Akwaaba Africa Travel Market has continued to grow year on year, attracting interest not only from Africa but across the world, with the Caribbean this year having a presence, writes ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA who attended the three days travel and tourism trade exhibition
For three days; September 22 – 24; tourism took the centre stage in Nigeria with countries from Africa and other parts of the world converging on Lagos. The event was the annual Akwaaba African Travel Market, a travel and tourism trade exhibition and conference event organised by Ikechi Uko’s – led Atqnews.com.
The venue was the Expo Hall of Eko Hotels and Suites on Victoria Island. It was a beautiful sight to behold the glittering and inviting travel products put on displayed by the various countries and travel trade operators who attended the fair, with the Caribbeans featuring for the first time this year, which was the 15fth edition of the yearly event.
It offered a lot of opportunities for the various vendors, buyers and different consumers of travel products and services, including the travelling public, to feast on the avalanche of colourfully curated and enchanting exhibits on showcase as well as network and close on some deals.
Each day of the expo featured different elements besides the exhibits from the different participants that were the main feature during the three days gathering. The first day of the event set the tone for this year’s event as beside the formal opening ceremony, which was performed by the Father of Nigerian Tourism, Chief Mike Amachree, alongside other dignitaries that included the Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe, the day witnessed a number of other interesting and delightsome activities.
One of the major highlight was the Jollof rice challenge, which since it debuted two years ago has become a major feature of the exhibition.
This time, the culinary war featured Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, and Republic of Benin, with Nigeria clinching the three top positions at the end of the day, dethroning the Gambia, which last year claimed the diadem from Nigeria.
Chef Folashade Shoyombo came tops followed by Chef Deborah Esene and Chef Fatima Lawal respectively as first and second runners up. It was indeed a celebratory and joyous moment for everyone present and a delight to savour the delicious offerings from the four countries.
The excitement of the day was turbo charged with Uganda Tourism Board, taking over the stage thereafter to celebrate their tourism offerings, with officials from the board and minister of the tourism ministry taking turns to make a presentation of the various offerings offered by the destination.
Day two started on a colourful note with Dubai Tourism, which was represented by a powerful delegation made of over 22 companies and destination management companies, directors and head of Africa marketing team, Stella Obinwa, as well as the UAE envoy in Nigeria, alongside some Nigerian influencers and Nollywoods actors, for hours held the audience spellbound with their various enchanting offerings.
Next on stage was The Gambia, which is fondly called the smiling coast of Africa, which attempted to match the recording setting pace of Dubai Tourism as they also celebrated their day with colours, offering exciting offers and capping it with their most famous culinary offerings, Benachin (Jollof rice).
One of the most stimulating and profound features of the day was the debuting African Diaspora Tourism Conference, which spotlighted ‘The Year of return: Connecting Africa and its diaspora. Actions, challenges and the future,’ as this year marked the 400 years of the abolition of the obnoxious slave trade. The panelists were diverse and they each enthralled the audience with their rich history of the African race and infusing this with the Caribbeans’ who are a major part of the Diasporan history.
Alain St Ange, a tourism expert and former minister of tourism of Seychelles, Fabian Anthony, chairman of Pan – Africa Council, Ghana Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ziblim Barry Iddi, Ida Jang of Gambia Tourism Board, Carol I. Hay of Caribbean Tourism Organisation, United Kingdom and Rozan Ahmen, founder of Africanism as well as Sharon Palacio, chairperson from In2Belize Travel and Tours and leading Garifuna specialist from Belize, and Anago Osho from Badagry, with Ikechi Uko as moderator.
They captivated the audience with the benefit of their deep knowledge of the historical heritage of Africa and the Diaspora and what needs to be done to keep the tourism flame aglow and make Africa the centrepiece of global tourism.
Thrown into the mix was Rum time with the Caribbean, which set the tone for the discourse on African Heritage of the Caribbean: Connecting the dots, which was moderated by Carol Hay. It was quite stimulating and informative as well with a lot of knowledge exhibited on the Caribbean tourism and how its connection with Africa can be exploited to create a synergy and from it an enduring tourism product and market for the world. But first, the various hurdles need to be tackled, with connectivity to Africa as one of the major dots requiring urgent attention to address.
As it has become the tradition of the exhibition, the day three, which was the final day lived up to its billing, with the number of people in attendance, offers and activities presented hitting the roof.
One of the standard features was discourse on aviation, this year the focus was on ‘Impact of airports development and airlines on tourism growth. Chike Ogeah, vice chairman of Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL), moderated the session with African Airlines Association (AFRAA) Director of Government, Legal and Industry Affairs, Aaron Munetsi, formerly of South Africa Airways, Chris Alegbe, of defunct Nigerian Airways and now aviation consultant, and Chief Operating Officer of African World Airline (AWA), Sean Mendis, among other discussants, offering different perspectives on bridging the gap between aviation and tourism business in terms of creating synergy and making the airports serve the purpose of tourism.
Africa Youth Tourism Session, with focus on: ‘Is tourism a sustainable business for the youths,’ which also made a return this year was quite intense and illuminating for many, particularly the youths and young operators in the industry as the panel, which was made of today’s millennial; younger operators, who have captured the social space for tourism, entertaining the audience with their colourful and rich experience in exploring the social space for the benefit of tourism.
And what a befitting way of ending the three days gathering with the host city, Lagos State Tourism Ministry, celebrating Lagos Day and climaxing with the celebration of Ethiopian Day, which hosted the participants to a rich dinner made of the country’s famed culinary offers.
Akwaaba 2019 has been adjudged by many of the participants and observers as the best and most successful in the annals of the exhibition; judging by the number of people in attendance, quality of presentations, high net worth operators and visitors to the fair and its entertainment as well as having the Caribbean adding pomp to it all with its presence and offerings, with particularly reference to the Rum and steel band display.
This was position was well encapsulated by the Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture of Ghana, Dr. Iddi Ziblim, who commended the organisers of the event, saying its unarguably the biggest international tourism and aviation event in West Africa. The minister who represented Ghana for the first time at the exhibition said his expectation was exceeded.
“I never thought that Akwaaba is this big. I just thought it was a Ghana-Nigeria something,” he said excitedly.
Ethiopian Airlines: Akwaaba offered us platform to promote our vision
For the General Manager of Ethiopian Airlines in Nigeria, Firihiewot Mekonnen, if there is one primary benefit it has enjoyed from Akwaaba, it is the fact that it has aided the promotion of its vision to the world, as she described it as a veritable platform to showcase Africa and network among Africans.
According to Mekonnen, the platform is progressive in the way it drives African businesses together to learn and share. ‘‘We have been with Akwaaba from the beginning, over 15 years now. What drives us is that this is a kind of platform where different African countries can showcase their cultures, tradition, economy and other things, and then what we believe at Ethiopia is that Africa should buy from Africa; inter – African market.
“We have gained a lot because we are able to showcase what we have on the new destination that we have and also important are tourism, you know that the intra-African tourism is poor, why do we go out abroad when we have places in Africa.
“We have a lot to offer to each other and unless we support each other for different things, we cannot grow together. We believe this is the kind of thing that will boost Africa to exchange what they have.’’
The airline, she said is on a steady growth curve and with the expansion work at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, she said:
“You know we have extended our terminal, the terminal can now take over 20 million passengers, which is a very big feat. We are using the infrastructure upgrade to handle transit passengers.
This is just as she said that the expansion of the airport has given a lot of traction to the airport and has aided the increase in traffic.
Lola Adefope: We need more points like Akwaaba to connect with Africa
Lola Adefope is the managing director of Business Travel Management Limited. She has in the last one decade being part of Akwaaba. She shares her thought on it, describing this year’s event as a huge success while commending the organiser, Uko, for what she said is a fantastic job.
Ten years ago I came to my very first Akwaaba and it is a very different experience from where I am standing now. I have to say that Ikechi Uko has done a very fantastic job and he continues to be an ambassador not just for Nigeria, not just for West Africa but for Africans.
It is a passion of mine to further Africa connectivity and standing here at Akwaaba, it is obvious that everybody that is standing here and attending; Nigerians, South Africans, Gambians, Ghanaians, Kenyans and Ugandans, are working together as Africans.
That is what Akwaaba is really promoting. We have a good representation here and we have people from Dubai. Dubai has set up its entire expo upstairs because they believe in the power of Nigeria volume, they believe in the passion that Nigerians will always bring to the table and they believe in the ability to be consistent and a good entrance point for Africa.
Akwaaba is making that possible. I wish them the best of luck and I will continue to support them in every way that I possibly can. But I honestly think that this is the kind of platform that we need. We need more engagements, we need more eyes on the work that is being done and we need more points of connections to Africa like Akwaaba.
I don’t believe that we are taking full advantage of this platform. We have giants of the industry who are in attendance today and where in attendance yesterday as well as. You have ministers who are actually paying attention to what is being done.
Bilikisu Abdul: It is big travel market for us
Hajia Bilikisu Abdul is the founder/CEO of Bboog Travels and Tours; president, Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) and Nigeria President of Women in MICE
Akwaaba is a big travel market as far as I am concerned in Nigeria because what Akwaaba has been doing, I have been praying and hoping that Nigerian government should also be doing the same thing in the tourism sector, but Nigeria has failed in tourism sector.
Akwaaba has been a travel market that has been trying to pull the travel agents, tour operators and others together. It is a good platform as I far as I am concerned and thank the organisers for the good job.
Nigerians find it difficult to travel from one part of the country to another if it is not international travels. But I can tell you that I have a lot of tour operators, who are our members that are here in their numbers because it is an avenue for them to meet with people from aviation and other allied businesses.
It is a good opportunity for them to always be here.
My message to the tour operators who are not here is that by next year they should try as much as possible to be here because it is almost like what you are travelling out to attend, like the World Travel Market (WT).
Because this is what we have and we are trying to pull all Africans together and so what others are doing internationally we are also doing the same thing here. So, what is their reasons not be here?
Uloma Egbuna: I have seen Akwaaba grow over the years
Uloma Egbuna, is the managing director and chief executive officer of Tour Brokers International (BTI) and Bespoke Holidays and also represent Royal Caribbean in West Africa. She is one of the oldest exhibitors at Akwaaba, which she said has given Nigeria tourism visibility and a platform for promoting Africa.
I have been a key supporter of Akwaaba because I have always believed in what Ikechi Uko has been doing. We go to other travel markets like the World Travel Market (WTM) and Arabian Travel Market (ATM). So, I like the fact that somebody recongised that we needed to have an African travel market, with Nigeria as the host.
This is the 15th year and I have been with him almost from the second year and I have seen Akwaaba Travel Market grow. I admire the consistence, a number of people would had thrown in the towel and gone to look for other things that are a lot profitable in terms of finances, but Uko has stayed the course.
I really admire him for this because I am also somebody who believes in consistence and who believes in a vision. If I believe in a vision I stick by it. I represent Royal Caribbean in West Africa and when we first started about 10 years ago, we were like a lone voice crying in the wilderness.
Nobody understood what we were talking about but I believed in it and I remained and tried to see it through and today, it is an entirely quite different story as cruising has become a bragging right in Nigeria.
Akwaaba this year has been something else. I have three exhibiting stands here; I have Bespoke Holidays, Tour Brokers International (BTI) and Royal Caribbean. If it is not something that I believed in I won’t be here. I have taken exhibition stand over the years even when it was like this is not happening.
I believe in this idea of an African travel market and I am surprised by what I have seen in the last three days and it just shows me that it is growing. The first day I couldn’t believe it was Akwaaba and even yesterday and today is the closing day and you can see what is happening here.
The travel and tourism industry in Nigeria is growing and we have young tourism practitioners and more. All of these people are actually looking unto us to hold them by the hands and teach them the ropes.
Even though Nigeria has not concentrated on tourism but tourism remains one of the fastest growing sectors of any economy in the world. It is something that Nigeria really needs to begin to focus on because the tourism potentials that we have are enormous.
It just has to do with somebody in government recognising it and focusing on it. But at this point in time we are not focusing on it. However, we from the private sector will continue to do our beat and hope that one day people in the public sector will actually understand what we are talking about.
So, for Akwaaba, I am happy and I am happy for Uko.
For us Nigerians, people just stay back and watch and see what the other person is doing, Well, I always say to people, in this country, one man’s success is the other person’s feasibility study.
All over the place, we are beginning to see that a number of people rather than collaborating are coming up with all sorts of other things that are travel market related. What that says to me is that people feel that what is happening in Akwaaba year on year lacks potential.
But I will rather say to them to collaborate instead of compete. When people put their resources together and collaborate it makes this travel industry a lot easier. So, my message to everybody is, applaud what Uko is doing, and support him; because guess what? If Akwaaba travel market becomes anything like WTM or ATM, all of us stand to benefit from it.
IDA CHAM NJAI: Dine with Ida when in The Gambia
Ida Cham Njai, an hotelier of many years and renowned chef, is the face of The Gambia tourism, noted for her unique promotion of the country’s cultural tourism, life style and culinary offerings, she spoke with ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA of her passion for tourism and love for her country
The Gambia, which is otherwise known as ‘the smiling coast of Africa,’ is noted for its rich and colourful tourism offerings and one of the promoters of the country’s tourism is Ida Cham Njai, the founder of Yabouy Home Cooking. For her unique blend of home cooking, fashion, life style and cultural offerings, she is globally known and is one of the most sought after Gambians, with her face and products adoring many world’s publications and television programmes. A visit to The Gambia without an encounter with her where she treats you to a savoury bouquet of The Gambia’s cultural offerings, is regarded as incomplete.
The country’s tourism promoters are always proud to display her as one of their precious exports to the world. Nigerians had a taste of her culinary skill last year when she participated in the jollof rice competition held during Akwaaba African Travel Market, where she came first, beating others to the coveted crown. Though she was around for the event this year but decided to leave the scene for others to prove their mettle.
However, she was a sight and delight to behold all through the three days event as she graced her country’s pavilion, like a precious model, attired in her splendid; colourful and brightly toned signature African’s attire.
I love tourism Ida Cham Njai is not one of those whose engagement with the tourism industry is due to happenstance but rather, she was driven into by her innate love for the industry. No wonder, she goes about her various pre – occupations effortlessly. She is her country’s most beloved tourism face and beloved by everyone that comes in contact with her, especially tourists who cherish every moment they spent with her.
‘‘I loved tourism and that was why I studied it. Growing up I saw the potential in it and so I decided to go into it, so that I can at least play my part in the tourism industry,’’ she tells you with some sense of pride and a feeling of accomplishment.
Career path She founded Yabouy Home Cooking in 2008. But prior to that the graduate of Hotel Tourism and Catering Management from West London College, United Kingdom, started her career in the tourism industry in 1989 at the Senegambia Beach Hotel, following her return to the country from England on the completion of her study. Between 1989 and 2005, she worked in different capacities at the hotel.
These included: Food and beverage coordinator; purchasing manager; guest relations manager; conference manager; and sales and marketing. During her stint with the hotel, she made quite an impact and was recognised as one of the influencers in the industry and as a result represented her country at different foras, especially trade exhibitions across the world. ‘‘Due to my work I used to travel a lot to represent The Gambia in trade fairs,’’ she says. With the glitz and recognition that came with the work, one would had expected her to keep at it for long, however, she graciously bowed out to face a more challenging task.
‘‘But in 2005 I resigned from Senegambia Beach Hotel to a more challenging job,’’ she discloses, pitching her tent with Mandina Eco Lodge at Makasutu Culture Forest. ‘‘I was the general manager. I worked there for two years from 2006 to 2008. Her stint at the eco lodge was for a short period as she again resigned and moved on to a new terrain.
‘‘Because I wanted to start something new in the tourism market,’’ she recalls with nostalgic feelings. Birthing Yabouy Home Cooking Her birthing Yabouy Home Cooking was not also something that she chanced on but rather, it has been part of her as she only stepped out of her routine to give a voice to what she had always done by the side while working for others.
‘‘When I was working in the hotel industry, I used to invite friends to my house and they always say that I made their holidays. I do realise that most travellers when they travel they will like to go to the local market and they will also like to see how we live. ‘‘Every time that I put on African attire they liked it and so, I said let me combine these two,’’ she reveals of how today she has become a promoter of the culture, life style, fashion and culinary offerings of her people, giving tourists a whole world of experience of The Gambia.
This reporter visited her home to experience her home cooking and cultural offerings in the company of other Nigerian travel journalists in one of his visits to the country. Her home was one of the spots explored by us for the best of The Gambian tourism offerings. Till today, there is not letting off steam as she has continued to attract hundreds of tourists to her home who come to savour the rich culinary taste offered by her.
She engages the tourists actively in the purchase of the cooking items and in the cooking as well. She offers some details of her style of operation: ‘‘When people come to me they put on African attire, then I give them the basket, we go to the market, then come back to the house, cook together, eat together, play games and then exchange cultural values.’’ She has made quite a huge progress with the project, as she discloses that: ‘‘I am very proud to say that in 2008 I started with less than 50 pounds, I started with my utensils that I used at home.’’
She attributes her success to the unique nature of her offerings and to the fact that: ‘‘I think the beauty of my product is the personal touch.’’ It is no wonder that she has won the heart of everyone, including the tour operators, who go all out to promote her special offerings. ‘‘Instead of me going out to find the customers, the customers come to me. It is the tour operators who are selling or promoting me,’’ she says, adding that: ‘‘Many of the tour operators used me as a success story for sustainable tourism and now I am being hired by The Gambia to cook Gambia foods.’
’ The Gambia food is the best She regards The Gambia food as one of the best in the continent and that it has a vast collection. Perhaps the most distinct and noted of this repertoire, she says: ‘‘We have different types of foods and we put a lot of vegetables in our cooking but the most popular three are: Benachin (One pot), known as jollof rice and originated from the wolof tribe; Domoda, peanut soup, which originated from the Mandika tribe; and Yassa, which is charcoal grill fish or chicken, with spicy onions and originated from the Jola tribe.’’ However, she doesn’t restrict herself to these three only but offers rich variety of foods and recipes to her visitors who most times find it quite a savoury experience.
Dine with Ida Aside of the Yabouy Home Cooking, she IDA CHAM NJAI last year introduced a new variant to her offerings, which is known as ‘Dine with Ida.’ ‘‘Last year I also started something new because I realised that some people will like to taste
The Gambia food but are not interested in cooking. ‘‘So, I started with dine with Ida. With this, I cook everything myself and people come with their families to dine with me.’’
I am happy with what I am doing She expresses a sense of satisfaction with her pre – occupation, especially given the fact that she is not only the face of The Gambia tourism but has also earned global acclaim as people all over the world invite her to cook The Gambia foods for them whenever they have important events. For all of these honours, she says, ‘‘I am very happy about it because I love my country.’’ She also glows in the fact that she enjoys a lot of support from the private sector operators who are her backbone. ‘‘It is because of them that I am known and very popular. They advertise me a lot,’’ she says.
Giving succour to the indigents Chef Ida, as many of her admirers and followers fondly call her, has also spread her tentacles of influence beyond Yabouy Home Cooking and Dine with Ida to that of creating a community of entrepreneurs through a foundation, which she founded in 2013, to render financial assistance to indigent people who are into business. ‘‘I am also into micro financing, helping the least fortunate.
I give them loans and they pay me back without interest,’’ she says, explaining that the loan has a six month repayment span. She also discloses of plans to extend her field to that of creating a new project where she employs and utilises the products made by the beneficiaries of her foundation’s loan scheme, as many of them produce fresh farm products such as peanut butter.
Gambians are the nicest people on earth Proud of her country, she describes her people as warm and the nicest people on earth. ‘‘The Gambia I will say is the smallest country in Africa and the nicest. We are gifted. Gambians are nice naturally and we love strangers. We love our culture as well. We have nice hotels, eco lodges and we have many other things as well. ‘‘We would like everyone to know that The Gambia is a very nice place and we are very welcoming.’’
I like bright colours Though she most often maintains a quiet disposition, almost coming across as taciturn and introvert, however, she is given away by her colourful and bright coloured African attire, which stands her out in the crowd.
‘‘I like bright colours and The Gambia is very sunny. Anywhere I am I want to stand out. My favourite colours are red, yellow, green and white.’’
My favourite food is benachin ‘‘My favourite food is benachin and it is the best. I don’t know why Nigerians and Ghanaians are claiming jollof rice when jollof rice is from our home, our sub region, Wallof. It is from Wallof and I am a Wallof. So, I don’t know why Nigerians are making claim to it.
‘‘You can only find that in Senegal and Gambia,’’ she says with pride. Reminding the reporter that she came tops during the jollo rice competition held last year at Akwaaba African Travel Market when she took part, representing her country. Nigerians are nice people too ‘‘Nigerians are very nice as well. Very open. Because just yesterday (A day before the interview) I got somebody who came all the way just to see me, which is an honour. ‘‘Nigeria is very big and there is a lot that
the country can do especially for the other smaller countries in Africa.
Senegal is my favourite destination
For someone who has travelled across the many countries of the world, you would had expected her to name one of the exotic destinations in Europe as her favourite destination of all time.
But to one’s surprise, she named Senegal, which is neighbouring country to The Gambia as ‘‘my favourite destination.
That is where I go to relax always.’’
I love my bed
‘‘I love my bed. I sleep or I relax on bed. I love that,’’ she tells you when it comes to how she unwinds and get back her groove.
Abuja set to host Abuja Jabamah, NTIFE, INAC, Abuja Carnival 2019
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja is set to play host to four major tourism events, all within a period of one week, thus living up to its billing as Nigeria’s leading city for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE).
This is a big plus for the city and Nigeria tourism even though failure of the city’s administrators, tourism operators and the residents to take advantage of its prime setting in promoting its tourism economy has been a source of worry to many.
The four events are namely: Abuja Jabamah; International Arts and Craft Exhibition (INAE); Abuja Carnival; and Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE) 2019.
With these four events, it is still not clear whether the administrators of the city understand the import of these forthcoming mega celebrations on the city, as there is nothing on ground to show that they are gearing up to work assiduously with the organisers of these events in order for the city to reap from the windfall, with visitors from across the country and other parts of the world expected to converge on the city during the one week period.
Abuja Jabamah 2019 holds November 18
The first of the triple tourism outings is the seventh edition of Abuja Jabamah, a travel and tourism trade conference and exhibition organised annually by the organisers of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Africa Travel Quarterly (atq.com), as part of activities to create a platform for travel operators in the northern part of the country to exhibit their products and services and interact with major players in the industry, travelling public, suppliers and buyers as well as operators from other parts of the country.
Billed to hold on November 18 at the exhibition hall of the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja.
The one – day event will feature exhibition, business – to – business (B2B) session, celebration of the Top 100 Tourism Personalities in Nigeria and induction of travel operators from the different fields of the sector into the Tourism 100 Club.
Also, there will be an exponential tourism activation, with half – day city tour for operators attending the event to be hosted by the organisers of the event in partnership with other stakeholders in the city. Some of the key partners for this year’s edition include the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Cabo Verde Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and the National Institute for Tourism and Hospitality (NIHOTOUR).
Cabo Verde Airlines is making its first appearances at the tourism event and Nigeria market. Previously branded as TACV Cabo Verde Airlines, it is a scheduled passenger and cargo airline based in Praia, Cape Verde.
It is the national flag carrier of Cape Verde, operating flights to West Africa, Europe, North America and South America. It is billed to commence flight operations from Lagos, Nigeria this December; flying from Lagos to America, Europe and Latin America.
NIHOTOUR will host the half day tour and also introduce guests to its different training programmes while NCAC will curate the cultural component of the event as Chef Fatima of Abuja treats the people to some of the unique culinary experiences of Northern Nigeria.
Abuja Carnival for November 23
The one week celebration will climax with Abuja Carnival, which is slated to hold between November 23 and 25 under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, with the minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as the chief host.
According to the ministry, the carnival will feature the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, with each state and FCT, expected to thrill the public with the best of their cultural tourism products and other offerings.
With the Eagle Square as the venue of the daily performances, some of the special features of the carnival, according to the ministry, include cultural parade, masquerade display, durbar event and boat regatta. Also on the bill are food, arts and craft exhibition and special presentation by the children.
NAFEST 2019: Ekiti named Most Creative and Innovative State in Nigeria
Ekiti State has claimed the first position as the Most Creative and Innovative State in Nigeria category in the recently concluded 39th edition of the National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST) hosted by Edo State in Benin under the auspices of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC).
This feat, according to the Director General of Ekiti State Council for Arts and Culture, Wale Ojo – Lanre, who led a 48- member contingent, including the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Ganiyu Titilope Ibrahim to Benin, is a testimony of the state governor’s commitment to transforming the state creative industry given the huge investment that he has made within a short span. Ojo – Lanre disclosed that the state had gone to the festival with the major aim of showcasing the preparation of royal pounded yam in line with the theme of the festival: Our Royalty, Our Pride. ‘‘
Armed with two mortals, four pestles, bags of condiments of local soup preparation, seasoned bush meat and set of Ekiti farm yam tubers, the contingent headed for Benin to culturally showcase the beauty of Ekiti pounded yam,’’ said the DG.
It was commendations from all angles for the state from the first day of the festival when it left no one in doubt of its determination to make a statement with it outstanding performances in the different events that it entered for.
The state’s arts and craft exhibition pavilion, which was manned by the President of Ekiti State Association of Professional Artists, Mr. Jacob Ayodele, witnessed a rich display of the beauty of Ekiti State indigenous arts and crafts.
It didn’t also disappoint during it presentation at the royal Cuisines section held at Benin Museum, with its exhibition pavilion employing local motifs such as cooking utensils, soup ingredients, method of preparation, serving and eating of pounded yam by the king.
The DG of NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, who was overwhelmed by the state’s creative presentations, in presenting the award to the state, commended Governor Kayode Fayemi, for his brilliant cultural vision which has continued to glitter globally.
International Arts and Craft Exhibition begins November 20
The second in the series of tourism related events for the week is the yearly International Arts and Craft Exhibition organised by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) headed by Otunba Olusegun Runsewe.
It is the 12th edition of the arts and craft exhibition, which is billed to open on November 20 at the FCT Exhibition Pavilion by Abuja International Conference Centre (ICC). It is a four- day event spanning November 24 and it is expected to feature states across the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, with over 20 foreign countries in attendance. Smarting from a successful National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST), hosted by Edo State government in Benin and adjudged to be one of the best in the recent history of the festival, NCAC, according to the DG, Runsewe, has promised a very colourful celebration of the unique cultural tourism products of the country among others.
Runsewe had at a pre – INAC dinner event held for envoys in the country in July hinted that this year’s INAC will be a watershed event as it will break new grounds in cultural diplomacy and feature new activities from the different countries and states as well as operators in the creative industry from across the world.
Apart from the arts and craft exhibition, countries and private operators, a number of states and countries are expected to host their cultural days within the four days period, which will also feature workshops and training sections in skill acquisitions, musical entertainment and food exhibition. Apart from the exhibitors, the event is opened to the public who are expected to savour the different presentations that will be featured.
FTAN’s NTIFE opens Nov 19
The Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) has disclosed the hosting of its annual tourism exhibition platform, Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE) 2019, which is billed to hold between November 19 and 20 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja.
According to the President of FTAN, and co- chair of the organising committee of NTIFE, Alhaji Saleh Rabo, leading travel brands and government agencies, including the federal and state governments, are expected to attend the two days event to showcase their different offerings.
“Our primary goal with NTIFE 2019 is to get a workable consensus among Nigeria tourism stakeholders and facilitate the enactment of a pro-tourism development Act of Parliament,’’ said Rabo of NTIFE.
‘‘Considering the inter – governmental and tourism multi-sectoral operative nature of the global tourism industry, Nigeria needs an encompassing legislative framework that clearly stipulates roles and responsibilities of government and the organized private sector in Nigeria,” added Rabo.
Given it quest for an Act of parliament to regulate tourism in Nigeria, he said FTAN has chosen as a theme for NTIFE 2019; “An insight into the legal framework of Tourism in Nigeria.”
Some of the special guests slated to speak during the two days gathering include the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who will deliver the keystone address and Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sani Nanono, who is also the chairman of the board of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).
Partners with FTAN for the hosting of this year’s NTIFE are: Emirates Airlines, Eko Hotel and Suites and Transcorp Hilton Hotel.
Gambia declares visa free for travellers
In its drive to increase tourist arrivals to the country, The Gambian government has said foreigners seeking to visit the West African nation can now do that without the hassle of visa requirement.
The Director of Marketing for The Gambia Tourism Board, Adama Njie, during an interview with this reporter in Akwaaba African Travel Market held in Lagos in September declared that the target of the country in its national plan is to record 350, 000 tourist arrivals in 2021. To this end, he disclosed to this reporter that plans were underway for the government to consider visa free entry for a number of countries in order to easy access to the country.
This, has finally been achieved with Atqnews.com report stating that the government last month declared a visa free policy for the country, which is meant to cover certain categories of travellers.
According to a statement by the government, the free policy adopted by the Ministry of Tourism, The Gambia is now a visa free zone for all chartered and scheduled flights. “The Gambia Tourism Board further wishes to inform that the new visa free policy applies to citizens from the following countries: All Commonwealth countries, All European Union countries, All African countries, and Baltic states,” it further stated. The new policy is expected to increase arrival figures to the country as predicted by Njie.
In 2018, non-traditional markets arrival from January to December, witnessed 77, 109, an increase of 21 per cent compared with January to December 2017 arrivals of 63, 492. He further disclosed that: “Nigerian and American markets top the list of arrivals by nationalities from the non-traditional in 2018 both accounting for seven per cent.’’
Food West Africa Expo set for November 25
The Nigerian hospitality scene will on November 25 play host to debuting Food West Africa Exhibition in partnership with Agra Innovate West Africa Expo. Billed for Landmark Centre in Lagos, it is a two – day event that will span November 26 and it is expected to be a forum where various players and vendors in the sector will gather to exhibit their products and services for the benefit of the public.
According to the Marketing Manager of Food West Africa, Loy Pinheiro, the exhibition will feature over 50 free practical seminars to be delivered by renowned experts in the field; ‘‘who are billed to discuss fresh market insights and share valuable ideas that will help you stay up-to-date in West Africa’s thriving food and beverage sector.’’
He also disclosed that registration for the event is ongoing online while provision will also be made for onsite registration.
LUKHANYISO GIBA: Urworld Sim eases cost of communication
Lukhanyiso Giba is a partner and director of Urworld Sim. She was in Lagos recently to attend Akwaaba African Market Travel Market where she spoke to ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA on the cost saving benefits of Urworld SIM for travellers and her passion for travels among other issues.
Lukhanyiso Giba, a South African, can’t easily disguise her passion for the travel industry, as her love for the industry shines through the moment she begins to make a pitch for her travel product, Urworld SIM, which according to her, is a product of her quest for offering solutions to challenges encountered by travellers. She started her career in the aviation industry, where she cut her teeth, with South African Express Airways, garnering experience in virtually all aspects of the industry, including; marketing, sales, business development and logistics.
With a management development background from the University of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa, and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in International Hospitality Management from AGSB- Switzerland. She escribes herself as a hotelier, with a deep passion for service, beautiful spaces, luxury travels, communications, events planning and media. Giba, in the course of her over three years studies in Switzerland, besides picking- up French as a foreign language, she travelled frequently between Switzerland, France, Italy and South Africa, where she engaged actively with some of the major players in the travel industry from both government and private operators.
On her return to her country in 2014, Giba worked with Four Seasons Hotel Group, as a result of a direct transfer from the group’s property in Geneva, Hotel De Bergues. However, this romance didn’t last long as her search for solutions to some of the challenges in the industry, especially in the area of communication, led her to Urworld Sim in 2017, where she became a partner and director.
She presently drives the marketing and sales strategy, as well as business development of the company in Africa. It was for this purpose that she was in Lagos recently for Akwaaba African Travel Market, taking advantage of the platform to pitch for her company and product.
Inspiration for the travel industry
Excited about travelling, which for her is a passion, Giba describes herself as a ‘nomad outside Africa;’ given her interest in travelling and background. Born and bred in East London, South Africa, but she had also spent time in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Knysna and Cape Town.
‘‘I like to think of myself as a child of the world! I am pretty much from everywhere although originally from East London. I`ve lived in four different Provinces in South Africa, I lived in Europe, I`ve travelled to Asia, Africa, USA, South America and I have friends and family all around the globe.
‘‘So, I like to think of myself as a nomad outside Africa, I grew up pretty much everywhere,’’ she says. For her, the inspiration for travelling is the experience that one derives, especially when it comes to new discoveries and learning. Elements that she is not ready to trade off for anything else.
‘‘I remembered the first time that I travelled and it was my first international travels and I was very excited. I think I was actually going to Florida, I felt like a new person. That I was about to get re-born and learn new things. And I find out that this is more prevalent to travelling. In all honesty, I am all about consuming new experiences and new people!
‘‘Because the more you get out, the more you get exposed. You are exposed to different people, you are exposed to different cultures and not only are you exposed to new things, you are also exposed to a new you. And you suddenly realise that your world is quite small. ‘‘And when you open up, life just gives you wonders and that is what is interesting for me about travelling. Getting to meet new people, and getting to know what other people are doing.’’
Turning her passion into business
Today, Giba is a partner and director of Urworld Sim, a company that vends sim cards, which is designed to ease communication and save cost for the international travellers across the various strata of the society. Meeting with her business partner, a Swiss national, was coincidental. ‘‘We got speaking about businesses and comparing beautiful spaces such as Switzerland and South Africa and talking about our passion for travelling. We got talking about the difficulties and challenges of travelling, and one of the challenges was cost saving.
That was how it all developed into partnership,’’ she recalls of her journey into the world of Urworld. Urworld is a Swiss SIM card technology that understands the need to navigate this digital age effortlessly. It understands the needs for mobile users who travel frequently and abroad: Need for instant connectivity, convenience, transparency on the price of data usage and cost savings, effectiveness as well as the necessity for instant connection without having to queue for a local sim card. First of its kind on the African continent, the international Sim card is a one-stop mobile shop in the palm of your hand. With a presence in South Africa, Germany, and Nigeria. Now looking forward to expanding the offering in Kenya in the near future.
Urworld is designed to save cost
Staying connected often comes with a high price. But with Urworld, you save up to 80 per cent on roaming and data. Urworld Sim serves as a cost saving solution to assist global travellers as well as the corporate world particularly when it comes to controlling their mobile communication costs when moving in Africa and the rest of the world. Urworld is the perfect travelling companion for those who are hyper-connected in their personal and working lives and need of cheaper and convenient mobile services.
The Sim works in 180 countries, from the minute you step off the plane, you want to be able to connect to call your uber, whatsapp your loved one, and respond to important business emails, find a hotel or a museum. The Sim card seamlessly integrates with your existing smartphone, without configurations to your social apps. Meaning that all your information remains the same, which is an important need for all travellers. ‘‘These days everyone is doing business outside of their borders and language barrier becomes one of the big blockades.
So, one of the lucrative things about our product is that it provides convenience that you can actually insert the sim card at home before you travel so that by the time you are in a new country, it will automatically connect without the stress of having to converse with anybody, saving you time and money,’’ she says. Adding that: ‘‘It is a transparent and trust worthy service.’’ Besides these advantages, she says ‘‘the greatest asset is that it reduces your running cost, because, you only get charged for the calls you make, there are no added or hidden costs involved.’’
Still on the product, she says, ‘‘you can recharge conveniently online as you don’t have to go to any shop for it. All the information and processes you need to buy your airtime and data are clearly stated and you can also transfer credit to another user using the platform.
‘‘You have one for a group, for family and for travel agencies and tour operators.’’ The Sim card has a six months’ validity after your last use and you have an option to subscribe for 12 months or before your six months elapses you could make just one call with it and your initial six months’ life circle is renewed all over again. Therefore, you can use the sim card over and over again. Distribution points for now are in Switzerland, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria. The Sim card is international and it is being used in the USA, UK, and Dubai. In the Nigerian market, Urworld Sim cards, according to her, are available at Lufthansa City Centre (LCC) Tifa Travels and Tours, Ikeja; as well as online shops like Jumia and Habarigt.
Making inroads in the market
With the reception that the travel product has received within two years of its launch, Giba is very pleased and excited, as she informs that: ‘‘Everybody loves it, they find it convenient and they find it cheap as well. ‘‘Our customers keep coming back for more! The perception has been phenomenal so far.’’ And for the Nigerian market, she says the sim card is tailored made because Nigerians make more calls and it will save them a lot of costs.
‘‘Nigerians make calls a lot unlike the Europeans who use more data and so that is one of the key learnings. ‘‘It is important to understand how people think of technology as well as their limitations or challenges in engaging with technology and once you take them through the process it becomes easier for them.’’ She also expresses delight over the prospect of the business, saying that appreciable successes have been achieved.
‘‘I am very, very excited compared to where we were last year and where we are today. Unlike other similar products, our strategy really is to focus on Africa. ‘‘The future is to have distribution areas all over Africa. Starting with Lagos and working on Kenya, as we are introducing a lot of sim cards for Kenya and we are also going to be introducing a USA number.’’
I am leveraging on my visits to Nigeria to understand the market
Giba’s recent visit to Nigeria was her third visits in over two years as she was first in the country last year for Akwaaba and later visited to attend the Nigeria Travel Week event and last month, visited to attend Akwaaba. For her, these visits offers her the opportunities to understand more her market. ‘‘I am using the opportunity to understand the market more.’’ Stressing that she is impressed with Nigerians, describing them as very warm and passionate people: ‘‘Nigerians are very welcoming, and very energetic and very passionate about what they do. I think that is one thing that draws me here all the time. I literarily come here to re-energise.’’
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