By Omololu Olumuyiwa
The Centenary edition of Abuja Bantaba was highly fascinating with superb entertainment from Master Blasta band, the winner of last year edition of Calabar Carnival.
The Master Blasta band who mounted the stage in their colourful costumes at intervals thrilled the exhibitors, award recipients and visitors at the one- day speed dating and awards ceremony.
Abuja Bantaba, the event that broke the jinx of non-availability of travel trade in the northern part of the country about four years ago, as not only gone international but radiates the hope of placing Nigeria name on the tourism map in Africa and as a leading destination to tourists.
Welcoming the guests in his charismatic styles, the organizer of Abuja Bantaba and Akwaaba African Travel Market, Mr. Ikechi Uko reiterates the facts that travel industry is a key sector that as grown faster than any other sectors globally.
Ikechi disclosed that it is his clear vision that the travel industry must not be relegated in Nigeria and the essence of introducing ‘Abuja Bantaba’, the one-day speed dating show for the stakeholders, travel professionals and tourism enthusiasts to meet, network and also recognized some notable people with awards for their contributions towards the advancement of the tourism sector in Nigeria.
“As the world celebrates 100 years of aviation, this edition of Abuja Bantaba is also celebrating 100 years of growth and development of travel businesses in Nigeria. Therefore, we are using this year edition to also celebrate the pioneers, the exceptional innovators and the legends of the travel business in Nigeria, especially some of whom that have never been recognized before in Nigeria”, Ikechi said.
The tourism friendly Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke lauded the initiative behind Abuja Bantaba in addition to the annual Akwaaba African Travel Market.
In his words, Senator Imoke said , “Cross River State has led the tourism promotion business in Nigeria using the Carnival as it’s pivot, drawing participation from all over the world thus establishing the carnival as a must watch event in Africa”.
Imoke hinted that he will not relent on tourism promotion of the state and Nigeria in general. On that ground, the state embarked and facilitated the building of an ultra modern Calabar International Conference Center.
“Calabar has a natural setting that calms nerves. It is a preferred destination for conferencing and for activities that require a serene environment, devoid of the noise and haste of most cities in the country. The Cross River State Government understands the compelling need to invest in facilities of international standard”, Imoke said.
The event that commenced with exhibition and networking among the travel and tourism stakeholders was a big success. Prominent among the exhibitors at Abuja Bantaba are South African Airways, House of Gold International, Remlords Tours & Car Hire Services, Cross River State Forestry Commission, Current Link System, Emirates Airlines, and The Royal Senchi Hotel & Resorts, Accra, Ghana.
Though the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke and Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation(NTDC) are unavoidably absent, the ministry and the tourism apex body were well represented with the presence of their high power delegates.
Shortly before the award presentation, the newly appointed Minister for Land, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs. Akon Etim Eyankenyi said, “Abuja Bantaba is another useful forum to propagate the advancement of the travel and tourism sector in Nigeria”.
“As someone who has been deeply rooted in the tourism sector, I want to use this medium to inform you that the Federal Government in her efforts to boost the hospitality sector as realistic vision and planned to embark on housing projects to make life more comfortable to average Nigerians”, Eyakenyi said.
Eyakenyi further lauded the organizer, Mr. Ikechi Uko for his selfless tourism promotion. She admonished him not to relent in writing the name of Nigeria on global tourism map.
The Minister for Land, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs. Eyakenyi who is one of the award recipients said she will always appreciates and value the honour accorded her for life.
Among the 100 personalities and pioneer award winners, who has contributed to the development of the travel industry in Nigeria in various dimensions are Late CPL Audu Bako, Princess Stella Oduah, former Aviation Minister, Senator Liyel Imoke, Cross River State Governor, Governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, Goodie Ibru, Mr. Kazeem Durosomo, Otunba Segun Runsewe, former Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Capt. (Mrs) Chinyere Kalu, Mr. Abdulhamid Sheriff from NIHOTOUR, Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, Chairman, Remlords Tours Limited, Alhaji Aminu Agoha, President, NANTA, Mr. Olumuyiwa Salami, Group Managing Director, Dvine Travels & Tours Limited, Mr. Kenneth Oudah, Director, Stay up Aviation Institute of Technology, Mr. Ahmed Ojuolape, Mr. Wale Ojo Lanre, Tourism Editor, Nigerian Tribune, Mr. Andrew Okungbowa, New Telegraph and Chinedu Eze.
The director, Stay Up Aviation Institute of Technology speaking with media shortly after receiving his award commended the vision of the organizer and most especially on the criteria of giving awards without sentiments.
In his words, Mr. Olumuyiwa Salami said the award came to him as a big surprise. “I knew that Mr. Ikechi Uko is a man of facts and figure who will not give award to those that did not deserved it”, Salami said.
South African Airways as one of the star exhibitors and major player in aviation world at the Abuja Bantaba, speaks through the Country Manager – Nigeria, Thobi Duma that, “South African Airways recognizes Nigeria as an aviation viable market in Africa’.
“Therefore, the airline came to Abuja Bantaba to showcase to the visitors, key players and stakeholders in the travel sector that the airline is not ready to compromise its leadership role in Africa and confirmed that the airline will not relent in serving its customers and passengers in Nigeria with priority services”.
A reputable foreign hospitality outfit from Ghana, The Royal Senchi Hotel & Resort is ably represented by the Sales & Marketing Manager, Mr. Emmanuel Mensah and Frances Arthur, Conference & Events Executive at their exhibition stand.
Mensah hinted that “The Royal Senchi Hotel & Resort is situated on the west bank of the Volta River overlooking the eco-island known locally as Denkyenyam’.
“Royal Senchi is a luxury hotel with more than 80 rooms and suites. The concept of the hotel is to offer a destinatination that fuses into relaxed nature of the environment whilst providing hospitality standards that befit a four star establishment”, Mensah said.
The representative of Elpazio Limited, John Urieto said the company provides useful services to hotels and hospitality outfits in the areas of telecommunication.
“Elpazio is a leading technology solution company offering IT solutions and services specifically to the corporate, hospitality and generally to all sector of the economy”, Urieto disclosed.