The Akwaaba African Travel Market has become a melting pot for travel, tourism organisations as well as airlines.
Akwaaba brings together government agencies and businesses from different nations in Africa and beyond. They meet in Lagos every year to showcase their businesses, set agenda and exchange contacts at a very flexible interactive environment.
Every year the meeting gets better and better and becomes more exciting.
The result of the meeting has remained invaluable because it boosts the business of exhibitors, presenters and it provides the rendezvous for countries like The Gambia, Uganda, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and many others to let the rest of Africa know the huge tourism destinations and other attractions they have in their countries.
At the 15th Akwaaba African Travel Market in 2019, held recently, the Caribbean came to show their African heritage and for them, it was nostalgic coming home.
Dubai Tourism took a large memorable section of the venue at Eko Hotel and Suites Convention Centre, where they attracted the endless stream of visitors and the Lagos state government, which has been successfully promoting its tourism sector, held visitors spellbound with its cultural exhibition.
On Tuesday during the Aviation Day a lot of brainstorming took place.
In a presentation by the Africa Airlines Association (AFRAA), Director of Government, Legal and Industry Affairs, Aaron Munetsi, got industry stakeholders to put on their thinking caps.
He explained challenges besetting air transport in Africa. These include the unwillingness of states to open their airspace to other African airlines and high charges levelled on airlines, which tend to discourage people from travelling. Because of this, the industry is not growing rapidly as it does in other regions.
The hard fact too, as he noted is that 80 per cent of passenger traffic is handled by foreign airlines or international carriers outside Africa. Munetsi regretted that African nations are yet to take advantage of Single African Air Travel Market (SAATM).
Presenting a paper on the, ‘Impact of Airport Development and Airlines on Tourism Growth,’ Munetsi noted that in comparison to Africa’s population of about 1.2 billion people, only insignificant percentage of this people travel by air because the region is yet to take advantage of its huge potential in tourism and internal trade, which could further inspire travelling by air.
He also disclosed that many countries in Africa record low passenger traffic, adding that only Morocco and South Africa could boast of high traffic in 2017 of over 10 million passengers, from tourism, which is still very low when compared to what the region should be getting when there is full cooperation among Africans and liberalisation of air transportation in the continent.
“During this period (2016-17), only Morocco and South Africa realised more than 10 million passenger traffic each.
“In terms of revenue for international tourism in 2016, Africa realised $36.2 billion and the top 10 table for 2017 tourism revenue shows that Morocco leads with $11.3 million while South Africa follows closely with $10.3 million but do you know how many passenger pass through Dubai in just a week?
“The reality is that we have a long way to go. Only 19 percent of African trade is done within Africa while we are trading away 81 per cent to foreigners, Africa should wake up or else, the European countries will continue to grow from what they take from here. “Now, it is not because we don’t have what it takes, it is because we don’t do what it takes, we have to embrace the change that is here, SAATM is the bedrock of African trade with each other, SAATM will help us; 26 countries have signed, we are looking forward to the day others will follow suit.
“It is sad today that only 16 countries in Africa have facilities for Visa on arrival, I don’t know why we should not open up our countries to enhance tourism, trade and revenue”, he said.
Speaking to THISDAY on the first day of the event, the Nigerian General Manager of Ethiopia Airlines, Firiehiwot Mekonnnen, said that the East African carrier has been partnering with Akwaaba over the years and has reaped immense benefit from the partnership.
“There are a lot of activities going on here, a lot of cultural exchange which is very interesting and important because we need that cultural exchange to boost our economy.
“So these are the kind of things that we need to promote in Africa.
Akwaaba is one of the platforms we always use to promote Ethiopia as a destination and as an airline. We are one of the major sponsors and on the Aviation Day; Ethiopian Airlines will host the dinner as Ethiopian Day. So people will enjoy the Ethiopian food, coffee ceremony,” she said.