Meetings, Incentives, Conference, Exhibition and Events (MICE), a global trend in the travel and tourism industry, has been the main experience and focus at the 2022 edition of the Akwaaba African Travel Market (AfTM), as it brings in a new era of collaborative market for Africans at the largest of tourism stakeholders in Africa.
This year’s edition of the largest gathering of travel and tourism stakeholders also gave preference to the importance of women in the global tourism industry as it gave prominence to female players who are exceptional in their various endeavour through the Top 100 Travel and Tourism Personalities (Africa Travel 100 Women) in Africa, bringing people from the North, south, east, west and central Africa to the two days event.
The two day’s event was experiential and full of testimonies as it was not only trendy and unique outing, but also blended business and leisure together with newer areas of business collaboration leveraged upon in terms of niche market.
Medical Tourism, one of the major focus at the 2022 AfTM showcased a broad spectrum of opportunities in scaling up African market in the area of reinventing and strategizing for the medical tourism offers considering the African market which is readily available to explore it.
While many at the medical tourism session were happy for the inclusion of that aspect of tourism in the panel discussion, most visitors were advising on the need to see seamless connectivity within the continent as a major factor that will promote and boost the medical tourism bid.
Looking at the comparative advantage in the medical tourism bid, the participants agreed that manpower is not the problem because there is a skill bank in the diaspora that are ready to give back to the continent and especially Nigeria if the government builds a collaborative and sustainable environment.
In his remarks, Director, Turkish Healthcare Travel Council, Abuja Network, Mr Isa Usman, said to boost medical tourism in Africa, a sustainable intra-bound and in-bound medical tourism must be developed in the continent for a robust take –off.
Usman said that African governments must also thrive to create enabling environment for healthcare service providers.
“As Africans, we need to take seriously the issue of medical negligence, malpractices, medication error and healthcare fraud,” he said.
Speaking on its plan to take advantage of the economic value of the medical tourism sector in Nigeria, the Lagos State Government has assured that the state-owned health facilities would be redesigned and positioned for proper healthcare delivery as well as to boost medical tourism.
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, in his presentation on the theme: “Medical Tourism and Lagos: How Lagos is Positioning for Medical Tourism” at the 18th Akwaaba Africa Travel and Tourism Market held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, pledged that the redesigning process of the health facilities would be done within five years.
“Our buildings are not properly designed for quality healthcare delivery. Our hospitals look like small waiting rooms and we all know we are in the age of climate change.
“Good medical facilities are designed to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, so all our designs now will have significant low carbon footprint, at least 50 percent.
“We are redesigning our facilities such that it is keeping up with the climate change agenda to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to rely more on designs to cool down the building and increase light into the building.
“This is so that we don’t need so much electricity and to reduce the carbon utility by 50 per cent.
“And this is in keeping with the state and Federal target of reducing our carbon emissions. All medical facilities in Lagos now are going to be designed and built with 50 per cent deeper carbon footprint.
“This redesigning process will boost medical tourism.
“At the long run, people will also be attracted to visit Nigeria for medical tourism purposes. Also, our medical personnel who are leaving will eventually come back when they observe some level of improvement in the sector,” he said.
Abayomi noted that the General Hospital at Ojo and the new Massey Children’s Hospital at Adeniji Adele, Lagos Island, would be completed from 12 to 18 months.
According to him, the Lagos Cardio-Renal Centre at Gbagada is one of the facilities to be redesigned as it will become the hub for the treatment of cardio and renal related diseases, like kidney and heart transplant.
” Also, we learnt from our experience during COVID-19 pandemic that we need medical facilities that can be quickly repositioned for alternative functions, to be quickly converted to isolation facilities
” Our new design will see lots of perforations on the wall to give the rooms enough ventilation.
“The roof will have solar panels, the waiting rooms will be situated outside but covered so that there would be very little chance for one patient infecting the other,” he said.
According to him, the Lagos State government had also made plans to address the problem of brain drain and accelerate brain gain through the establishment of the psychiatric hospital and rehabilitation centre in Ketu, Ejirin.
” We have acquired 15 hectares of land to build a 500-bed psychiatric hospital and 100-bed rehabilitation facility and the construction has commenced,” he said.
The commissioner noted that to further position the state health-care centres for medical tourism, the state was also installing high speed fibre optic cables throughout the state, targeted at strategic infrastructures for hospitals and clinics.
He noted that the major health challenges that allow people to travel out of the country for medical treatment was seen in Orthopedics, Cardiology and Urology.
“Lagos state is trying to address the reason Nigerians travel abroad for medical treatment, we have designed a strategy to reverse this through “Ship” platform.
“Ship means Smart Health Innovation Platform,” he said.
Meanwhile, the AfTM pre-event was a culinary delight for domestic and international visitors as the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), under the leadership of the Director-General of the institute, Alhaji Nura Kangiwa stage a food exhibition at the Wakanow section of the Wave Beach, Elegushi, Lekki, Lagos.
The bid was in institute culture of hospitality and genuine promotion of the multi-dimensional culinary pride of the Nigeria indigenous diversity.
The mini food fair showcased varieties of cuisines, drinks and snacks from different ethnic divides ranging from amala, ewedu, ofe- owerri, ofada rice, roasted plantain, tuwo shinkafa, abacha as well as local snacks and drinks like zobo, fura-de-nunu, ginger drink, kunu to palm wine among others.
The Wave Beach settings was not only the right place to reach different people but also an ambiance that relaxed and rejuvenated the mind from the hussle and din of the city.
Speaking at the sideline of the beach event, Kangiwa, said the essence of the exhibition was to ensure Africans are conversant with Nigerian cuisines.
Kangiwa noted that Akwaaba was a viable platform through which the nation’s cuisines could be projected and marketed for global acceptance.
He said the nation was well endowed with nutritious, medicinal and delicious cuisines which a lot of people did not know.
“At this year’s edition of Akwaaba, we in NIHOTOUR have tried to explore the platform to showcase our cuisines.
“We want the world to know how rich Nigerian cuisines are in terms of nutrition, medicinal properties and more.
“We are proud to be associated with Akwaaba, an expo with the most successful MICE event in Africa and we congratulate Mr IkechiUko for the 18th edition of the expo,” he said.
Also, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas, Executive Director, National Films and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), urged international participants to leverage the enormous tourism and cultural potential in Lagos State and Nigeria.
He said the Federal Government had enacted the ease of doing business policy and that the Lagos State Government had also invested in creating enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
He noted that these commitment from the federal government and the state government would help to boost tourism businesses.
The pre-opening 2022 edition of the AfTM of the tourism expo held at the Wave Beach, Lekki, had in attendance the Sierra Leone Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr Memunatu Pratt, tour operators and travel agents across African countries.