Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Akwaaba 2010 was best outing ever

Obj, Tourism Minister hail Runsewe and Akwaaba organizers
Less than a month after the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) was roundly praised for recording a historic celebration of the World Tourism Day (WTD) in these climes, the Corporation’s Director General; Otunba Olusegun Runsewe again had accolades showered on him by Nigeria’s former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
The former president commended the NTDC DG for his dynamic leadership of the body as evident in phenomenal strides witnessed in the country’s tourism industry over the last four years. The former No.1 Citizen of Nigeria rendered his ode to Runsewe at Eko Hotel and Suites in Victoria Island, Lagos; during the presentation of “Kairaba”, an autobiography by Sir Dawda Jawara, former president of the Gambia.
That book launch was one of several exciting events lined up for the 2010 Akwaaba African Travel Market (AfTM) fair. This year’s AfTM was the sixth edition of the ever-growing annual event, which; apart from the book launch, also featured intermittent performances by Ghana Cultural Ensemble throughout the three-day fiesta that ran from 23 October to the 25th.
Many papers; including “Africa’s World Cup Experience” (the Lead Paper) by Danny Jordaan, CEO, 2010 World Cup; “Financing Hotel Investment in West Africa” by Obi Nwogugu; “Training Pilots in West Africa” by Capt Adebayo Araba of NCAT; “Gambia and the Roots experience” by Binta Jobe, DG of Gambia Tourism Authority; “The Carnival: Experience and Challenges” by Elenda Dokubo, Executive Secretary of Carnival Calabar; were also presented during Akwaaba 2010 African Travel Market.
The event also elicited goodwill messages from various governments, ministers, heads of delegation, African Ambassadors and the Special Guests of honour as well as press conferences by Ghana’s Minister of Tourism, Hon. Zita Okaikoi and Golden Beach Hotels, Ghana. The just concluded fair was organized by ATQ (African Travel Quarterly) magazine in partnership with the NTDC, which; alongside many other governments and corporate bodies within Nigeria and the West African sub-region, mounted well attended international exhibitions at the venue. Otunba Runsewe OON served as Chief Host.
Aside Sir Dawda, who was, expectedly, accompanied to Nigeria by a number of other dignitaries from the Gambia, as well as Dr Danny Jordaan and Hon. Zita Okaikoi, all already mentioned; the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Prof Zahi Hawass as well as Richard Sandalls of the World Bank; were also among other very important non-Nigerian personalities that attended this year’s edition of Akwaaba African Travel Market.
Speaking further during the presentation of Sir Dawda’s autobiography, where Chief Obasanjo was chief launcher; Nigeria’s former head of state declared: “You need an energetic, enthusiastic and rightly-oriented young man, like Runsewe”, to continue to stoke the flame and sustain the growing interest in Nigeria’s tourism industry.
Chief Obasanjo, who rightly described tourism “as a key player in the economic development of most countries”; subsequently went on to advise Runsewe not to relent in the drive at transforming Nigeria’s tourism industry. Chief Obasanjo reminded that the hospitality industry has the capacity to reduce unemployment; and, therefore, needed to be properly tapped. Reiterating his belief in tourism as a veritable job-creator and revenue generator for the country, Obj added that Nigeria was finally placing tourism on its proper pedestal.
“Whatever we do, I still believe that tourism should be one of the foreign exchange earners and employment generator for the country”, continued Obj, who; for emphasis, stressed; “I believe in tourism; and, we have to make our modest contributions to move the sector forward”.
Chief Obasanjo also extended his commendations to Cross River State, where tourism has been launched to virtually unparalleled heights, through, among others; the Carnival Calabar, “which is adjudged the best street party in Africa”. “You must not allow the light to be dimmed, it must be in the International Tourism Calendar”, Obj enthusiastically advised on Carnival Calabar.
Extolling the virtues of Sir Dawda Jawara, whose book launch attracted a huge attendance; Chief Obasanjo described the octogenarian Gambian statesman as “a counsellor and confidante, who transformed the Gambia into a tourism haven”. Hear Obj: “I doff my cap to you for your statesmanship, reconciliation and magnanimity, which have made all Gambians happier”.
The former president of Nigeria subsequently presented Sir Dawda’s book with the following remark: “I have the pleasure of presenting this book for the education and enlightenment of our people and to the glory of God”. Chief Obasanjo had also commended the organizers of the travel fair for their initiative, especially in the decision to honour Sir Dawda and Dr. Danny Joordan, whom he described as “Great Africans”.
Apparently responding to the encomiums showered on him by Chief Obasanjo, Otunba Runsewe recalled Obj’s roles in the development of Nigeria’s tourism industry. The NTDC DG had reminded that such contributions date as far back as the days, when then General Obasanjo was a military head of state (13 February, 1976 to 1 October, 1979). Runsewe buttressed his assertion with a reminder of how, in 1976, the General Obasanjo-led military government donated N1million naira to each of the then 19 federating states for tourism development.
He further explained that it could be recalled that it was also the Chief Obasanjo-led civilian government that created the current Ministry of Culture and Tourism, shortly after assuming the presidency in 1999. It was also in Chief Obasanjo’s time as President that Nigeria hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2003 and the All Africa Games in 2006 in Abuja, Runsewe expatiated.
The NTDC helmsman went to reiterate that since “Tourism is big business and the highest employer of labour in the World”; Nigerians “need to celebrate what we have” because “there is a new wind blowing across Africa today”. Runsewe subsequently stressed the need to streamline all tourism products and festivals in the country to pre-empt unnecessary clash in dates. Where such unhealthy clashes were avoided, tourists could plan and have better opportunity at choosing from the variety of products available, he explained.
This “Otunba” also told his audience, which comprised principally of eminent personalities; that Dubai generates $17million (over N2.6billion) annually from visa procurement alone. Interestingly, some 45 percent of the N2.6billion generated by Dubai from visa applicants comes from Nigerians, it was revealed. This ostensibly explained Otunba Runsewe’s joy, when he expressed happiness that Akwaaba, the only regional travel market in Africa is making progress. “Akwaaba”, he enthused, “is now expanding, and getting bigger every year”.
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, had; like Chief Obasanjo, also commended the Akwaaba organizers for the efficient and enviable way that they succeeded in putting the fair together. “You have done Africa Proud”, declared the minister, who mused that nobody can portray Africa better than Africans.
The minister noted that instead of Africans always going to other continents to attend exhibitions, it is also good to have people from other parts coming to Africa; and that Akwaaba was a good example of this positive development. According to Alhaji Abubakar, the presence of major airlines and world class hotel chains at the event was very heart-warming and a pointer to the need to sustain the fair.
Alhaji Abubakar, who described Nigeria as a choice destination to visit, subsequently enjoined all stakeholders to join forces to also make the African continent a choice destination. He also echoed comparative advantage for Africa in global tourism, through his observation that, “All aspects of Tourism are in abundance in Africa”.
Mr. Ikechi Uko is ATQ Publisher and Chairman of Akwaaba organizing body: When asked during a telephone conversation; if this year’s fair met his expectations of the best AfTM ever, since the fair’s debut six years ago, this is what he had to say; “While that of last year was no fluke, the 2010 Akwaaba could be said to be the greatest so far. We had in attendance two ex-presidents, a serving governor, who sent a representative; a former governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, two ministers of tourism, one from Ghana; three countries’ Directors General of Tourism; from Ghana, Gambia and their Nigerian counterpart; Danny Joordan and other eminent personalities”.
Sir Dawda Jawara flagged off the 6th Akwaaba African Travel Market on 23 October, 2010 at Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos. The former president of the Gambia was supported by Nigeria’s Tourism, Culture and National Orientation Minister, Abubakar Mohammed; NTDC DG, Otunba Runsewe; House Committee on Tourism Chairman, KGB Oguakwa; Ghana’s Minister of Tourism, and the DG of Gambia National Tourist Board, among others.

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