Dr. Kerry Hall is the director of Tourism Development in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, Government of Barbados. She was among the few delegates from the Caribbean that for the first time attended the 15th edition of Akwaaba African Travel Market.
The 15 hours trip to Lagos via London from the Caribbean was described by her as not a bad trip. ‘‘Good trip and comfortable, not a bad one,’’ she said. Being her first time in Nigeria, she said she felt at home in the country, mingling with the people.
‘‘It was quite obvious that we share the same DNA and the similarity is obvious,’’ she disclosed, as she bashed in this strange discovery that her people and Nigerians and Africans in generally share the same ancestral.
While disclosing her happiness at this discovery, she, however, said that one of the shocking things for her about Lagos is the traffic, which she described as ‘‘an organised chaos.’
As for attending Akwaaba, she said that it was an exploratory one for them to see the opportunities that are available in the Nigerian and African markets and see how they can take advantage of it to market and promote their tourism, which for the Caribbean is the main stay of their economy.
Hall further disclosed that it has exposed them to African market: ‘‘It has given us the necessary exposure we need in African market. We need to keep talking to each other and educating one another because we share the same culture and character as well as organic growth.’’
As it relates to the travel trade, Hall commended the organisers of Akwaaba for the platform, which she said has been quite busy and vibrant. ‘‘It has been quite busy and vibrant because the people are quite impressed.
The Caribbean stand attracted quite a number of visitors, for which she said was impressed, declaring that they hope to follow up on it and see how they can turn it to tangible results for their destination.
Away from the exhibition, what perhaps is the most defining part of the trip for her and the team, was the visit to Badagry where they were exposed to the history and culture of their forebears taken away from the shores of African.
According to her: ‘‘The best experience was the visit to Badagry because that is my connection and root and every Caribbean coming to Nigeria will want to visit the place. It connected to the spirit of our ancestors.
‘‘The people that I have met so far are wonderful and pleasant and they are like Barbados people.’’ While on tourism, she said, ‘‘it pays the bills and that is what we really want to build on and looking for new ways to improve on it.’’
For her, the Caribbean tourism offers such an interesting mix for the people given their rich cultural heritage, which is a blend of their African, Irish, and British heritage. She described this a ‘‘good blend of the different nationalities.’’
Food, music, fashion and rich life style as well as sports and array of fantastic festivals are some of the other offers. As part of finding new ways to reach to the global market, particularly African market, she disclosed that plans are afoot to host the first ever Afro – Caribbean Festival in partnership with Kenya later in the year.
To ensure that the ties between Africans and the Caribbean is solidified, she advocated for a direct air link between both worlds. To get across to either end you have to endure a 15 hour trip either through Europe or America, a trip she described as ‘harrowing.