Lessons, Deals and Gifts at Akwaaba 2016

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Demola Ojo

Last week, the twelfth edition of the annual Akwaaba African Travel Market was held over three days at the Eko Convention Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. Participation from across the African continent, as well as from Dubai Tourism – which led a team of 10 travel and hospitality organisations from the Emirate – was testament to the standing of West Africa’s premier tourism exhibition, and it’s effectiveness in stimulating travel trade for participants.

The pan-African nature of Akwaaba was evident right from the start. The exhibition was formally opened by Deputy Minister of Tourism and Hospitality of Zimbabwe, AnnastaciaNdlouv.

There were exhibitors from across the across the continent. Traditional heavyweights, South Africa, again showed the way forward in marketing a nation’s assets through South African Tourism and South African Airways. The former won the best African stand at the event. It was a deserved accolade considering the fact that they went to great lengths to renew the backdrop of their stand for each of the three days they showcased their country.

Kenya were also back to exhibit and lure Nigerians to their revived tourism industry, Ethiopia were represented through Africa’s leading and most profitable airline, Ethiopian Airlines while Namibia were present through its High Commission. Rwanda also made their presence felt while Uganda made a first appearance.

Tour operators and travel agents from across West Africa were also well-represented. The Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) and the Tour Operators Union of Ghana (TOUGHA) were all present in full force, led by high powered delegations. They were complemented by tour operators and travel agents from Benin Republic and Liberia.

In recognition of Akwaaba’s increasing appeal, a team from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing – led by MrTalal Al Suwaidi – played a prominent role. Participating at a second successive Akwaaba, Dubai Tourism’s extensive and colourful stand housed partners across hospitality, family entertainment, airlines and immigration.

However, a cursory glance at the participants at this year’s event revealed an absence of tourism boards from within the country. Cross River State made its presence felt at the Traveller’s Night & Gala Dinner while the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) exhibited on the second and third days of the travel fair. Besides these two bodies, all other Nigerian representation was non-governmental.

It is especially curious, considering the present state of the Nigerian economy, which is suffering due to its overdependence on oil. The government has been talking diversification, with tourism being talked-up as one of the sectors that can help generate both foreign exchange and job opportunities. From the evidence visible at Akwaaba, the various Nigerian governments are only paying lip-service to tourism being an alternative way to generate revenue.

Apart from the exhibitions, there were seminars concentrating on pertinent issues in African travel trade.

On Aviation Day at Akwaaba, experts in the aviation industry called for a total concession of Nigerian airports.

While speaking on the topic, State of Aviation in Africa, ChikeOgeah, vice chairman, Sachol, said Nigerian airports need to be upgraded to modern international standards. He explained that the best way to make airports in the country work optimally is for them to be privatised.

“It is not in our generation that government will get it right for airports to work. Concession or privatisation is the way forward,” said Ogeah. He was supported by various other speakers.
Akwaaba was also an opportunity for South African Tourism signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NATOP, NANTA and TOUGHA.

The MoU is aimed at promoting trade relations among the bodies. It was signed on behalf of NANTA by the president, Mr. Bankole Bernard, the president of NATOP, Mr. NkereuwemOnung, the president of TOUGHA, Nancy Sam, and the regional manager West African of South African Tourism, MrLehlohonoloPitso.

The signing of the MoU underscores the importance South African Tourism places on the West African market, especially Nigeria and Ghana.

In recent years, South African Tourism has been consistently engaging with travel agencies and tour operators in both countries with the aim of forging a closer working relationship.

This consistent marketing drive, engagements with the trade partners has been made possible through regular road shows and trade workshops in cities like Accra, Kumasi, Port-Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria.

To cap an enlightening event, there was a raffle where exciting prizes were won. They include a return business class ticket to London on British Airways, Caribbean cruise tickets, multiple night stays at various resorts in Kenya and many more. This wasn’t limited to the main event at the Eko Convention Centre though.

Dubai Tourism reaffirmed i’s commitment to the Nigerian market by also giving out numerous prizes at an event at the Ikoyi Westwood Hotel on the last day of Akwaaba. It meant so many would have great memories of another hugely successful travel exhibition.