By Demola Ojo
West Africa’s biggest tourism expo, the Akwaaba Africa Travel Market, kicks off today in Lagos till Tuesday, September 24. The 15th edition of the annual travel fair which will draw delegates from more than 20 countries, promises numerous highlights, including the participation of the Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, as the official special guest.
The monarch is the traditional ruler of the Nigerian town globally recognised as the cradle of the Yoruba people, and famous for its ancient and naturalistic bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures, dating back to between 1200 AD.
Also expected at the exhibition to be held at the Eko Hotel & Suites is the chairman senate committee on tourism, Senator Rochas Okorocha, as well as the Director General of the National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe.
From further afield in Africa, Ghana’s Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Ziblim Barry Iddi will lead the Ghanaian Tourism delegation, while Hon State Minister for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi, will be leading a Ugandan Tourism delegation to Lagos.
From outside the continent are representatives of Caribbean tourism organisations yo participate in the African Tourism Diaspora Conference held to mark 400 since the first African slaves arrived America in 1619.
There is also a high-powered team from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) led by CEO Issam Kazim and which will include 22 frontline companies from the Arab emirate.
Dubai, one of the most attractive destinations for Nigerians, will tomorrow host a dedicated breakfast meeting with the entire travel trade community tagged “A Glimpse of Dubai.”
Some of the organisations from Dubai expected to exhibit and interface with visitors include; Emaar Hospitality Group, The Ritz Carlton Dubai, Palazzo Versace Hotel, Red Apple Middle East Tourism, Royal Arabian Destination Management, W Hotel Palm Jumeirah, Wings Tours Gulf, Copthorne Hotel, Expo 2020, the Jumeirah Group and a host of others.
Akwaaba will also witness the third edition of the famous Jollof rice war today, which is also as designated as Uganda Day. Monday will start with Dubai Day, followed by Gambia Day, before the African Diaspora Tourism Conference spotlights the year of return.
Recipients of the Africa Travel 100 Global Tourism personalities Awards will be recognised at the conference before Ethiopia Day, Aviation Day and Africa Youth Tourism session take centre stage on Tuesday.
Akwaaba is an avenue for travellers, airlines, hotels, restaurants, tour operators, travel agents, state tourism boards, foreign trade and other tourism sectors to network.
Some of the countries to be represented this year include Ghana, Benin, Togo, The Gambia, Nigeria, Botswana, Namibia, Tunisia, Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, the emirate of Dubai and Caribbean tourism organizations.