Governor Liyel Imoke
Experience Cross River is a tourism product packaged by private hotels association to woo tourists to the state at the most cost effective price for the most satisfactory services, writes Jude Okwe in Calabar
Accelerated tourism growth is a consistent theme in Cross River State. Though the state’s income from tourism is yet to meaningfully impact the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profile of the government, there is no slowing down in laying the foundation for a prosperous economy anchored on tourism in a state that has many tourist spots and over 4,000 hotel rooms.
Cross River State remains a prospective tourism hub even though the road to the Promised Land is still far off. This requires change, innovations, new ways of doing business, a novel attitude, how and what to do to woo tourists with. Experience Cross River is out to achieve this. It is tourism package seeking to make the state a must -visit at the cheapest rate after easily accessing the facilities on offer through the internet. Members of the Private Hotels Association in the state are powering this product which offers travels, tours, events, hotels and car hire services.
First time visitors to Cross River State are usually impressed by something that its citizens now take for granted- the pervasive signs of tourism development and cleanliness. Rural communities in the state are also undergoing construction works while the urban centres are clogged with cars and booming with businesses- all signs of development. But how to get tourists in their large numbers to the state all year round has remained a problem hence the launch of this product.
Zero Tolerance to Crime
To local and international tourists uncertain of the peace of Nigeria, Cross River remains the only place they can still find a special amalgam of innocence and relaxation. The state has zero tolerance for crime and this explains its lowest crime rate in the country. Through the provision of infrastructure to some tourist sites and comprehensive face lift of such sites, the world today is fully in love with Cross River. Politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, fun-seekers, etc vie for invitation to attend conferences or seminar in Calabar and other towns. Tourism to the state has gone from a privilege to a fad. Indeed, in the situation ethics of economic diversification, many opportunities abound for investment. Tourism is one of them.
Experience Cross Rivers
Tourism development has since 2000 been a recurring project in the annual budget of the state government. Under the administration of Mr. Donald Duke, the state got a bond of N4.6 billion from the capital market to develop the Obudu Ranch Resort and Marina Beach Resort in Calabar. Many tourist sites in the state are yet to enjoy similar turnarounds though the Liyel Imoke administration is doing something in that direction.
Though the civil service economy of the state has been worrisome to both the public and private sectors, the private sector which drives the economy has decided to take its destiny in its own hands. This explains why the hotels association in the state has become innovative all in a bid to better the economy of the state. To this end, it is united in its goal of attracting more tourists to the state in a healthy competition.
The association in a press release in Calabar explained that “one of Africa’s best destinations, Cross River State, now presents an opportunity to reach more people in the world to showcase the best of attractions, accommodation and transport with a click of the mouse. Already, the state is the site of the one of Africa’s biggest street party, the Carnival Calabar, and the Obudu Mountain Resort, which is one of the Seven Wonders of Nigeria.
“Most Nigerians now make their bookings online. With about two million blackberry smart phones in Nigeria, it is believed that 50% of all travellers use the smart phones for easy and convenient bookings and enquiries.
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“It will also provide full vacation and holiday packages as well as handle all events planning and implementation. This is the only platform that offers transport, tours, hotel and airline booking that is fashioned on request to accommodate customers plan. You can make your trip and vacation cheaper by using the website as it offers unbelievable discount on rooms, tickets, transport and for all your vacation packages, honey moon packages etc including free airport transfers”.
The association said this product was similar to that of Wakanow, Aero Contractors etc which shows that the Nigerian market was large and sophisticated enough for such products but the difference lies in the fact that Cross River’s is a private sector initiative to up the ante on the patronage of tourist sites in the state. The internet site could also be accessed on facebook, google and other social media networks.
Ensuring Lasting Memories
Chairman of Hotels Association in the state, Mr. Charles Ogar, explained in an interview that Experience Cross River is all about travellers, tours, events, hotels, car hire and comfort. It seeks to ensure that everyone coming to Cross River for business and leisure comes in cheaper and leaves with long-lasting memories. This is one product that would increase the traffic of tourists to the state, Ogar who is also the chief executive officer of Pyramid Hotel, Calabar added.
“Experience Cross River is an exciting event. This is a product fully endorsed by the hotels association of the state. It’s going to be marketed vigorously, increase the number of heads on our hotel beds. The whole idea is to have affordable beds in all star tourism events in the state. It is also aimed at bringing people to our state and making them travel out with ease. We are going to be bringing in people on discounted rate under healthy competition,” he said.
A prominent member of the association and chief executive officer of Remlords Group, Mr. Nkereuwem Onun, maintained that since the Cross River State government has developed tourism under the economic principle of comparative advantage, everything has to be done to reap the investment. The association, he added, was taking the lead in ensuring that tourism works in the state because the sector by nature is private-sector driven.
“Experience Cross River is out to project the state and showcase its tourism potentials. You are going to get car hire at cheaper rate, hotel rooms cheap, air ticket to and from Calabar/Obudu Ranch Resort cheap etc. Already, two million people have made online booking to Experience Cross River. Through this initiative, we hope to have busy schedule in all tourist events of the state besides regular tours,” Onun said.
He is convinced that this initiative would make Cross River more accessible from any part of the globe noting that with this package one can easily access hotels in the state including facilities on offer and tourist sites. A package of this nature, he revealed, is needed on the internet including all the social media to enable people, tourists and businessmen/women to be in the know and make informed decisions.
“Experience Cross River will further bring to light the 7 Wonders of Nigeria of which the Obudu Ranch Resort is leading. It is one experience that would take you to the destination of your choice, make you experience the hospitality of the people and leave you with unforgettable memories.
“This is a private sector approach to promoting tourism in Cross River State. We are now in the age of sustainable approach. We as tour operators have to illuminate the package. The coming together of tourism practitioners in Cross River would make the management of tourism in the state easier. It is a great approach which the association has agreed to leverage on,” Onun stated.
Eliminating Middle Men
Project Director of the 7 Wonders of Nigeria and consultant to the Hotel Association, Mr. Ikechi Uko, who spoke during the launch of the product in Calabar, said it was difficult for Nigerians to come to Cross River because the state is expensive. This, he revealed, informed the resolve to devise ways of reducing the cost of travelling to the state and hotel accommodation. The product, he added, would help to eliminate dealings with middle men who do exploit tourists.
“After some years of helping 30 million Nigerians travel abroad, we have devised ways of making Nigerians travel within. This informed the 7 Wonders of Nigeria discovery. We want to make our 7 sites traveller-friendly. $1.5billion was spent by Nigerians last year on air ticket abroad. This has forced Etihad and other foreign airlines to open Nigerian routes. Let’s patronise our own,” he said.
Uko advised hoteliers in the state to close ranks and negotiate with airlines flying to Calabar, and how to increase the number of airlines to the state. “Risk owners need to get involved in flight access. Risk owners should solve flight problems because their customers are not in Calabar but outside. Nigerians are the largest travellers in Africa. Why is it that they don’t travel within the country? Why do people come to Calabar only during the carnival and not all –year-round?
“The Gambians have seen their hotel association as a brand. The best hotel environment in West Africa is in the Gambia. Workers in Gambian hotels know why they are working there. Hoteliers in Calabar should not see themselves as competitors. There is no need to price yourselves out of the market. Do peer review regularly, standardise your services/products and do the right thing always. Know your high and low season and charge accordingly. Know also when to introduce low fees for late travelers to your city,” he said.