Come April 25, the Nigeria travel and tourism industry would be enlivened with a celebration of sort as the organisers of Abuja Bantaba are set to celebrate and honour various individuals, organizations and government agencies, thay have in different ways contributed to the development and growth of the industry. The list of honourees comprised 100 persons, which according to the organizers, is part of also focusing on the centenary anniversary of the country, held last month and the 100 years existence of the industry and those who have in the last one hundred years contributed to its nurturing in a pioneering capacity. Besides, Abuja Bantaba, which is a travel and tourism trade exhibition, would this year take on a new format as it is billed to hold at the Ladi Kwali Hall of Abuja Sheraton Hotel beginning from 4pm and ends at about 9pm with a dinner and the award ceremony headlining the five hours event. Head of the organizing team, ATQ, Mr. Ikechi Uko said about three hours would be devoted to speed dating and high level networking by the trade exhibitors.
According to him, the year’s event, the fourth in the series will be strictly on invitation and that it had been elevated to a professional level as all the invited guests and exhibitors from across the Africa continent are interested in networking and completing deals with their colleagues. Uko speaks more on the event, which is expected to attract key government officials:
We think that out of the hundred years of Nigeria, the economy growth has been aided mostly by the travel and tourism industry and that without the transport sector of this economy, it was not possible for the economy to have grown this far. But nobody has accorded the travel and tourism industry the respect that it needs and even the pioneers honoured. In the centenary list, only two people came from travel and tourism and they are Louis Ojukwu and Captain Chinyere Kalu. We felt that we deserved to have more people on that list. So what we are also trying to do Abuja Bantaba is to put together our history of travel and tourism. These are people that we want to recognise but it wouldn’t be an open ended list. It is a huge thing as we can’t remember or honour everybody, but we are looking out for some of these stars and innovators to honour.
Basically it is bringing together the best players in the travel industry. There will be the networking session and there will be the dinner session where we will recognise these people. We have invited some royal fathers to also join us. So this year’s Abuja Bantaba will be the best so far. We already have international hotel chains that are coming; we do our normal speed dating and thereafter we go into dinner. So it is an opportunity for any organisation in the industry because the biggest names in the industry will be there. So getting to know them is actually 50 percent of doing business.
Abuja has been a difficult venue for a professional travel event from my own experience and we tried to look around to see if anybody has really had any successful travel event in Abuja, and it hasn’t been so. First the environment is not set up professionally but we can see signs that things are changing and we give the credit for that to Hotel Owners Forum of Abuja (HOFA) and the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) who are our partners.
They are trying to create some level of professionalism in Abuja, which the industry will benefit from because without the organisation of this kind of thing it is difficult to do the marriage between travel and tourism. If you have a NANTA event and only travel agents and people in aviation turn up or you have a HOFA event and only hoteliers turn up you are never going to build a travel industry. A travel and tourism industry grows with the inter play of these various players and we are actually providing that platform and we expect that this year’s event would be better.
We haven’t met our expectations so far but having nurtured Akwabba for 10 years at least we understand what challenges that we are facing and we know how to get round it. We want to create a marketing platform for marketing tourism where buyers meet sellers in all the aspects. We don’t just want to have only airlines or only hotels. No, we want to bring the whole gamut of the industry together, which is what we have done half way with Akwabba. We want to create such a marketing platform and make it available for people in Abuja and the north who will not come to Lagos. We know that there are steps that you have to take – first to build credibility, build reputation and network, get the database to play with and things like that.
In Abuja, most of our clients want to meet only the professionals, and most of the professionals want to meet with their colleagues and want to meet the leaders of their industry; they also want to be in a place where things concerning their industry are being discussed. It is in the interest of the professionals to meet with these people and we are making it an elitist event.