Akwaaba 2015 records impressive foreign participation
…Records high numbers of visitors
The 2015 edition of Akwaaba African Travel Market recorded an impressive foreign participation both from Africa and far beyond, including large numbers of visitors at the exhibition stands at the Eko Hotels and Suites in Lagos.
The event has continued to inspire confidence among the major players in the travel and tourism industry across the African continent by offering the major players in the industry a reputable platform to exhibit and market their tourism offerings to the world.
The annual travel expo has established itself as the dependable marketing platform for travel and tourism in Africa, by positioning as a force to reckon with in the area of travel investment, promotions and marketing.
Despite all the challenges posed by space constraints for exhibitors as a result of the impact of the Ebola Virus Disease on the 2014 edition, the 11th edition of the Travel Expo has continued to attract participants from far and near who came to explore the better marketing opportunities the Nigerian market has to offer and which the platform guarantees.
Despite the non challant altitude of the tourism authorities in the country in taking advantage of the platform to showcase Nigeria to the visiting countries on what she has to offer the world in tourism, the 11th Akwaaba African Travel Market lived much to be desired for all the participants and various visitors at all the stands with fantastic and energetic dance steps from the Rwanda dancers, the unique presentations by the key speakers, the inspiring participation of Dubai tourism and others .
The three-day event which began with a “Wedding Show’’, sponsored by Dubai Tourism in partnership with Emirates featured presentations on best weeding destinations and what they have in offer for their guests.
After the opening formalities, the show moved to Oriental Hotel where the theme for the 2015 Carnival Calabar was unveiled by the of the Cross River State Governor Benedict Ayade.
Governor Ayade who commended the organizers of Akwaaba for their zeal and passion in promoting tourism not only in Nigeria, but also in West Africa, described the event as the major event in Nigeria that brings local, regional and international tourism experts and stakeholders to the country.
Declaring the programme open, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Spain, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu, stated that tourism is a veritable platform for increasing Nigeria revenue generation.
Mrs. Ojukwu, who said Nigeria had beautiful things that could attract tourists to the country, added that the country could generate a lot of revenue from tourism, especially now that its economy would be diversified.
She advised the government to use tourism to generate revenue, create employment and increase foreign exchange earnings for economic growth.
Ojukwu observed that the number of local and foreign exhibitors at the event in spite security challenges is a sign of good things to come from Nigeria’s tourism industry.
At the exhibition, Samsung Electronics was at its best as it showcased its latest television set that was designed to boost hospitality business and facilitate excellence service delivery.
In his presentations at the travel expo, the head of the company in West-Africa, Mr. Anu-Rotimi said that the company’s smart signage television set was designed to assist both the small scale businesses and the hospitality industry.
He explained that the television set will enhance customers’ experience and also provide solutions to their hospitality enquiries, stressing that this latest technology would help business owners to generate revenues and communicate with their target customers.
The high point of his presentation was a raffle draw which elicited joy and happiness among the participants as three lucky winners went home with the new Samsung television which sells for over N100, 000 in the market, including the company’s Samsung Galaxy phones that were also given away.
Speaking also, Mr Aminu Agoha, President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies NANTA noted that the influx of foreigners would increase foreign exchange earnings and also boost patronage for the hospitality industry.
He called on the federal government to upgrade the historical and tourists sites across the country to meet foreign standard.
In his remarks at the aviation day, with the theme ‘National Carrier; Open Skies and Aviation in Africa’ the director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Capt Usman Muhtar who was the chairman of the 11th edition of Akwaaba: ‘Aviation Day’ stated that Open Skies is an international policy concept that brings about the liberalisation of the rules and regulations of the international aviation industry, especially commercial aviation in order to create a free market environment for the airline industry.
He said this was because as international competition grew, various degrees of protectionism became imminent amongst committee of nations.
Capt Usman disclosed that Nigeria Presently has Bilateral Air Service Agreement with eighty countries. Twenty nine of the BASA are active, sixteen in Africa, seven in Europe, five in Middle East / Asia and one in USA. Fifty one BASA’s are presently inactive because they are yet to commence operations.
Turkey, Belgium, Qatar and ten other countries renegotiated a BASA with Nigeria to pave way for direct flights between the countries on the principle of reciprocity by the designated airlines of these countries. While Oman, Curacao, Mauritania and twelve other countries are in the pipeline, NCAA DG stated.
Speaking also, the deputy managing director of Arik Air, Capt Ado Sanusi, said though he is not against establishing a national carrier for the country, but wondered if the country has the capacity to afford and maintain a national airline most especially now that the economy seems to be shaky.
Capt. Sanusi pointed out that national carrier was not part of the problems of the Nigerian aviation industry. He wondered why the country should be talking about national carrier when only recently Nigerian airports were tagged worst airports in the world.
According to him, “would it be proper to start a national carrier when we don’t have good facilities at our airports? What we do is to address the decaying infrastructure at our airports .Everybody will support national carrier if we can afford and maintain it. But the reality on the ground does not say so.”
Meanwhile, Mr Ikechi Uko, the organiser of Akwaaba Travel Expo has disclosed that no fewer than 200 foreigners visited the 2015 expo on the first two days as against 80 that did in 2014, adding that this year’s turnout of foreigners was impressive and this would further showcase Nigeria’s potential to the world.
Uko called on the federal government to make its visa policies more flexible to enable more countries participate in the expo.
Commenting on the participation of Dubai tourism at Akwaaba, Ms. Stella Obinwa the regional director for Africa at Dubai Tourism explained that Dubai Tourism was keen on engaging constantly with not only the trade in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, but also directly with the consumers.
In her words, “Over the next few weeks, we will be running a campaign that will bring in 200 Nigerians to the Emirate of Dubai on an all-expenses paid trip that will mark our direct engagement with the consumers in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. Furthermore, we will be working closely with tourism stakeholders from Dubai to further engage with these consumers in a number of ways that includes hosting an elaborate road-show all across Nigeria whereby we can inform these consumers what Dubai has to offer in terms of business and travel opportunities. Our desire is to inform and educate them on what they can see and do in Dubai.”
In the same vein, the manager of exhibitions and stakeholder relations from the Dubai Co-operation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Talal Al Suwaidi noted that that Dubai was a willing participant to travel and tourism not only in Nigeria, but all across Africa as it has continued to see an increase of tourists and business persons going to the emirate to relax with their families and/or to conduct business.
Similarly, the regional director Africa for the South African Tourism Board who led the South Africa tourism delegation, Evelyn Mahlaba noted that this year South Africa did register a marginal dip in arrivals, especially from Nigeria by 7 per cent. She however observed that there was a sharp rise in the spending of Nigerians visiting South Africa which rose by 27 per cent.
According to her; “Nigeria continues to be one of the most important source markets for South Africa, inspite of the challenges that we have faced over the past year, largely because Nigeria was in election mode and this sort of impacted on the number of arrivals into South Africa. However, the Nigerians visiting South Africa are travelling more within South Africa with an average stay being between 5 to 7 days.”
Kenya sent a much larger delegation this year which was led by Ms. Jacinta Nzioka, the director of marketing, at the Kenya Tourism Board.
The participation of Kenya underscored the importance of Nigeria as a source market for Kenya as it further seeks to enhance its growing popularity amongst Nigerian travelers, many of who travel through Nairobi to other destinations, mainly in the Middle East, India and China for trade, business, tourism and even medical travel.
For the exhibitors, there are so many reasons to always participate in Akwaaba for the greater network opportunity, for the visitors, the platform is a veritable tool to interface with the tourism stakeholders on unique tourism offerings and for the tour operators and stakeholders, is an opportunity to conclude deals, initiate new ones, and to the other visitors, it offers the opportunity to see something new and unique including other gift items to take away.
Dubai tourism used the opportune the expo offered to woo more Nigerians who are in love with the destination Dubai and all what it has to offer as one of their most favorite destination because of its amazing tourism attraction and shopping destinations.
The Rwandans made the event electrifying with their scintillating and energetic performance, Kenya Tourism Board, Tanzania and South Africa and The Gambia Tourism made the event memorable with the wonder participations.
The Gambia wowed Nigerians and other visitors at the event with its unique cuisine, (Benachine) and Wawo drink among others to the delight of the guests at the event.
At the end of the exhibition, Dubai walked away as the best global exhibitor polling the highest number of votes, South African Tourism won the best African exhibitor, while Samsung no doubt carted away the best Nigerian exhibitor not only based on its participation, but also on the eye popping and amazing give away prizes.
At the end of the three day exhibition, participants expressed satisfaction with this year’s exhibition. This was just as Mr. Uko promised that the 2016 edition of the event in October will accommodate for participants as more space will provide to accommodate all the participants.