Africa: Leading travel promoters in Nigeria, Ghana win awards


Leading travel promoters in Nigeria and Ghana have won the awards of Top 100 Tourism Personalities in West Africa, among whom are Mrs. Uloma Egbuna, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Tour Brokers International; Mr. Simon Grindrod, the General Manager of The Wheatbaker Lagos; Dr. Michael Pinder, Group General Manager, Sun Heaven Hotels and Resorts, and Mr. Lehlohonolo Hloni Pitso, the Regional Manager West Africa for South African Tourism’s regional Africa office based in Lagos, Nigeria: all from Nigeria.

From Ghana are Ms. Hazel Gumpo, the Group General Manager of Oak Plaza Hotel; Leeford Quarshie, General Manager, La Villa Boutique Hotel; Mrs. Bella Ahu, CEO of Trafix Catering Limited; Dr. Daniel McKorley, the Executive/Chairman of McDan Group of Companies; Mr. Nicolas Jørgensen Gebara, General Manager, Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund and Mrs. Nancy Sam Quartey, Chief Executive Officer of Staple Travel and Tours, Ghana.

“The Top 100 Tourism Personalities was set up to recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves and through their efforts or that of their organizations have impacted positively on the travel and tourism sector across the West African sub region, whose efforts have stimulated and helped to achieve their individual country’s tourism goals and forging interactions among stakeholders and customers across the region”, says Mr. Ikechi Uko, organizer of the awards.

The event which was graced by his royal highness, a former Ghana’s tourism minister, the Nene Nagai Kassa VIII, Honourable Mike A. Gizo, Chief of Agomeda, and President of Shai Traditional, saw Carnival Calabar Queens from Cross River State Nigeria send the audience wild with excitement as they entertained. Ghanaian Drum dancers equally entertained.

Members of the diplomatic Corps in Ghana which included high commissioners and ambassadors, were well represented among whom are Lulu Xingwana, High Commissioner, South African High Commission in Accra – Ghana; Mr. Thomas Okyere, the Honorary Consul, Botswana Honorary Consulate in Accra – Ghana; Ambassador Pavelyn Tendai Musaka, Zimbabwe Embassy in Accra – Ghana and Mwansa S. Rowland, Deputy High Commissioner for Zambia High Commission in Accra-Ghana. T

The Namibian Ambassador and the Nigerian High Commissioner were also in Attendance.

The ambassadors and high commissioners were honoured with the Awards of Recognition for their outstanding roles in driving travel and tourism exchanges between their countries and West Africa.

In his speech, his royal highness, a former Ghana’s tourism minister, the Nene Nagai Kassa VIII, Honourable Mike A. Gizo, Chief of Agomeda, and President of Shai Tradition, called on stakeholders and practitioners in the travel and tourism industry in Ghana to seek progressive knowledge towards moving the industry forward by attending travel fairs, while urging them to support Accra Weizo, an ECOWAS travel fair which holds in Accra, Ghana annually.

Honourable Mike Gizo made this remark as he was concerned about the low turnout of Ghanaian tour operators and travel agents at the 3rd Accra Weizo.

“Every great tree started as a small seed. People should learn to appreciate and associate with great gestures while it is still very small or in its formative stages.

We used to have the African Travel Association (ATA) based in America. For most of our events we have to travel to America. When we get to their office, all the correspondents are from America. I got worried and began to write to fellow Africans to stimulate it in Africa. But many of them were not participating.

The royal father appreciated the support of the Ghana Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts towards this year’s event. “We need to encourage ourselves as Africans to develop Africa”, he concluded.

Mrs. Uloma Egbuna’s Tour Brokers International Limited (TBI) is a multiple award winning IATA approved Tour Operator incorporated in 2002 to professionally package tourism services to selective destinations for Nigerian business and leisure travellers and expatriates living in Nigeria. She has nearly three decades experience in the travel and tourism industry. Having attended several international courses on Tourism, Egbuna is an indigene of Imo State and holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Language and Linguistics from the University of Calabar and a Master of Arts (MA) degree also in Linguistics and Languages from the University of Ibadan, and a Diploma in French.

TBI has birthed two other companies, Bespoke Holidays and TBI Crusies and Tours. She is a past publicity secretary of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agents (1993- 1996) and also held the position of the Vice President (West) of the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP). In 2016, TBI won the Akwaaba African Travel Market’s award of Top Travel Company in West Africa.

Mr. Simon Grindrod is the General Manager of The Wheatbaker, Lagos, Nigeria. Simon was born in Cape Town, South Africa and started his career with the Legacy Group in 1996. He has worked in several leading hotels such as The Commodore and Postswood Hotels, The Peninsula Sea Point and Bakubung Game Lodge Pilanesberg, amongst others. He served as a member of the Cape Town Mayoral Committee for Economic Development and Tourism, and has a keen interest in Arts and Culture, Economic Empowerment, Education and Human Rights. In 2016, The Wheatbaker Hotel Lagos won the Akwaaba African Travel Market’s award of Top Travel Company in West Africa.

Dr. Michael Pinder is the Group General Manager of Sun Heavens Hotels and Resort. With a considerable track record in transforming underperforming hotel operations and delivering significant increases in sales and profitability, with worldwide experience, he is a highly accomplished and performance-driven professional. An English man from London with a PhD in Human Resources Management and a litany of several academic qualifications, Dr. Pinder has always maintained that it is experience not qualifications that makes an hotelier. Pinder increased occupancy levels of the Lekki Sun Heaven Hotels to 92% and the Victoria Island Hotel to 70% occupancy during a very challenging economic climate that included a recession and a weak currency. He also led improvements to the hotel facilities which resulted in a 4 star international brand award. Pinder is sought after as key Speaker for a number of hospitality seminars held throughout Nigeria.

Hazel Gumpo, Zimbabwean-born, is the Group General Manager of Oak Plaza Hotel. A seasoned professional with a long and illustrious career spanning 25 years in Hotel Management and Capacity Building, she has, in the last 7 years, transformed the hotel into one of the most well recognized and formidable hotels in Ghana – an achievement leading to the Ghana Tourism Authority awarding the property 3 Star Hotel of the Year for 2014 and 2015 respectively. Hazel is certified in AHMA Human Resources Management and AHMA Hospitality Training. Currently, she is a consultant under AMSCO through their UNDP programme as a capacity building General Manager for the Oak Plaza Hotel. The Ghana Hotels Association awarded her as the Hotel Trainer of the Year 2015.

Dr. Daniel McKorley is the Executive Chairman of McDan Group of Companies of which the flagship Mcdan Shipping Company Limited is a subsidiary and over the years has become the experts in Shipping and Freight Forwarding.

He is a successful entrepreneur and has extensive experience in managing businesses. Dr. McKorley has nurtured the growth of his companies to the level of attaining national and international recognition. His companies have won several accolades such as “the Fastest Growing Company in Ghana” and “Leading Company in West Africa”. He holds Doctorate Degree from Commonwealth University, London Business School, UK, and an Executive Masters Degree in Business Administration (EMBA) from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).

A commercially astute executive with a wealth of experience gained within the freight forwarding, haulage, logistics and private security industry, both locally & internationally. He has won several awards including African CEO of the year award at the 2016 African Business Leadership Awards for his achievements and significant contributions to the business and entrepreneurship landscape as well as overall development of Ghana.

Nicolas Jørgensen Gebara has been managing the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund from January 2013 to date. Nicolas is a seasoned Danish Business Development Consultant and Trainer, holds a Master degree in Economics and has over 20 years of experience in management consultancy, private sector development and Monitoring and Evaluation. The BUSAC Fund has contributed significantly to the development of the Ghanaian tourism. In recognition of the BUSAC Fund’s excellence in supporting private sector business advocacy in Ghana, the Fund was also awarded the prestigious CIMG Hall of Fame accolade for being the Not-for- Profit-Making Organization of the Year on five consecutive occasions.

Mrs. Bella Ahu (MHCIMA) is the CEO of Trafix Catering Limited the company with 3 branches in the city of Accra / Tema. She has participated in several skill development programs such as Entrepreneurial training from EMPRETEC Ghana and Management Training in Oxford University, UK. In 2008, with the support from SPEED GHANA conducted a Needs Assessment program in Accra and Kumasi on traditional caterers and subsequently developed a Standard Training Manuals for Traditional Caterers which was tested and accepted by Ghana Tourist Board. As a Trainer, till date, over 12,000 traditional caterers and hospitality Students have benefited from the program nationwide.

Leeford Quarshie is the General Manager of La Villa Boutique Hotel, Accra, Ghana. A graduate of the University of Cape Coast with an Executive Masters in Tourism, Leeford has close to three decades experience in management positions. He has won many distinguished awards in the hospitality industry some of the awards are the World Luxury Hotels Awards 2014, 2015, 2016; The luxury travels guide awards 2015; The haute Grandeur Global Hotel Awards 2016 and The bizz 2017. Leeford was the past General Secretary of the Tour Operators Union of Ghana (TOUGHA) and the CEO of Crystal Plus Travels.

Nancy Sam Quartey is Chief Executive Officer of Staple Travel and Tours, Ghana. She is currently the President of the Tour Operators Union of Ghana from; a position she has held for two terms since 2013 and will be through to 2018. Nancy Sam Quartey is also the Financial Director for the Ghana Tourism Federation from 2013 – 2015 and 2016 – 2018. And she is also an Honorary Tourism Ambassador for Zimbabwe in West Africa, Ghana by (ZTA) Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. Madam Nancy, as she is fondly called, is currently doing her Executive Masters in Tourism at the University Of Cape Coast, Ghana. Nancy has coordinated and managed guided building tour teams, the management of commercial department responsible for the exploitation of Ghana and Zimbabwe facilities for private and corporate, among so many too numerous to mention.

Lehlohonolo Hloni Pitso is the Regional Manager West Africa, heading the first South African Tourism’s regional Africa office which is based in Lagos, Nigeria looking after the West Africa market. He has been in Travel and Tourism industry for nearly two decades. Hloni started his career in tourism by joining the HRG Rennies Travel Leanership Programme as Travel Consultant after completing their programme. He later joined Air Botswana in Operations and finally joining the Sales and Marketing team as the National Sales Executive for South Africa. Hloni then joined Protea Hotels as the Sales Manager Africa, leading a team of representatives of eight countries.

Mrs. Uloma Egbuna, commenting on her awards was full of praises for the award and recognition while ascribing to it as prove of the hard work she has over the years put into travel and tourism.

“I would like to express my gratitude to ATQ for this award. This is part of the dividends of My 27 years in the Travel and Tourism Industry. Tourism is my passion and I would not have it any other way”, Mrs. Uloma exclaimed excitedly.

Top 100 Personalities list also included Nana Dwomoh Brobbey, Chief Executive Officer, Capital View Hotel Ghana; Mr. Nicolas J. Gebara, Fund Manager, Busac Fund Ghana; Gilbert Abeiku Aggrey, Chief Executive Officer, Strategic Communications, Ghana; Manish Nambiar, General Manager, Kempinski Gold City Hotel Accra Ghana; Daniel Mckorley, Chief Executive Officer, McDan Shipping Company Accra Ghana; Roman Krabel; General Manager, Accra City Hotel, Accra – Ghana, and Sajid Khan, General Manager, Tang Palace Hotel, Accra – Ghana, among several others.

They also include Stella Fubara – Obinwa, Director Africa International Operations of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism & Commerce Marketing, received the Balafon award of the Travel Personality of The Year in West Africa and also the Top 100 Tourism Personalities in West Africa.

Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, Accra – Ghana carted away the Balafon’s Best Hotel in West Africa while ASKY Airlines received the award for the Best Airline in West Africa.
Others awardees on the list of Top 100 Tourism Personalities in West Africa includes Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, Chairman, SAHCOL; Mr. Chike Ogeah, Vice Chairman, SAHCOL; Mr. Rizwan Kadri, Managing Director, SAHCOL; Pastor (Mrs.) Silifat Omolaja Lawal, Managing Director/CEO, God’s Power Travel Agency Limited, and Mr. Gabriel Olowo, President/CEO, Sabre Network NMC, West Africa.

Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, Chairman, Remlords Tours & Car Hire Services; Mr. Okata Allwell, Managing Director/CEO, Planet Resources Limited and Mr. Samson Fatokun, Regional Manager IATA South – West Africa.

Also Mrs. Judith Nkem Ogedengbe, Managing Director/CEO, HBC Resort Jos; Mr. Daisi Olotu, Managing Director/CEO Dees Travels and Tours Limited Lagos – Nigeria; Mr. Gabe Onah, Chairman, Cross River State Carnival Commission, Cross River – Nigeria;
Mr. Frank Nneji, Managing Director/CEO, ABC Transport PLC, Nigeria; Mr. Abiola Lawal, Managing Director,; Mr. Kola Olayinka, Regional Commercial Manager West Africa, British Airways; Mr. Steve D. F. Isokariari, Chairman, Board of Trustees, NANTA; Ohaeto Street, by Sovida Hotel, D/Line, Port Harcourt, Rivers State and Funmi Rotiba, Special Tours and Travels Limited.

Chiquita Afuluenu Johnson, CEO, West Tourism Management, Liberia; Mr. Henock Teferra Managing Director, ASKY Airlines, Togo and Mrs. Olanma Ojukwu, Managing Director GOTA Voyage Travels, Benin Republic.

While the Balafon Awards was instituted 2009 by the publishers of ATQNews, the Balafon Awards Committee made up of Travel Professionals and Journalists from across West Africa had earlier met and shortlisted Nominees. The award was set up to recognize individuals and organizations that have excelled in Tourism and Travel and who also have contributed to the growth of Hotels Business, Tourism and Travels in West Africa.

“We started Weizo to promote seamless travel in West Africa”, says Mr. Ikechi Uko, the organizer of the event, in his remarks. “ECOWAS started in 1973 with similar vision. And 40 years after, not much have been achieved in that regard”, said Mr. Ikechi Uko, the organizer of the award.

Ikechi sited that East Africa has launched a single passport that enables people from that region to travel round the region. Ghana has instituted visa on arrival. Benin has just joined. The problem with the development and growth of tourism in the sub region is the governments and the policy makers.

“The region has over 340 million people across 15 countries and about 40 airports yet the region remains far behind East Africa in development in the areas of travel and tourism. Entebe – Nairobi is the most route to travel in Africa; and Lagos – Accra is one of the most expensive routes to travel within in Africa”, Ikechi maintained.

Mr. Ikechi thanked the royal father for honouring the event as he also recognized A-Bay Tours, based in France but promoting tourism to West Africa and Nigeria and the Tour Operators that came from Outside West Africa from Uganda and South Africa.

Ambassador Nancy Sam Quartey the President of TOUGHA and Weizo Representative in Ghana, in her opening remarks took out time to appreciate all the various persons and organizations which partnered with the organizers to make this year’s event a very successful one. She specially thanked the various ambassadors and high commissioners representing foremost countries which have been at the forefront of driving sustained travel and tourism business in West Africa.

The high point of the event was the unveiling of the Top 100 Tourism Personalities in West Africa, the Balafon Award Winners and the Award of Recognition for the ambassadors and high commissioners.

Mr. Gabe Onah, Chairman of the Carnival Calabar Commission of Cross River State explained the need to create and explore new tourist attractions. Mr. Onah explained that as tourism practitioners, “We need to breat new grounds.

“Carnival Calabar could be that gateway for the development of tourism in Nigeria. Calabar Carnival could be the door of return for Africans in diaspora. Calabar is an acronym for Come And Live And Be At Rest”! Mr. Gabe ended his speech.



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