The 12th Akwaaba African Travel Market, the annual leading travel event in West Africa held recently at the prestigious Eko Hotel Convention Centre in Lagos, once again reconfirmed the exhibition as the only trade event in the region that connects travel buyers, suppliers and provides a key forum to shape the future of the industry through networking and education.
The 3-Day event was officially declared opened by the Zimbabwe Deputy Minister, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Annastacia Ndhlouv with Rwanda High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Stanislas Kamanzi, President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agents (NANTA), Bankole Bernard; Manager, Dubai Tourism, Mr. Talal Alsuwaidi; Hajia Fatima Gabati and Official of Dubai Immigration, Mr. Omror Alal in attendance.
Akwaaba high points on the opening day was the “Africa Travel Awards and Dinner organised to award the top travel companies in West Africa for excellence in service delivery.
The Africa Travel Awards ceremony also served as an exciting way to thrills the guests and award recipients with enterprising dancing performance of the Carnival Calabar dancers as a Pre-Carnival Party for Cross River State to introduce the 2016 Carnival Calabar, the biggest street party coming up in December.
The award night hosted popular comedians, dancers, singers and ECOWAS Fashion models who displayed to the admiration of the guests.
Ethiopian Airlines, South African Tourism, Kenya Tourism Board were among the award recipients at the Africa Travel Awards while the star award of Best Tourism Minister was given to the Zimbabwe Minister of Tourism, Dr. Walter Nzembi.
Kick starting the second day of Akwaaba termed “Aviation Day” was the African Travel & Tourism Conference where distinguished speakers x-rayed and fashioned out the strategies of redeeming the African countries from the lingering aviation crisis.
The first session of the conference was anchored by the veteran travel expert, Mr. Femi Adefope. He moderated during the presentations of the aviation experts who are the speakers and panelists.
The former Managing Director/CEO, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun highlighted he genesis of the aviation problems on his papers “State of Aviation in Africa” and championed his opinions on the way out.
The second session have the speaker as Dr. Walter Nzembi, Tourism Minister, Zimbabwe talked on “State of Tourism in Africa”. Represented by Honourable Anastarcia Ndhlouv, Deputy Tourism Minister for Zimbabwe for his presentation, Dr. Nzembi said travel and tourism is the new frontier that plays a critical role in the economy world today.
In her paper, the major challenges affecting the growth of tourism in Africa was highlighted as Underdeveloped Tourism Infrastructure; Poor Intra-African Air Connectivity, Absence of Strategically-Integrated Product Development and Visa restrictions.
Simultaneously, visitors trouped to the exhibition stands during the African Travel & Tourism conference meeting and networking with various exhibitors from Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Benin Republic, Namibia, Liberia, Nigeria and Dubai Tourism.
The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) exhibited at the upper chamber of the exhibition hall with Uganda Tourism Board, Kenya Tourism Board and Rwanda Tourism Board respectively.
Dubai Tourism on their second consecutive exhibition at Akwaaba Travel Market showcased the latest additions to the entertainment destinations and shopping experiences for prospective African travellers to Dubai.
Ten partners, including Emirates Airlines, Emirates Holidays, IMG Worlds of Adventure, North Tours, Red Apple Middle East Tourism, Time Hotels, Hilton Hotels, All In One Tourism, Alpha Tours, Arabian Falcon Holidays joined Dubai Tourism at their stand at the event.
Stella Obinwa, regional director Africa for Dubai Tourism earlier said: “Dubai continues to establish itself as a destination of choice for travellers from the African continent, holding particular appeal amongst those looking for wholesome family fun, incredible shopping deals and year-long entertainment”.
Obinwa assured that Akwaaba event is an avenue of showcasing Dubai newest additions to its family entertainment and shopping venues sets to welcome visitors from around the globe.
“We are also bolstering our commitment to further enhance the shopping experiences in Dubai which include the upcoming Dubai Shopping Festival from December 26 to January 31” Obinwa added.
Akwaaba, flying on the positive revelations of previous exhibitors at the past travel exhibitions necessitated the opportunity to welcomed new comers at this year event.
Among the new entrants at Akwaaba 2016 that showcased their tourism potentials as a must-visit destination are Namibia; Benin Republic; Liberia and Uganda.
All the first time exhibitors witnessed heaved of visitors at their various stands, seeking to know more about their tourism potentials. To reciprocate, various souvenirs were also given to the visitors throughout the three-day events.
Uganda utilised on the opportunity of their debut to organised a forum for the celebration of Uganda Day.
The Ugandan High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Nelson Ocheger captivating presentation at the forum was an eye opener to the participants, travel agents and tour operators on the country exotic tourist attractions of the country.
The last day tagged “Hospitality Day” was another educative forum as the concluding part of the “African Travel & Tourism Conference”.
The Organiser, Akwaaba African Travel Market, Mr Ikechi Uko, welcomed the participants to the forum as the moderator reiterated that the hospitality forum will be another exciting and educative platform on the latest trends in the industry.
The participants, well satisfied after the presentations applauded the members of the panelists; Aduke Gomez,former Senior Special Assistant/Secretary, Lagos State Hotel Licensing Authority; Hon. Sam Ogbu-Nwobodo, Commissioner, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Enugu State and Ayokunnu Olowoporoku, Executive Director, Hotel Support Management Company.
The Commissioner, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Enugu State, Hon. Sam Ogbu-Nwobodo lauded the initiative of the organiser of Akwaaba, Mr. Ikechi Uko and commended the introduction of the African Travel & Tourism Conference as a good platform to reveal Enugu state government hospitality vision.
The climax of the Akwaaba closing ceremony was the raffle draws held where eight people from different travel organisations won various prizes.
The lucky winner of the British Airways free Business Class (Club World Class) return ticket from Nigeria to London is Favour Fadahunsi, MD/CEO of Tri-Global travels.
The winners of the Kenya Tourism Board holiday packages are Adeyemi Adesuwa of St. Kingscrown Travels & Tours Ltd won a holiday package for 2 nights for two people at Great Rift Valley Lodge in Nairobi; Collins Udolu of Jedidah Promotions, Ghana, won a package for 3 nights for two people in Nairobi and Ayodele Folakemi of Newrate Travels and Tours Ltd won 3 Nights for two at Voyager Beach Resort Mombasa respectively.
Also, Foluke Abodunrin of Folabod Travels & Tours, Musa Adelaja of Musampa Travels & Tours Limited and Modupe Albert of Aviation Logistics won a ticket to visit one of the new Dubai parks and resort on a Royal Caribbean Cruise by Tour Brokers International.
In her remarks, General Manager, M & J Travel, Ghana, Augustina Adobea described her experience at Akwaaba as unforgettable. She hinted that Akwaaba has really given her a wonderful opportunity to network with travel buyers and with indepth knowledge about Nigeria which she was visiting for the first time.
“I must confess, my participation at Akwaaba and as a first time visitor to Nigeria is quite memorable while I look forward to another visit to the beautiful and friendly city of Lagos”, Augustina said.
Prominent among the exhibitors at Akwaaba African Travel Market 2016 are South African Tourism; South African Airways; AUN Hotel; Kenya Airways; 24X7 Rooms.Com; Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation; Remlords Tours; RwandAir, Rwanda Tourism Board, Ethiopian Airlines; De Edge Hotel and Spectranet.