The popular patriotic adage “Think of what you can do for your country and not what your country can do for you” became the mannerism that mesmerised the audience at the centenary edition of the Abuja Bantaba, as it drew stakeholders and tourism enthusiasts from the public and private sectors to the Ladi Kwali Hall of Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja.
Abuja Bantaba was launched in 2011 by the organisers of the only and biggest travel expo in Africa, Akwaaba African Travel Market (AfTM) to promote and showcase the tourism, travel and allied business of the continent’s rich potentials to the world.
In its fourth edition, which coincided with the centenary celebration of Nigeria, brought courage, hope and aspirations to genuine stakeholders who saw reasons for domestic tourism as not only a must promoted, but also developed and sustained for the economic relevance of the tourism industry and players.
The event went further to add spice to its usual decorum of long hours of speed-dating and B2B structure to a strategic-free-for-all presentation time limit to double the intensity each travel, hospitality allied business sellers to potential buyers and trip advisers and vendors.
With newer features that added value to the centenary edition, the speed-dating arena was on hand with different travel and tourism representatives dishing out first class information and updates of brand products and services ditto new destinations added to their list of offers.
Playing the market square for Africa tourism platform, Bantaba as a Nigeria only B2B forum was said to be a springboard for not only Nigeria market to thrive, but also to boost and showcase Africa’s rich tourism potentialities for economic gains.
Prominent at the 2014 Bantaba were representatives from South Africa, Ghana and Dubai with South African Airways, Royal Senchi Resort and Emirates Airline giving audience at the Ladi Kwali Hall a milestone on their improved services and products to serve Nigerian travellers and hospitality seekers better.
Others are ELPAZIO Limited, National Agency Nigerian Travel Association (NANTA), Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) and Hospitality Owners Forum Abuja (HOFA), Stayup Aviation Institute of Technology among others.
This year’s edition that came in different session had the speed-dating platform in the early part of the evening of Friday, April 25, 2014, which later ushered in the centenary awards ceremony that recognised legends (living and dead) in the Tourism and Travel industry in Nigeria.
The event was one of a kind in that it attracted an ovation from the participants which included the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke who throng the hall with high powered delegation together with the winner of the 2013 Carnival Calabar band, Masta Blasta that pep up the night with their presentation.
In addition, the Governor of Delta State was also represented by a delegation led by the Commissioner for Information Chike Ogeah.
Others include the newly appointed Minister of Land, Housing and Urban develoment Mrs Akon Etim Eyakenyi, members of the National Assembly, captains of industries, tourism agencies and heads of parastatals.
Although, prominent public stakeholders (Chief Edem Duke, Mrs Sally Mbanefo and Munzali Dantata), who are statutory event hosts were absent.
However their absence was not felt as some of their directors and staffs stood in the gap.
The award ceremony honoured 100 personalities who had in their chosen careers left footprint in the sand of tourism in Nigeria. The award recognised different categories of
awardees. First, the Legend of travels went to the pioneers in tourism development and promotion in Nigeria, late CPL Audu Bako, Princess Stella Oduah, Senator Imoke and others.
The personality and pioneer award went to former Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, Goodie Ibru, Capt. Chinyere Kalu, Chris Azu Aligbe, Wale Ojo-Lanre, Ahmed Ojuolape, Mohammed Sheriff, Nkereuwen Onung, Alhaji Aminu Agoha, Munzali Dantata, Alhaji Adebayo Salami, Kenneth Oudah among others.
In his opening remarks, the organiser of Abuja Bantaba and Publisher of ATQ magazine, Mr Ikechi Uko, commended all and sundry for making the event, which he described as a patriotic gathering to encourage and celebrate pioneers in the tourism industry a success.
According to Uko, “We are here today for the centenary edition of Bantaba and in Abuja, I give credit to two airlines; South African Airways and Emirate Airline because they felt there a need for them to have offers for people in the Federal Capital Territory to ease travellers of pressure.
Uko who said this year’s Bantaba was different commended the Governors of Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Ekiti States and others who have continued to build sustainable platform for tourism to thrive.
He acknowledged the private sector players who happened to be the major drivers of the industry, commending them for their contribution and investment to promote and sustain practical tourism in Nigeria.
“Tourism from records has played pivotal role in most economies of the world and if it collapses, the economy suffers. Therefore, in our little way, we are recognising those forgotten pioneers who have given tourism a practical platform.”
Uko, however commended the NANTA, NATOP and HOFA for their strong support for the tourism industry as they played sensitive role attracting investors to Nigeria through their activities.
For the Minister of Land, Housing and Urban Development Mrs Akon Etim Eyakenyi, “tourism is the life wire of every economy, especially the transport, travels and the hospitality sector because without it, things would be difficult to thrive in any economy.
“In this regard, I will say tourism is not an orphan, but what is required of us is to face the promotion and development of tourism squarely.”
The Minister lauded the good works Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Dr Godswill Akpabio, has put in place to promote tourism thereby encouraged others to do the same.
For the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Imoke, who gave the audience a spice of the Carnival Calabar, said the tourism industry needed a strong Federal Government practical policy and structure to support the genuine commitment of state with good tourism initiative and brand destination.
While appreciating the effort of the organiger of Bantaba and his team at giving tourism a preference in the scheme of things, Senator Imoke said that Cross River State is in the forefront of making tourism a mainstay and driver of the state’s economy.
“Having travelled out of Nigeria and seen the way people troupe out to countries that have less than one-third of our tourism potential, baffled me, but later found that their governments gave them a strong support in teams of policies, structures, marketing edge and promotion.
“However, we have what can make the world turn to Nigeria, if we get the same measure of attention nations that are enjoying tourism got from their governments”.