By Fola Akintomide
The effect of the Ebola Virus disease on the tourism industry, was again brought to the fore as the 10th African Travel Market, AKWAABA 2014, recorded its lowest turnout in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, following the withdrawal of 15 countries from this year’s tourism and trade exhibition, the largest in West Africa’s western.
While the world health body, WHO officially declared Nigeria ‘Ebola-Free’ on October 20, three days to the event, there remains grave concerns about the worsening situation as the deadly virus continues to spread in various countries within the region.
Speaking to Happenings on Tuesday, at the Convention Centre, Eko Hotels & Suites, venue of the event, Mr. Ikechi Uko a leading Nigerian tourism promoter and organizer of AKWAABA, lamented the devastation of the Ebola virus outbreak on the tourism industry, disclosing that only 20% of the expected delegates from about 20 countries participated.
“Ebola is the worse tragedy that has befallen West Africa in the last 100 years and the tourism industry has suffered majorly. We had to use only a part of the hall as 80% of those expected did not attend – a total of 15 countries withdrew due to the Ebola outbreak,” he said.
Uko a seasoned tourism journalist and consultant noted that the airline business has been the worse hit by the outbreak of Ebola: “The airline situation is worse than that of the hotels. Nobody is traveling.”
According to him, Nigeria’s ‘Ebola-Free’ status came as good news but it made very little impact on attendance, given the short timing, as
But it was not all gloomy at the fair which was declared open on Sunday, by the Minister of Land, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs Akon Eyakenyi.
Uko who spoke at the award and wine tasting ceremony said despite the withdrawal of a significant number of partcipating countries, the event recorded a great success going by the brands that turned out for the exhibition from within and outside the country, and dignitaries present.
He noted that the exhibitors had stood by the vision that AKWAABA is “supposed to achieve.”
One of such corporate organizations that kept the vision was the RwandAir which won the “Best Stand” at the tourism and trade event.
Head of RwandAir Sales, Marketing and Strategy, Mr. Johnson Ivare said: “We are a new in Nigeria with only 3 years in this business environment. But we believed we could tap into AKWAABA’s 10 years of rich experience and opportunity to showcase our brand, induce patronage, and communicate our product to attract prospects. We decided we must not take such an opportunity for granted.”
Nigeria’s fashionable and ‘culture-centric’ lawmaker, Senator Ita Giwa, leading her group (Carnival Calabar Bands Association), received the award for Best Event in West Africa.
Other award recipients include;
- Obudu Mountain Resort – Best Resort in West Africa.
- La Campagne Beach Resort – Best Beach Resort in West-Africa
- Arik Airline – The Best Airline in West-Africa
- Asky Airlines – Best Short Haul Airline in West-Africa
- Bole Airport Addis Ababa – Most passenger friendly airport (East Africa)
- Cape Town Airport – Most Passenger Friendly Airport (Southern Africa)
- Ethiopian Airlines – Best African Airline to West Africa
- Ethiopian Airlines – African Airline of the Year (2014)
- South African Tourism – Best tourism marketing agency
- Danny Kioupouroglou – Hotel Manager of the Year West Africa
The highlight of this year’s event was the “Hotel Innovation and Hospital Day”, aimed at providing a cutting edge strategy for hotel managers, through the use of Social Media, introduction to the latest software data services and applications for best service delivery.
The wine tasting opportunity is the latest addition to the series of activities at the international travel fair.