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Rita’s Events and Suites to hold food, wine tasting and exhibition on October 13



Rita’s Events and Suites Limited is set to host this year’s edition of its Food and wine tasting and exhibition event in partnership with Events and Food Vendors Association of Nigeria, Agege/Abule Egba chapter.

Billed for Sunday October 13, the one –day gathering, according to the hotel management, will offer opportunity for the hotel and the food vendors association within the locality to exhibit their various products to the public and other consumers and patrons of the hotel expected to attend the event.

The event, it said promises to be exciting, fun filled and colourful, as it will be spiced with entertaining activities such as music and dance, with D – Don DJ Exhibit Nurella on wheel of steel. The special guest of the day is Mide Martins, one of Nollywood’s actors.

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Travel and Tourism

Lai Mohammed dreams big for Nigerian tourism



Lai Mohammed dreams big for Nigerian tourism

Nigerian tourism may in the next four years witness a new move if the big dream of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is anything to judge by, writes ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA, as he examines the agenda recently unfolded by the minister




It is obvious that there is no love lost between the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who is saddled with overlooking the tourism sector and the stakeholders and operators in tourism and culture. This development is on account of his handling of the sector during his first tenure as minister in the term of this present Muhammadu Buhari – led administration.


He is back on the seat again for another four years as he is among the few returnee ministers retained by President Buhari and handed the same portfolio on a platter of gold. If there is one good thing going for him, it is the fact that he knows the verdict on him from the different stakeholders in the tourism, art and culture sectors of the country, including the travel media, was not a positive one.


So, he is embarking on this second missionary journey not blindfolded from the reality on the ground and what the juror on him is. His countenance and body language during his brief meeting with the tourism and culture media last week in Lagos to brain storm on his new agenda also betrayed the fact Mohammed is somewhat uncomfortable with the media as he was not his usual ebullient himself but quite taciturn. Although he started on a delightful note as he stated that: ‘‘I am delighted to be here, and to meet with you again. I have called this meeting to enable us rub minds on how to move the tourism and culture sector forward. You, as critical stakeholders, are critical to any progress we may hope to achieve in this sector. I therefore, look forward to working more closely with you in this second tenure.’’


Unfortunately, there was nothing like mind rubbing as it was purely one way communication, with him reading out his prepared statement briskly and heading out of the hall leaving the journalists dumbfounded and confused as this is not the style of Mohammed who enjoys bantering and taking on journalists headlong without shying away from any issue posed to him. Looking back In any case, he expressed appreciation to the media for the support given to him during his first tenure and then went ahead to enumerate some of the achievements of the four years before unfolding his big dream for the sector in the new tenure.


‘‘Before I go further, let me first thank you for your strong support for us during our first term,’’ he stated. ‘‘I remember, with pride, your impressive cover


age of the 61st United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Commission for Africa (CAF) Meeting in June 2018; and your largely positive reporting on the sector. ‘‘The successful hosting of that meeting could not have been possible without you. Of course, you also gave good coverage to our activities on your various platforms all through our first term.


Thank you all. ‘‘Today, I want to review what we did in the sector in the past four years and also set an agenda for the next four years. Looking back these past four years, there is a misconception in certain circles that we paid more attention to the information sector than we did to culture and tourism. This may appear so because the issues we usually deal with in the information sector are those that receive the bigger play in the media.


But I can tell you, with evidence, that we achieved a lot in the tourism and culture sector, or in the creative industry generally.’’ With the above, the minister would a p -peared to have admitted the worries expressed over the years by the stakeholders on the need to actually separate tourism and culture from information ministry because the minister and the workers in the ministry don’t fully understand the interplay at work here and therefore, are not able to work in tandem of what is expected.


It is for this reason that bodies like UNWTO has continued to advocate for tourism and culture ministry to be handled by a full fledge minister who is able to play up the importance of the ministry above others. Succinctly put Mohammed’s statement is an admission of failure on his part and his team to appreciate the delicate nature and balance of the multiple task assigned to them by the nation otherwise, the issue of misconception or information receiving a bigger play by the media will not come in. This was so because that was the way Mohammed and his team p l a y e d it out forgetting the fact that if you g r a s p p ro p – erly the enormity of tourism and culture task to information and apply the right communication and marketing mix and nuances required, the reverse ought to have been the case.


Therefore, the challenge facing him and his team is how to change the narrative, using culture and tourism as the main trust for communicating the issues of the ministry and the country because for every information on Nigeria, it is the duty of the ministry to always play it out from the tourism angle by examining the implication of it on the sector, which is very fragile.



But the problem as seen by many of the stakeholders is the lack of understanding of this critical element as the minister most often sees himself as the mouthpiece of the ruling party, and not even of the government, hence its very combative nature in communicating with Nigerians and the world, forgetting that this impact negatively on the country’s tourism and culture sector across the world. Some of the achievements outlined by the minister include:


The National Summit on Culture and Tourism held in April 2016 in Abuja, Roundtable in Lagos, which led to creating financing for the creative industry by the Central Bank of Nigeria; Fight against piracy; and Partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the British Council. Other notable achievements, according to the minister, are: Engagement with UNWTO; Hosting right of the 61st UNWTO CAF Meeting; Election of Nigeria as Vice President, Africa, at the 22nd General Assembly of the organisation in China; Tour of a number of tourist sites across the country; Attendance at festivals; and Showcase of the Eko Atlantic City during the 2016 World Tourism Day and the 2018 hosting of the 61st UNWTO CAF Meeting. Agenda for the next four years In looking ahead, Mohammed certainly knows that the road to the tourism windfall is not paved yet, hence he promised to ensure that more is done in the next four years to lift the beleaguered Nigerian tourism out of the nadir. ‘‘We promised to do even more for the sector, working with all stakeholders,’’ he said.


That appears good enough but what is of most importance is his admission that if the right thing is done for the sector, especially by the government, the sector has the capacity to turnaround the fortune of the nation. ‘‘This sector, if well harnessed, is capable of creating thousands of jobs for our evercreative and energetic youths,’’ admitted Mohammed. To this end, he shared his big dream for the sector in the next four years.


‘‘In this regard, please permit me to reel out, for the very first time since assuming office last August, the highlights of our agenda for the culture and tourism sector for the next four years, in order to build on the gains of the past four years.’’


As outlined by him, the ministry’s agenda include: ‘‘To set the necessary legal framework for the sector, we will conclude and launch the national policy on culture as well as the national policy on tourism; Finalise work on the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) Bill and submit it to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and Establish the Endowment Fund for The Arts to create a legal framework for the financing of the sector.


On this score, the question that many stakeholders, particularly those in tourism, will be asking the minister and his team, is what about the Tourism Development Fund (TDF) that has been in abeyance since the days of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, with Adetokunboh Kayode, as minister of the defunct Ministry of Tourism and Culture? Other areas of focus by the minister are: ‘‘To make the National Summit for Culture and Tourism a yearly affair, starting from the first quarter of 2020; Ensure a regular meeting of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT) to catalyse the growth of tourism.


We plan at least three meetings a year. ‘‘Kick-start the implementation of the parts of the Tourism Masterplan that constitute low-hanging fruits; Complete work on the establishment of Tourism Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), working with the UNWTO. ‘‘Institute a unified national celebration of the World Tourism Day, instead of the current situation in which we have multiple celebrations. Again, here the minister may be going against the established grain of the celebration of WTD by the UNWTO, which encourages every individual, locality, and state to celebrate the day while the ministry holds a national celebration of its own


However, it should be noted that while a number of states, localities, individuals and communities are trying hard to keep to this culture, the federal government or ministry has been failing in this regard. For instance this year, the national celebration was held in Asaba hosted by the Delta State government, however, the minister who was supposed to be the chief celebrant stayed away from the celebration.

Therefore, trying to follow the new route being proposed by the minister will only sound the death knell of WTD celebration in Nigeria rather, if the minister is serious about institutionalising an already existing practice, it is for him to keep to his bargain of the present status. Another vision of his is to: ‘‘Hold a National Council on Culture and Tourism in May next year, and then hold it yearly thereafter. Organise a Regional Summit on Culture and Tourism, starting next year, with a view to working with other countries in the West Africa sub-region to foster the development of the sector.’


’ This may just turn out to be another self aggrandising pursuit that will yield no concrete result. Already, there is enough regional conferences on tourism and culture, with many of such events hosted by Nigeria. In this regard, the minister’s focus should be on taking a look at the existing ones and ensuring that the federal government take advantage of them to advance the course of tourism in the country and the sub-region. A clear example is the Akwaaba African Travel Market, which is hosted yearly in Lagos, Nigeria and organised by a Nigerian, with governments and operators from Africa countries, including the west coast and across the world, attending to promote their destinations but sadly, this event is totally neglected by Nigeria government. The minister and his team never showed up for any of them during his first tenure despite several attempts made to have attend the exhibition.


This year’s edition was held last month without the presence of the minister and his team and even the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), whose remit it is to market and promote Nigeria. The only presence of the federal government at the event was the representation by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), with Otunba Segun Runsewe. Back to the minister’s vision: ‘‘Continue with our visits to tourist sites and attend as many festivals as possible across the country; Finalise work on and launch our National Festival Calendar this year. This is to attract more tourists, domestic and foreign, to these events; Get more sites in Nigeria inscribed as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organsiation (UNESCO) World Heritage sites; Explore private sector branding of the nation’s cultural centres abroad.


Again, some of these areas called for questioning as it will be interesting to know how many cultural festivals, and tourists sites were covered by the minister in the first tenure, their state and contribution made to them?


Also, it is appropriate to find out if the minister and his team know the way to the first ever cultural heritage site (Sukur Cultural Landscape) earned by Nigeria in 2000? And if they do, what is the present state and what efforts were made in the last four years by the ministry in developing, promoting and marketing them? It is only when these questions are answered in the affirmative that people may applaud the minister his quest for new UNESCO’s sites otherwise, what is the use of having the sites when as a government and people we lack the drive to maintain and promote them to the world? The same also applies to the issue of having private sector branding Nigeria’s cultural centres abroad.


Because it is on record that none of the four cultural centres hitherto operated by the country are functioning as they have all been closed down. These are located in Pelourinho, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, Beijing, China,


Johannesburg, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago. . Except of course, the minister is referring to building new ones or bringing back to life the already closed centres, for which records have it that yearly allocations are made for them in the budget of the ministry. For this year alone, a budgetary allocation of N45 million was made for the centres whereas in 2017 budget, N68m was allocated while in 2018 budget N25, 641.023 was allocated for the centres in Brazil and China. ENDNOTE It is quite appropriate to dream but the issue remains whether the minister and his team have the capacity to realise a number of the issues outlined by him?


Two critical elements missing from his presentation are those of engagement with the private sector and the parastatals under his portfolio. If the minister must make any appreciable progress in the next four years, he must seek to engage more with the private sector and identify closely with every of their issues and carry them along in whatever the ministry does and also show interest in their activities by showing his presence and not shying away from attending their events. The same applies to the parastatals, which were largely left to operate on their own with no coordination or relationship of any sort.


This must change as the parastatals are the engine room of the ministry, and a situation where the minister and his team alone carry on as if those parastatals do not exist must stop. There must be a working synergy between the ministry and the parastatals and this must be extended to the private sector.

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Travel and Tourism

Dubai fitness challenge returns with most active edition



Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC), which is the city’s flagship fitness initiative championed by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, makes a returns with its third edition from October 18 to November 16. Featuring an exciting 30-day calendar of active events, sports, health and wellness programmes and more, Dubai’s residents and visitors will be fully energised and entertained throughout the month.


DFC remains a pioneer in that it celebrates inclusivity – a movement for all ages, abilities, interests and fitness levels. 2018 saw a striking 34 per cent increase in participation from the 2017 launch challenge, surpassing a million registered festival entrants.


Dubai Fitness Challenge aims to further permeate communities and break the 1 million mark in 2019 of young and old committing to 30 consecutive minutes of daily physical activity for 30 days of the festival. In keeping with the social spirit of this initiative, DFC’s success lies entirely in inclusive city participation – not just of the masses but most importantly of all the enabling champions across public and private sector.


Taking this citywide movement to families, friends, colleagues and communities with the commitment and support from DFC partners, the challenge also promises to make fitness easy and accessible to all, with a wide range of activities across two dedicated fitness villages, community-centric fitness hubs, free facilities and sport zones. In addition to fitness activities, DFC will place an elevated focus on health and wellness as part of its holistic offering this year.

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Dubai rated fourth most visited city five years in a row



Dubai has continued to enjoy rave reviews and the attention of the world as it again be rated as the fourth most visited city in the world, making it fifth in a row to be so named This is according to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index (GDCI) 2019. report said the city welcomed 15.93 million international overnight visitors last year.


The UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, was ranked as the fastest growing city in the Middle East and Africa, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 16.7 per cent between 2009 and 2018 in overnight arrivals.


“As the most attractive destination in the Middle East and Africa region for international visitors, Dubai connects people from all over the world with a diverse range of offerings for leisure and business travellers alike.


As the official payment technology partner for Expo 2020, we look forward to delivering experiences to millions of visitors from across the globe as Dubai hosts the largest event ever staged in the region,” said Girish Nanda, General Manager, UAE & Oman, Mastercard. Sanjive Khosla, Chief Commercial Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Dubai continues to flourish as a world-class destination for both leisure and business travellers – as demonstrated by its status as the planet’s fourth most visited city in Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index 2019.”

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Colours and excitement of African Sports Tourism Ghana 2019



Colours and excitement of African Sports Tourism Ghana 2019

It was a colourful, exciting and delightsome celebration of the fusion of sports and tourism last month when this year’s edition of African Sports Tourism Week held in Accra, Ghana, it was the second edition of the now yearly went, which first held last year.


It was a good balance witnessing the exchange among the guests and panelists at the event on the beauty of the marriage between sports and tourism and how sports can be leveraged on to promote African destinations to the global audience.


Abi Ijesanmi, director for African Operations at DiamondAir; Geoff Wilson, board member of Tourism Northern Ireland and consultant to FIFA, FIBA and UEFA – through Skype call, Ben Nunno Mensah, president of Ghana Olympic Committee, Akwasi Agyeman – CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority and Kwadwo Antwi – CEO of Ghana Tourism Development Company as well as Juliet Bawuah and Olufemi Abegunde, sponsorship and marketing manager of Nilayo Sports Management and Kwesi Hayford, president of Ghana eSports Association, all gave a broader perspective to the subject matter. Also, Didier Bayeye, market manager for Africa and Indian Ocean at Sun International, Odelia Ntiamoah, CEO of Ghana Chambers for Tourism Industry, and Ronald Stilting, general manager of Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, also spoke on creating holiday experiences and packages from sport tourism.


Awards in different categories were presented to deserving individuals and corporate organissations by the organisers of the event. Some of the awardees include:Best Sports Resort/ Hotel in Central Africa – Grand Hotel Djibloho, Equatorial Guinea; Best Sports Resort/Hotel in Southern Africa – Sun City Resort, South Africa; Best Sports Resort/Hotel in West Africa – Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, Nigeria; Best Sports Resort/Hotel in North Africa – Mazagan Beach Resort, Morocco; Best Sports Resort/Hotel in Indian Ocean – Heritage Le Telfair Golf and Wellness Spa, Mauritius; Best Sports Resort/Hotel in East Africa – Sea Cliff Resort and Spa, Tanzania; Best Golf Destination – South Africa; Best Synergy Between Sports and Tourism – Kenya; and Best Adventure Sports Destination – Tanzania.


Other winners are: Sports Hive of The Decade – South Africa; Emerging Sports Destination – Malabo; Best Nostalgic Sports Destination – Calabar; and Leading Waterways Sports Destination – Mombasa. The award ceremony also featured induction into ‘Friends of Sports Tourism’ Hall of Fame.


Friends of Sports Tourism hall of fame is an elite class of destinations, brands and individuals, who – through innovation, creativity and global best practices – encourage humans to leave home as often as possible, and travel to other places on our planet (especially destinations) for sporting purposes.


Inductees include Nilayo Sports Management, Kinetic Sports, SA Sports Tours, Kenya, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, The City of Uyo, Cabo Verde, Southern Sun Ikoyi, Lansdown Resort, Transcorp Hilton Abuja, Legend Lagos Airport, Golfview Hotel & Suites, Integral Sande and African Origin Travels & Sports Tourism. Gamers from Ghana eSports Association keenly contested for a prize of trophy and weekend stay in a resort at the FIFA 19 Tourism eCup, which featured 16 players in knock-out matches.


The contest produced Osman Abdul Ganiyu as the winner. The event also featured sports holiday exhibition. According to the President of African Sports Tourism Week, Deji Ajomale-McWord, the 2019 edition was a great improvement last year’s edition.

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Travel and Tourism

ADAMA NJIE: There are opportunities for Nigerians to explore in The Gambia



ADAMA NJIE: There are opportunities for Nigerians to explore in The Gambia

Adama Njie who is the director of marketing of The Gambia Tourism Board (GTB) was recently in Nigeria for Akwaaba African Travel Market. He spoke to ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA of the renewed efforts to put the country’s tourism back on the global tourism map, attract Nigerians and other source markets




With a tally built physique, affable and attractive personality, Adama Njie, who is the director of marketing for The Gambia Tourism Board (GTB) is very articulate, persuasive and passionate as well as exudes uncommon confidence when it comes to talking about tourism in his country, which is his forte as the director of marketing for his country. He owes a Masters degree in Business Administration from University of Sunderland; professional diploma in Management Studies from City Banking College/ Edexcel (UK); A first class graduate of Travel and Tourism Management of Fair Fax University, London School of Management and holds Distinction Diploma in IATA/FIATA Cargo Course; Distinction certificate IATA Air Cargo Management from IATA Education Centre Geneva; Distinction Diploma in Airline and Travel Studies from Greenwich College of Management (UK); and



Trans Eastern Aviation College Kenya.


He started his career in the travel and tourism trade at The Gambia international Airlines Limited in 1996 and in 2010 he joined Guaranty Trust Bank in The Gambia, a tiny stripe of land in the west coast of Africa, which is otherwise known as ‘The smiling coast of Africa,’ as head of the marketing department in charge of marketing hospitality. Two years later he moved to The Gambia Tourism Board to head the marketing team where he has since created a niche for himself as a reliable marketer and firm believer in The Gambia’s leading position as one of the world’s most attractive tourist destinations.




Innate attraction for tourism


Njie’s attraction for tourism is something that appears innate as he discloses that from childhood he has always had passion for tourism and a desire to be part of his country’s tourism industry, which led to his signing up for the industry at a very younger age. His first port of call was the airline business where he cut his teeth before diving deeper into the fray and today, the responsibility of selling his country’s uncommon attractions rest on his shoulders, a duty he appeared to have discharged with panache and effortlessly as well as high sense of responsibility over the years


‘‘I knew from the outset that I have a passion to work in the travel and tourism industry. And when the opportunity came I grabbed it. Later I said I had to go beyond that. So when I saw the opportunity to work for my country in a bigger portfolio I went for it,’’ he says, stressing that:



‘‘I think in life you have to go through bigger challenges.’’ Besides, ‘‘working for my country is something very important for me and I wanted to give something back to my country after my studies,’’ adds Njie. Working for The Gambia Tourism Board gave him that perfect fit platform to showcase his innate passion for his fatherland and tourism.




My core mandate is to evolve strategies for marketing The Gambia both in and outside the country. The core mandate of the Gambian Tourism Board is to market our tourism and so, my portfolio or department is at the centre stage of the core mandate of the Gambian Tourism Board. Even apart from strategy direction, we look at activities that we should engage with in order to attract tourists. Today, we are actually at Akwaaba African Travel Market in Lagos, Nigeria. But we are also trying to have a familiarisation trip to actually work with the travel trade in Nigeria. We are looking at all the possibilities and every market has it peculiarities. Not all activities that works in one country apply to all.



Nigeria is one of the key markets for us


It is a known fact that most of the country’s tourists come from Europe, however, the focus is on the globe with Africa market, especially the Nigerian market, which he said is one of the most important markets for them, in sight. ‘‘We look at all these things and our needs and what we need to do as a country to attract the different markets that we have. Most of our tourists are coming from Europe but for we to achieve all year tourism then we need to tap into these other markets and for years we have becoming to Akwaaba and I can tell you that Nigeria is one of the key markets for The Gambia.

To this end, Njie reveals that the country is stepping up its campaigns for Nigerian tourists not just only by engaging with the travel trade partners but also having a permanent representative in the country whose job it is to ensure that The Gambia is top on the outbound destination list of every Nigerian


Nigerians are big spenders


‘‘We even need to do more and we don’t want to stop at this level at all. Because one thing about the Nigerians is that they spend money. That is the reality and that is why we want to have a permanent representative here to show the importance of Nigeria to The Gambia.



Good figures from Nigeria



He admits that over the years, the arrival figures from Nigeria have been good and encouraging, something that he says was aided as a result of direct flight link between Nigeria and Banjul but at a point the figure dipped when there was a momentary break in that link but now that direct airline has been established again with such carriers as Air Peace and ASKY, the country is working hard now to redouble that figure. ‘‘If we work with these two airlines now we are looking to how we can do 10 frequencies. It is all about the access because the moment the access is easy then it is just too fine. From here (Lagos) to the Banjul is just about four hours direct flight. ‘‘That is what we are trying to work on and see how we can get the right route for Nigerians and fortunately, Nigerians don’t need visa to The Gambia. So, the visa hurdle is eliminated and we are working on the access.’’



Opportunities abound for Nigerians in The Gambia



Nigeria really is one of the allies of the country with a lot of Nigerians residing in the country and helping to build the country. He puts this to the fact that opportunities abound for Nigerians to take advantage of hence the renewed interest in Nigerians as he declares that: ‘‘The good thing is that we have lots of opportunities for Nigerians to explore in The Gambia in terms of returns on investment. There are lots of Nigerians in our country already.’




We cater for Nigerians’ tastes


As a destination, Njie says they know what Nigerians tastes are and offers them satisfactorily. ‘‘We know the tastes of Nigerians. For example, Nigerians love leisure and luxury, we have fantastic hotels at very reasonable rates and it is so affordable. ‘‘Some of these hotels are on the coast.


There is a lot, in terms of shopping though we don’t the big malls that you people have. But we have some in the pipelines. But we have different places and many Nigerians love to go to the local markets to buy materials and when I was coming I brought a lot of those materials that they love so much. ‘‘Of course, there is night life as you can go anywhere in The Gambia. In terms of excursions, we got it, in terms of destination wedding we got it.


Also, the MICE market we have it and educational tourism, we consider ourselves as one of the best places in West Africa for it. ‘‘We have one of the most pronounced hospitality institutes in Africa. So, we are doing a lot.


We got it all and I think we are having one of the most sophisticated conference centres in Africa, which is going to be ready before the close of December for the preparation of the OIC which The Gambia is going to host next year. ‘‘Of course, we have the Roots Festival; Kunta Kinte. If you want to see rich cultural heritage sites in Africa you come to The Gambia. The likes of James Island, Jufureh, and the historical circle. All of those attractions are United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) heritage sites. ‘‘We have a mix and if you want to see how far we have gone in terms of ecotourism, you come to The Gambia and in terms of sustainable tourism, we have it. I think we are second after South Africa tourism in sustainable tourism.


A breath of fresh air


With the new democratic government recently installed in the country, Njie says there is a breath of fresh air, which is quite important for tourism to thrive in the country. ‘‘I am more relaxed ever than before. I can see the potential because of the democratic environment that we are enjoying. ‘‘Because you can’t talk about tourism without it and if there is peace, there is openness then the people are guaranteed of their safety. When you come to The Gambia, you don’t need to worry about safety because you can walk from dawn to dusk. ‘‘Nobody will stop you. If you go around the tourism development circuit you are free to walk alone but in some countries you can’t do that.


We focus on hospitality because it is very important to us. We have tourism police department and they are there to safe guard the tourists and all tourism establishments are fully secured.’’ Government support A n – other key element for the country’s tourism trade, he says is the support that it enjoys from the government, declaring that the new government knows the importance of tourism for the country and is absolutely focused on it.


‘‘The n e w   government is very supportive and has placed tourism as a priority sector and what that means is that in all the strategies that we have as a country tourism stands out because we bring millions of dollars into the government’s coffers in terms of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution and our foreign exchange earnings. ‘‘Tourism is the backbone of the country and the government is not joking with that. They listen to us and of course we have been away marketing the country and the new government is very clear and articulate about tourism as a priority sector.’’






I think in terms of the arrival figures; as for the national development plan; we have a target to reach 350, 000 foreign arrivals in 2021. Last year alone we had about 209, 000, which was 29% more than the previous year. We are confident that we will surpass the figure but the most important thing is to realise that tourism is very fragile. Things can change. I think that is the reason why we want to do more by encouraging the individual travellers and not to depend on the tour operators all the time because that is a big risk of its own. But if we have more tourists from Nigeria and the west coast, of course it is easy for us to surpass our target.


Products development

To match up these figures, Njie realises also the important role that products and services offer play hence he speaks of plans in the pipeline to develop more products and refreshing the already existing ones. ‘‘Of course, we are also building our products because you can’t bring tourists and not have the products. So, we have seen that some of our products need to improve. ‘‘That is why we have so many four, five stars hotels coming up and of course, our cultural tourism is actually being developed and it is growing over the years. Yes, that is the way forward for us.


‘‘We will attract more conferences for the new conference centre and we are building more cultural activities and that is why we are working with the national arts and culture in terms of the cultural activities that we have over the years. ‘‘Some other products are also coming up, so, it is a mix. The standard is now more of four, five hotels and we are going into ecotourism, do more in sustainable tourism and have community based tourism in the five regions and that will allow tourists that come to The Gambia not to stay alone within the tourism circuit.


‘‘But to go to the hinterland and have a feel of the cultural diversities that we have as a country.’



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African Hotel: Accor, Marriott lead the way in business expansion



African Hotel: Accor, Marriott lead the way in business expansion

The latest report by STR has revealed that Accor and Marriott International represent the largest hotel supply and pipeline counts in Africa.


The report is part of the STR 500, which the company that focuses on data in the hospitality business, released a combined list of the continent’s 100 largest companies and brands during the recently held Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. According to the data released, Accor’s portfolio covered 24,512 rooms as of 31 July 31, 2019, while Marriott accounted for 24,508 rooms.


The companies also lead the development pipeline with 19,745 and 15,219 rooms under contract, respectively. Under contract covers the in construction, final planning and planning phases of the pipeline. Protea Hotels by Marriott is the continent’s second-largest brand (8,374 rooms) behind Hilton (8,617).


“Over recent years, there has been increased investment interest across Africa with international groups leading the expansion,” said Thomas Emanuel, a director for STR. “There are now just seven countries in Africa with no internationally branded properties present, compared to 18 just six years ago.


Accor and Marriott continue to lead the way in Africa, not just in terms of supply, but also pipeline. We look forward to seeing the continued development of the hotel industry across the continent as more supply goes into rapidly developing destinations.”


The top 10 ranked brands are: Accor with 24, 512 rooms; Marriott International – 24, 508 rooms; Jin Jiang International Holdings; 16, 230 rooms; Tsogo Sun Hotels, with 13, 459 rooms; Hilton boasted 11, 289 rooms; TUI Group with 8, 103 rooms; City Lodge Hotel Group, with 7, 600 rooms; RIU Hotels and Resorts having 6, 616 room; InterContinental Hotels Group, with 6, 391 rooms and Deutsche Hospitality, with 4, 470.



While on the list of the top 10 branded hotels are: Hilton with 8, 617 rooms; Protea Hotels By Marriott, with 8, 374 rooms; Radisson Blu, with 6, 857 rooms; Riu with 6, 597 rooms, Southern Sun Hotels, with 6, 481 rooms; Iberotel Hotels and Resort, with 5, 447, Sheraton, with 5, 442; Movenpick, with 5, 107; Golden Tulip Hotels with 4, 588 and Ibis, with 4, 472.

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S’Arabia allows foreign men and women to share hotel rooms



S’Arabia allows foreign men and women to share hotel rooms

Saudi Arabia is allowing foreign men and women to rent hotel rooms together without proving they are related, after the conservative Muslim kingdom launched a new tourist visa regime to attract holidaymakers.

Women, including Saudis, are also permitted to rent hotel rooms by themselves, in a break with previous regulations.

The moves appear to pave the way for unaccompanied women to travel more easily and for unmarried foreign visitors to stay together in the Gulf state, where sex outside of marriage is banned.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage confirmed a report on Friday by Arabic-language newspaper Okaz, adding: “All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels. This is not required of foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in.”

Saudi Arabia threw open its doors last week to foreign tourists from 49 countries as it tries to grow that sector and diversify its economy away from oil exports. As part of the move, it decreed that visitors need not wear all-covering black robes but should dress modestly. Alcohol remains banned.

Saudi Arabia has been relatively closed off for decades and until recently unrelated men and women, including foreigners, could be severely punished for mixing in public. Strict social codes have been relaxed in recent years and previously banned entertainment has flourished, reports Reuters.

But an influx of tourists — the authorities are aiming for 100 million annual visits by 2030 — could push boundaries further and risks conservative backlash.

The kingdom ended a heavily criticized ban on women driving last year and in August granted women new rights to travel abroad, chipping away at a guardianship system that assigns each woman a male relative to approve important decisions throughout their lives.

The changes are part of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious economic and social reform agenda. His plans have received international praise, but his image has been tarnished by the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a crackdown on dissent, and a devastating war in Yemen.

Until now, foreigners traveling to Saudi Arabia have been largely restricted to resident workers and their dependents, business travelers, and Muslim pilgrims who are given special visas to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

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Travel and Tourism

Mohammed, 3 DGs, Onyema, Olowo, Uko, others for ANJET’s tourism seminar 2019



Mohammed, 3 DGs, Onyema, Olowo, Uko, others for ANJET’s tourism seminar 2019

Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET) has unveiled the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as special guest of honour, ahead of its October 8 Tourism Seminar, billed for the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos.

The event will also witness the inauguration of the association’s new executive council and patrons.

A statement released by the tourism writers’ body, said the theme of the seminar is; ‘Tourism and Jobs: Better future for all,’ in line with the annual yearly World Tourism Day (WTD) celebrations by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), on September 27.

According to ANJET, other special guests of honour at the event include; the Directors-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe; Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Folorunsho Folarin-Coker and that of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Alhaji Momoh M. Kabir, as well as the President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Alhaji Saleh Rabo.

The key note address will be delivered by Otunba Wanle Akinboboye of La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort while the guest speaker for the proposed one – day seminar is Dr. Gabriel Gbenga Olowo, who is the CEO of Sabre Network. The panelists are: Allen Onyema, chairman/CEO of Air Peace; Ikechi Uko, publisher of and organiser of Akwaaba; Mrs. Chika Ani, CEO of Esperanza Cakes, Victor Edosomwan, MD, Vicwan Limited (Hospitality and Lifestyle Consulting) and Lola Adefope, MD, BTML.

The statement further disclosed that aside the inauguration of the newly-elected executive council, the new patrons to be formally inducted include: Otunba Wanle Akinboboye; Oladipo Jemi – Alade of Jemi – Alade Tours; and Nkereuwen Onunge of Remlords Tours.

Others are: Barrister Allen Onyema of Air Peace, Mr. Folorunsho Folarin-Coker of NTDC; Alhaji Momoh M. Kabir of NIHOTOUR; Ahaji Saleh Rabo of FTAN; Bankole Bernard, president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) and His Royal Majesty, Professor Oba Adeyemi Obalanlege, the Olota of Otta, Ogun State.

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Travel and Tourism

Akwaaba 2019: Raising the bar of travel and tourism industry



Akwaaba 2019:  Raising the bar of travel and tourism industry

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

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.

Day One

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

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.

Day Three

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.

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Travel and Tourism

Nana hotel: Raising standard of entertainment in Ota



Nana hotel: Raising standard  of entertainment in Ota

Nana Hotel, which was built in 1995 by its founder, Idowu Adejare, has carved a niche for itself in Ota, Ogun State, as the best and trendy hospitality home to groove, especially on weekends and festival periods when the hotel plays host to different personalities and entertainment activities.

The hotel, which was left in the lurch following the demise of its owner few years ago has since witnessed a new lease of life with the takeover of the hotel’s management by Serikialata Ventures, which is headed by a veteran travel writer and hospitality expert, Olawale Seriki.

Under this new dispensation, the hotel witnessed a complete turnaround in facility upgrade and presentation.

The six-cubicle bar was renamed The Quadrangle, which has since become a high brow entertainment and events hub in the town and its environs, playing host to high octane personalities.

The periodic banquet and grand reception at The Quadrangle had hosted such personalities as the HRM Oba Adeyemi Obalanlege, the Olota of Otta; one of the masters of advertising in Nigeria, Senator Akin Odunsi and Yoruba cultural Ambassador Iba Abiodun Ige Adams, the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland.

Already, the hotel has on it bill for next year, the hosting of Nigeria renowned Afro juju exponent, Sir Shina Peters, in what it has tagged” An evening with ‘Staaaar’ Sir Shina Peters. The event is scheduled to hold on January 2020 at The Quadrangle.

In terms of facilities and services, the hotel itself offers 18 rooms of different categories, all stylishly furnished to taste and presently undergoing upgrade to make it enriching and delightsome to guests.

With the completion of the innovation work, Olawale Seriki disclosed that the hotel with be the most sought after hospitality home in Ota and the South Western part of the country, adding that the hotel driven by excellent and professional service delivery.

Presently the hotel offers food, drinks, chops with live band entertainment. It offers 24 hours services and secured for the guests while intimacy and privacy is prime.

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