When Ambassador Mokgethi Monaisa, South African Consul-General in Lagos, mounted the podium to deliver his speech that morning, nothing less than facts was expected of him.
Of course, the amiable man and true representative of his country lived up to the expectations of the high-profile guests who were comfortably sited at Federal Palace Hotel & Casino Lagos, venue of the Power Breakfast Dialogue and Trade Workshop organised by South African Tourism (SAT).
The figures were quite revealing. A whopping number of 133,114 Nigerian visa applicants were granted visas to his country between January 2013 and June 2015, with more expected to be granted in the second half of this year, despite that 2014 was testing year for tourism performance.
Moreover, over 1,000 exhibitors, including 300 from 20 African countries and about 2,000 buyers from across the world’s tourism sources markets made Indaba 2015 a resounding success.
Yet, the country has set a towering ambition of attracting 12 million international tourists by 2018, also aims to increase domestic holiday trips from 2.8 million in 2014 to 4.1 million by 2020, and by so doing, create additional 225,000 jobs in the tourism sector by 2020.
Well, part of the sustained efforts to achieve these targets include; the launch of South African Tourism office in Lagos with the entire West Africa as it catchment area, the recent launch of VFS office in Port Harcourt top ease the stress of visa procurement for people in the South East and South South Nigeria.
But, most importantly, the South African Tourism West Africa Trade Workshop held recently in Lagos was a major marketing campaign platform aimed at increasing tourist arrivals from the West African region. The workshop carried Nigerian tourism stakeholders along; from the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), hoteliers/related service providers, airlines and the travel media.
Also explaining why the Trade Workshop in Lagos was imperative, Mosilo Sofonia, researcher at South African Tourism, in her presentation tagged SAT; Nigeria: Travel market insights, noted that the focus on West Africa and Nigeria in particular was because with over 70 percent of all arrivals every year, Africa is the base-load of international tourism to South Africa.
Of that percentage, Nigeria alone contributes the most arrivals of the Africa air markets and exceeds the second largest market by more than 20,000 arrivals.
“Outside of Africa land markets, Nigeria has the highest number of tourist arrivals into South Africa from the continent. From a West African viewpoint, Nigeria contributes about three quarters of tourist arrivals as well as revenue into South Africa”, she said.
But from the Nigerian angle, Nkereuwem Onung, president, Nigeria Association of Tour Operators/chairman, Remlords Tours, in his speech, noted that the two countries need platforms such as the Trade Workshop to foster better cultural exchanges, trade relations among other integrations that are of mutual benefits to both countries. He however urged the South African delegates to experience Nigeria at a very close quarter to understand the people and what makes Nigeria a unique and peculiar nation, a destination of many colours and elements.
Nkereuwem further noted that NATOP offered delegates from South African for the Trade Workshop opportunity to tour major attractions in Lagos to mingle and have a better understanding of the city.
In his own part, Aminu Agoha, president, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, explained that Nigeria has untapped tourism potential that will require collaborations to explore. He therefore called for more collaboration between Nigerian and South African private sectors and investors in the development of tourism facilities, products and manpower in the country, especially now that Nigeria is in need of diversification of its economy.
At the end of the day, Hloni Pitso, regional manager, South African Tourism, was happy that his job was done because the questions raised by Nigerians at the workshop, especially on visa, hotel reservations, air tickets, were answered. He hopes more Nigerians would be visiting his country this summer, while Thobi Duma, Country Manager Nigeria, South African Airways, is waiting to fly them to the ‘Rainbow Country’.