Restarting tourism in Nigeria: The NATOP new template

Nigerian Association of Tour Operators, NATOP Annual General Meeting, AGM offered the tourism body and other stakeholders the opportunity to share their new template for restarting tourism in the country after the ravaging impact of Covid 19 on the travel and tourism industry globally.

The 2021 AGM hosted by one of the leading tourism states in Nigeria, Akwa Ibom ushered in a new template well articulated by experienced tourism professionals.

Akwa Ibom state which is poised at promoting its tourism offering lashed on the AGM to drive tourist traffic to the state in view of its rich potential as a choice destination.

Speaking at the colourful AGM in Uyo recently, the guest speaker and former minister of Tourism and Creative Arts Ghana, Mrs. Catherine Afeku, under whose tenure Ghana initiated the highly successful Year of Return Project noted that the new template for tourism growth in Nigeria begins here at Uyo.

Sharing her experience in her paper presentation titled the Bridge of No Return, Mrs Afeku noted that Nigeria and Ghana were not spared from the plundering of its human resources and the horrors associated with the slave trade in that era in history.

She explained that their experiences and how the Ghana tourism template, which is still a work in progress was ignited with the commemoration of the Year of Return Programme from 2018 to 2019.

Afeku stated further that 400 years ago, African continent had the unpleasant episode of losing her sons and daughters to the controversial transatlantic slave trade.

According to her, Nigeria and Ghana were not spared from the plundering of their human resources and the horrors associated with it in that era in history.

Afeku pointed out that the Uyo experience should be very similar to that of the Ghanaian, in the sense that, all the dungeons had doors that was written on them, the Door of No Return.

The former minister maintained that this is basically telling our people who were being taken away at that time, that it was their last door to walk through unto boats on the seas to unknown lands.

“In the same vein you have the Bridge of No Return where your long-lost relatives crossed to go to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Use this bridge to welcome them home, just like we did in Ghana, not as tourists, not as visitors but as relatives who were long gone and returning and they are many. That was the turning point in the narrative. We recorded close to a million people of African descent who came home, the emphasis is on home. In an effort to restart tourism in Nigeria from here at Uyo, please make it a conscious effort to tap into the greatest source market in the world”.

She explained that the government of Ghana has an Immigration Policy specifically geared towards the relocation process for the Diaspora which is called Right of Abode, where people of African descent will by law apply for the right to reside in Ghana and gradually within the law work on the transition to naturalization.

“Citizenship Act, 2000 (Act 591) So again, the emphasis is on relatives not tourists who wish to move to Akwa Ibom will have the opportunity to do so to bring back their acquired skills, the investments and most importantly experience the sense of belonging that can only be felt on the continent starting from the bridge at Akwa Ibom, ” she said.

In his opening remarks, the chairman of NATOP Board of Trustees, BOT and acting president of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, FTAN, Mr Nkereuwem Onung noted that Akwa Ibom state will not remain the same in in terms of upsurge in tourism traffic after hosting the AGM.

Onung applauded the leadership excellence of the Akwa Ibom state government in making the state accessible by air and by land.

He said Akwa Ibom with its safe environment, good network of roads, fantastic cuisines has all it takes to be the preferred tourism destination.

The acting president of FTAN thanked the state government for hosting the AGM and opening its doors to tourism traffic which will follow the AGM.

Onung promised to always engage and consult with the Ministry of Information and Culture in moving the industry forward.

He restated the call of the tourism stakeholders for a stand alone Ministry of Tourism Art and Culture.

In her welcome address, the president of NATOP, Hajia Bilikisu Abdul, stated that NATOP uses its AGM to promote destinations.

She said all NATOP past destinations of choice have become viable location for Tourism in Nigeria.

NATOP president stated further that the association found Akwa Ibom state rich in Attractions and opportunities.
Akwa Ibom state is secure and has the Infrastructure that we need for Tourism to thrive. It has one of the best resorts in Nigeria; it has an airline and an airport, she said.

In the words of Hajia Bilikisu: “These two evils of Tourism are one of the reasons we have chosen Akwa Ibom State as our destination of choice for our AGM 2021. Akwa Ibom State is secure and has the infrastructure that we need for tourism to thrive. It has one of the best resorts in Nigeria; it has an airline and an airport”.

In his keynote address, the chief executive officer of Desicon Engineering Nigeria, a global
business man of great repute, Mr Akanimo Udofia noted that tourism is the future of Nigeria and Akwa Ibom state
He maintained that the constant growth in the globalization of health has led to rise of medical tourism
Udofia observed that the conference is important to all because it provides an opportunity for us to explore strategies and approaches that ensure we remain competitive and relevant on the stage of tourism .

Speaking on the AGM theme: Restarting Tourism in Nigeria, a new template, Udofia noted that the theme is particularly close to his heart as tourism is an area that he’s deeply passionate about because it represents one of the world ‘s leading service sectors that generates sustainable revenue as well as also being a major wealth and job creator.

Udofia pointed out that having traversed over 100 cities and 72 nations of the world on the course of business and leisure, Akwa Ibom state and Nigeria is truly blessed and positioned to be the centre of African tourism by attracting the entire world to come live, invest and enjoy.

In his keynote presentation, the organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Accra Weizo, Abuja Bantaba, Naija7 Wonders and others, Ambassador Ikechi Uko outlined the new template that can be worked upon to restart tourism in the country.

Uko gave the indices why Nigerians travel, where they go to and what the country should do to capitalise on them.

He said a total number of 559,430 passengers are international outbound Travellers from Nigeria from all Nigerian Airports carried by all Airlines in 2019.

He listed the top 15 destinations Nigerians Travelled to in 2019.

Among the destinations, he listed Dubai, UAE as number one with 29 percent of all travel from Nigeria, followed by London UK ranked as number two, followed by Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Guangzhou, China, Medina,Saudi Arabia, Johannesburg, South Africa on the sixth position, New York, USA on the 7th position, followed by Istanbul , Turkey on the 8th,
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the 9th and Houston USA on the 10th position.

Others include: 11, Delhi India
12. Nairobi,Kenya
13. Beirut,Lebanon
14. Toronto,Canada
15.Abu Dhabi,UAE

On the the percentage distribution by region, Uko stated that Middle East accounted for 43 percent, Europe account for 27percent, Africa 0.2 percent, America 10 percent and Asia 9percent.

He listed the major drivers of International Outbound Travel and Tourism in Nigeria to include:
Leisure/Shopping …60 percent, 2nd Religion, Visiting Friends and Relatives VFR
Religion, Trade
and Business

He noted that Nigeria has a blueprint for developing Tourism by using the Identified boosters.

The AGM featured beautiful cultural dances, an array and taste of sumptuous Akwa Ibom meals.

The event was concluded with a full day tour of the tourism sites in the state, which include the Lord Lugard residence where it is believed the amalgamation treaty of the northern and southern protectorates were signed in 1914, the Akwa Ibom slave route trade and the famous Point of No Return, visit to site of the massacre of 500 women protesting the planned taxation of women and the ill treatment of their husbands which was erroneously referred to as the Aba Women riot of 1929.

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