone is governed by the Nigeria Export processing Zone Act Cap N107 laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004”.

In her presentation also, Mrs. Abiola Adelana, Head, Tourism Department, Sterling Bank, stated that the bank has planned an initiative to help bridge the tourism gap and create more value for tour operators.

Adelana noted that the bank initiative would also help to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, as the tourism industry had been severely impacted by the pandemic.

She said from the first quarter of 2022, the bank will make loans to practitioners in the travel and tourism industries.

Adelana explained that: “Our main goal is to bridge the gap in the tourism space, so we have travel loans for tour operators and business owners in general; our goal is to add value for them.”

“We understand that most people are restricted due to a lack of funds; we are providing this loan at a very reasonable interest rate beginning in the first quarter of 2022” .

She explained further that: “We have studied the industry and identified the needs; we want to create a product around the purchase of travel buses and tour company owners will be able to pay in installments; this is among other products we have.”

She also revealed that the bank would be developing an e-commerce platform where industry players could join to gain access to millions of customers.

She observed that financial solutions to problems on the e-commerce platform could be offered on the platform.

In his presentation, Dr Raphael James, Director General – Center for Research gave a better perspectives to the Nigerian colonial history.

Dr James examined and analysed some historical sites in the country like the acclaimed building in Ikot Abasi which has been erroneously referred to as the the building where the amalgamation treaty of Northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria were signed.
Including other sites in the country where tourists are given conflicting information on their relevance.

The event was graced by the Director General for National Council for Art and Culture, NCAC, Otunba Segun Runsewe, president of FTAN, Nkereuwen Onung, president of National Association o Nigerian Travel Agencies, NANTA, Mrs Susan Akporiaye among others.

There were presentations from the Director General of the National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality, NIHOTOR, Alhaji Nura Kangiwa on hospitality training, the unsung biodiversity hotspot of Africa : Need for sustainability and tourism appeal by Professor Edem Eniang of the department of Forestry and Wildlife University of Uyo among others.

L-R: Chairman, GHI Assets Limited, Olufemi Adefope; LAgos State Commissioner of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf; Organizer, Akwaaba Africa Travel Market 2021, Ikechi Uko and Princess Adenike Adedoyin, during Lagos State day at  Akwaaba African Travel Market held  in Victoria Island, Lagos recently

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