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Tourism industry leverages Akwaaba Travel Market platform for exchange, growth

Tourism industry leverages Akwaaba Travel Market platform for exchange, growth

This year marks 19 years of the Akwaaba African Travel Market, the biggest travel expo in West Africa, with continent-wide reach.

For almost two decades, the travel and tourism expo has successfully held at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Victoria Island, Lagos, making it the expo’s traditional home.

For these years, participants have been counting their gains as the expo always offers a platform for exchanges, networking, unveiling of new products, trends, insights from experts in the related fields and sealing of deals by some discerning participants.

Looking at the gains, the many impacted, the ripple effect of the impacts, the growth it has ensued, intra-African travel and tourism exchanges, influence on government and policy makers, among others, Ikechi Uko, CEO, ATQ, and the organiser of the expo, is grateful that his small idea has snowballed into a major industry feat today.

Well, as in the tradition of the expo, there are unique things that mark each edition. The 2023 edition witnessed the presence of a new governor, who is stepping on the travel and tourism stage for the first time in that capacity.

Bassey Otu, governor of Cross River State, was top among the dignitaries that flagged off this year’s expo. The new governor used the platform to unveil the theme for this year’s Carnival Calabar, which he said is ‘Season of Sweetness’.

Read also: Akwaaba Travel Market Medical Tourism Expo draws global partners

According to him, the carnival will exhibit rare colours, costumes, floats, pyrotechnics, magic, acrobatics and more through the 12-kilometre carnival route this December.

The governor also applauded the organisers of the travel market for their consistency over the years, which he described as an unbroken staging and exhibition of the best travel expo in West Africa.

“I also understand that for the second year, the medical tourism platform is being activated with a strong partnership with the Turkish group.

“This is particularly elating because for every good reason, the world needs to come together now more than ever.

“So, the 19th Akwaaba Travel and tourism Market is open as we all explore its benefits,” the governor said, while declaring the expo open on September 3, 2023.

Apart from the governor, other dignitaries that assisted in the opening ceremony include: Florence Ita-Giwa, a senator and leader of the Seagull Band, Maiden Ibru, chairman and publisher, The Guardian Newspaper, Gabe Onah, chairman, Calabar Carnival Commission, among others.

Taking advantage of the platform, Ibru called on African youths to shun indolence and embrace hard work, noting that the only route to success is hard work.

On the part of Ita-Giwa, the culture and tourism Amazon, commended the efforts of Nigerian youths who are blazing the trail in the tourism and hospitality industry, as well as platforms such as Akwaaba African Travel Market that enable them to excel.

The event featured many exciting activities from Jollof Rice competition, cultural performances, mini float by Carnival Calabar, among others.

There were also many panel discussions by industry experts on topical issues as well as youth engagements.

Read also: Akwaaba 2023: local tourist destinations lure nigerians with new offers

But one of the major highlights was the medical panel, which rode on the successful participation of medical firms from Turkey, with a team of experts that reach out to Nigerians and simplified medical visits to Turkey, answering necessary questions and flagging off visits by Nigerians with health issues who intend visiting other countries to see Turkey as better option.

The participation of some Turkish medical outfits also excited the governor, who was the special guest at the 19th Akwaaba expo.

“I also understand that for the second year, the medical tourism platform is being activated with a strong partnership with the Turkish group.

“This is particularly elating because for every good reason, the world needs to come together now more than ever,” Governor Out said.

In the tradition of the expo, awards were given to deserving travel personalities and companies for their feats in the industry.

The exhibitors were impressive and from across Africa. They include; Ikogosi Warm Springs, first-time exhibitor, ET Holiday, Ethiopian Airlines, Uganda Tourism Board, Ibom Air, NIHOTOUR, Lagos State, Royal Senchi Resort Ghana, Carnival Calabar, Eko Hotels, Wakanow, Turkish medical outfits, among others.

Donladson of Uganda Tourism Board was excited at being at the expo, especially as Uganda Air plans its inaugural flight to Nigeria in October.

“I am thrilled that the Nigerian market holds a lot for Uganda tourism and I am seeing the potential here”, the UTB lead at the expo, said.

Uche Ibemere of Cavitas Group, which is managing the Ikogosi Warm Spring through Glocient Hospitality, its hospitality subsidiary, is also happy to meet, for the first time, many stakeholders in one gathering, amid exchanges and revelations of the potential of the industry.

Read also: Akwaaba African Travel Market to honour African women in hospitality, hoteliers

This year, some of the awardees include; Wakanow Group, a travel agency, which bagged the Best Outbound Travel Agency in Nigeria, Anago Osho, CEO, Anago Osho Adventures as the Best Inbound Tour Operator in Nigeria, D&P Travels and Tours, Best Outbound Tour Operator, Ebuking Tours, Best Domestic Tour Operator in Nigeria, Awomoyi Ayodeji of Flyzone Tourism as the Travel Personality of the Year 2023, among others.

Ayodeji of Flyzone Tourism commended the organisers for the initiative, while promising to train more travel agents and tour operators in the country.

Speaking on the awards, Ikechi Uko, organiser of the expo, said that they aim to recognise and commend individuals and organisations that have shown commitment at promoting tourism and travel businesses across Africa.

Speaking on the last day of the event, Uko noted that this year’s edition had impressive participation from across Africa with the Eko Expo Hall full of participants, exhibitors and visitors more than the recent editions.

He is delighted that travel is back and hopes for more activities to keep the industry rolling to full potential.